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“If you wait for a better time to create, better than this very moment, if you wait until you feel settled, divinely inspired, perfectly centered, unburdened of your usual worries, or free of your own skin, forget about it. You will still be waiting tomorrow and the next day, wondering why you never managed to begin, wondering”
Eric Maisel, Coaching the Artist Within: Advice for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists, and Musicians from America's Foremost Creativity Coach
“Almost nothing beautiful or brilliant happens unless a person has thought about it a lot.”
Eric Maisel
“The song you write may be beautiful, the research you conceive may be beautiful, but you are the real beauty in life.”
Eric Maisel, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
“Write, even if you have a twinge, a doubt, a fear, a block, a noisy neighbor, a sick cat, thirteen unpublished stories, and a painful boil.”
Eric Maisel, A Writer's Paris
“Except under dire circumstances or as a day job to support creative endeavors, a smart person is not so likely to want to wait tables, file forms, work on an assembly line, or sell shoes. It isn't that he disparages these lines of work as beneath his dignity; rather, it is that he can see clearly how his days would be experienced as meaningless if he had to spend his time not thinking.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“If there is a soul, then it is a mistake to think that it is given to us completely created. It is created right here for a lifetime. Life is nothing but a long, painful process of creation.”
Eric Maisel, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
“Both the biological and psychological approaches are suspect since both posit an unreal world, completely at odds with human experience, in which people do not get depressed for good reasons having to do with their experience in life and their uneasiness about the facts of existence. Rather, people only get depressed because something in them is flawed or broken. Depression of any magnitude, these approaches claim, is always an illness and never a reaction to being dropped, willy-nilly, into a world not of their making, which they are forced to make mean something.”
Eric Maisel, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
“A key to a long, productive writing life is finding ways to support that life, emotionally and existentially.”
Eric Maisel, A Writer's San Francisco: A Guided Journey for the Creative Soul
“Creativity is not a talent or ability. It is the fruit of a person’s decision to matter.”
Eric Maisel, Become a Creativity Coach Now!
“Because of our fear that we are merely excited matter and the consequent grudge that we hold against the universe, we feel lost and alienated, like a refugee far from home in a universe that cares nothing for us.”
Eric Maisel, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
“An essential aspect of self-support is to remind yourself that success is not measurable, but a matter of feeling.”
Eric Maisel, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
“The result may be important but it’s not the actual measure. The measure is the feeling you have made contact with something.”
Eric Maisel, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression
“A smart person is even more likely to suppose that his brain is equal to the challenges he faces, even such frankly impossible ones. What a setup to send your brain racing! And what will it do when, racing, it realizes the magnitude of its challenges and the extent to which they can't be solved just by thinking? It will worry.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“That as a smart person, whose brain races faster and harder than the next person's, you can't accomplish something like stopping your racing mind from worrying doesn't mean that you have a disorder or that you are a failure.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“We have arrived at an interesting moment in the evolution of our species when a smart person in a first-world culture is pestered by two contradictory feelings: first that he is as special a creature as nature has yet produced
and second that he's not very special at all, just excited matter here for a while and off again into universal dark matter. This first feeling inflates him and makes him want to puff out his chest and preen a bit. This second feeling makes him want to crawl in a hole, act carelessly, or sit inert on the sofa. How unfortunate for a creature to be buffeted in such contradictory ways! These twin feelings lead a person to the following pair of conclusions: that while he is perhaps quite smart, he is nevertheless rather like a cockroach, trapped with a brain that really isn't big enough for his purposes, perhaps trapped in a corner of an academic discipline, a research
