Making your Creative Mark, book excerpt from Eric Maisel's newest book

By Eric Maisel

If you want to live a creative life and make your mark in some competitive art field like writing, film-making, the visual arts, or music, and if at the same time you want to live an emotionally healthy life full of love and satisfaction, you need an intimate understanding of certain key ideas and how they relate to the creative process.

One key idea is that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident. You need to manifest confidence in every stage of the creative process if you want to get your creative work accomplished. Here’s what confidence looks like throughout the creative process.

Stage 1. Wishing

‘Wishing’ is a pre-contemplation stage where you haven’t really decided that you intend to create. You