field, a literary genre, or in some other small place, trapped by his creatureliness, and trapped by life's very smallness. I would like to dub this the god-bug syndrome: the prevalent and perhaps epidemic feeling of greatness walking hand-in-hand with smallness that plagues so many people today.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“People who think a lot are more prone to mania than people who do not think a lot. That intelligent, creative, and thoughtful people are the ones more regularly afflicted by mania is beyond question.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“We are the sort of creature who not only needs to put up firewood and food for the winter but who must also predict the distant future, make decisions about who or what created the universe and what sort of principles and path we should follow, deal with our fellow difficult and dangerous creatures, and in other ways make sense of things that would overtax any creature.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“The primary challenge that smart people must deal with is making sense of meaning. Natural psychology suggests that the best answer to this problem is donning the mantle of meaning-maker and engaging in value-based meaning-making. No smart person is immune to this problem. In fact, it is the most significant emotional issue for our smartest 15 percent.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“Smartness is a smart person's defining characteristic. Everything she thinks about the world—how she forms her identity, how she construes her needs, how she talks to herself about her life purposes and goals—is a function of how her particular brain operates. She is her smartness in a way that she is not her height, her gender, her moods, or her experiences. Her particular mind with its particular intelligence is the lens through which she looks at life, and it is also the engine that drives her days and her nights. It is her idiosyncratic brain, mind, and intelligence that determine how she will live—and why. An”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“Man, in this view, is incapable of looking around him and acknowledging without wincing or worse, without falling down in despair, that he doesn't know anything about ultimate reality. In this view, man is simply too small for such acknowledgments. He fears that he might stop hoping or caring if he learned that the universe was perhaps indifferent to him. Could he feel gratitude for his existence or awe in the face of a starry sky if he suspected that he was neither designed nor loved? He thinks not. Therefore he opts for mysticism.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“That hundreds of millions of people believe that a man named Noah built an ark and put all of the world's species onto it two-by-two, that those species included dinosaurs—even though dinosaurs and man are separated by millions of years—that these people want this taught as science, that they want to get onto every school board and into every legislature to ensure that their view prevails, and that the mainstream media of a modern society
continues to take this seriously, may only mildly annoy one smart person, perhaps one who grew up in religion and is tempted to give religion a pass. But it will seriously outrage—and almost derange—another smart person
who is convinced that these views always come with an authoritarian edge and a coercive public agenda. It will likewise strike a smart person as a ludicrous claim that the collectivist farms in her country are working beautifully when there is no food to be found on the shelves of any grocery store anywhere or to claim that a
certain corporation is a mighty source for good and innovation when it is paying its employees peanuts and freely polluting. Misrepresentations of this sort affect our brain and our nervous system. They are an assault on
our senses as well as our sense of right and wrong, and they bring pain and distress.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“Picture a litter of kittens. One is more curious than the next. One is more aggressive than the next. One is a leader, and another is a follower. The first is not potentially curious; she is already curious. The second is not potentially aggressive; he is already aggressive. The third and the fourth are not potentially leaders and followers; they are already that. In exactly the same way a human infant is not potentially smart; he is already smart.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“Meaning is primarily a subjective psychological experience. A smart person is more likely than the next person to be aware of its absence and to be affected by its absence. He is more likely to get bored, to experience meaninglessness, to begin to see the extent to which neither his society nor the universe are built to satisfy his meaning needs, and to then hunt for soothing or exciting meaning substitutes that ultimately reduce his freedom. Meaning is a smart person's most difficult challenge.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“What if you can't help but judge life negatively? What if yesterday felt awful, today feels awful, and tomorrow is likely to feel awful too? What if you are poverty stricken, coughing up blood, incarcerated, alone, under siege, helpless, and hopeless? How absurd is it to ask you to make meaning and choose the meanings of your life?
Don't you need medicine, money, and a friend more than some hard-nosed philosophy? Aren't you better off with a romantic movie, a pitcher of beer, and a dream of heaven rather than a demanding, soul-searching regimen? Doesn't natural psychology make little or no sense in your circumstances? ... It may be the case that someone who has a hard life is exactly the sort of person who would benefit from a
philosophy that respects the hardness of reality and that proposes solutions, especially if that person is smart enough to understand the alternatives. That isn't to say that there won't be days when all of us need meaning to amount to more than this, to something more profound and important, to something that better soothes us and helps us forget that we are bound to suffer and that we will cease to be. The natural psychological view does not
controvert the facts of existence, and there will be days—many days—when even the staunchest heart wishes that it could. We boldly stare at the facts of existence—and on some days, each of us will blink. Adherents of
natural psychology know that days like that are coming.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“First and foremost, she recognizes that life has no single or ultimate meaning. Life only has human meanings of the following sort: psychological experiences of meaning, fleeting moments of meaning, best guesses about
meaning, constructed ideas about meaning, personal evaluations about the meaningfulness of life, and so on. This may strike her as terrible news or as wonderful news, but in either case, she is smart enough to know that it is the truth. She accepts this truth, embraces it, and makes considered choices in the realm of meaning—so as to give herself the best possible chance of crafting a life that feels authentic.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“Stress causes the greatest number of doctors' visits annually. Yet we haven't noticed well enough that the issue is not just what is stressing us but also how poorly we are built to deal with that stress. We ask our experimental brain to work overtime to decide what line will sell next season, whether our son is drinking just a lot or has become an alcoholic, whether this passing feeling means that the universe has a purpose or that our medication is kicking in, where we should look to heal the hole in our heart and make life feel worthwhile . . . and everything else. Not knowing what else to do, we set our brain racing off, whether or not it has good brakes, whether or not it is equal to the task, and whether or not the task is reasonable. The smarter we are, the more likely we will use our brain in these ways, and the more painful pressure we are likely to produce.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“A child is born; he is already somebody. To pick one set of circumstances, let's say that he is a bright boy born into a middle-class family that demands good grades and promotes a worldview that includes playing musical instruments, playing sports, admiring nature, going to college, and getting a good job. The parents pay lip service to the idea that thinking is a good thing but do not do much thinking themselves and do not really like it when their son thinks. They pay lip service to the idea that family members should love one another but don't love much and aren't very warm or friendly. They likewise pay lip service to the ideals of freedom but present their son with the clear message that he is not free to get mediocre grades, not free to dispute their core beliefs, and not free to really be himself. Of course, this all confuses him. In this environment, he becomes sadder than he was born to be, saddened by having to perform at piano recitals that don't interest him and that make him woefully anxious, saddened by having to take his boring classes seriously, saddened by his parents' inability to love him or take an interest in him, saddened by what he learns in school about how human beings treat one another, and saddened most of all by his inability to make sense of this picture of life—a picture that everyone seems to be holding as the way to live but that to him feels odd, contradictory, empty, and meaningless.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“You must be able to create in the middle of things, or else you will not create. You must learn to take whatever practical and psychological actions are necessary to combat the anticreating forces that surround you and live within you.”
Eric Maisel, Coaching the Artist Within: Advice for Writers, Actors, Visual Artists, and Musicians from America's Foremost Creativity Coach
“It is not a race that can be won, a truth the brain-aware manic knows somewhere in his being and a truth that brings with it additional sadness even at the height of the racing, as the manic races but knows that he can't outrace existential distress.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative
“A smart person, one who perhaps had her mind filled with religious ideas as a child but who recognizes that genuine mysteries exist with respect to the origins of the universe, can experience real pain if she opts for an easy mysticism. By the same token, if she refuses to opt for that easy mysticism and announces that she doesn't know ultimate answers and can't know ultimate answers, then she falls prey to the coldness and sadness that come with suspecting that the universe is taking no interest in her. Pain is waiting for her in either case, whether she tries to maintain a mysticism that she can see right through or if she sheds that easy mysticism but then doesn't know how to handle the resultant meaninglessness. As it happens, natural psychology provides a complete, satisfying, and uplifting response to this conundrum, one based on the idea of living the paradigm shift from seeking meaning to making meaning. If, however, she happens not to land on this good idea, she can spend a lifetime mired simultaneously in both unhappy camps, drawn to one mystical or spiritual enthusiasm after another—one year a Catholic, then a Buddhist, then a pagan, then a Taoist, then something with no name but with New Age trappings, and so on—while at the same time paralyzed by the thought that the universe has no meaning.”
Eric Maisel, Why Smart People Hurt: A Guide for the Bright, the Sensitive, and the Creative

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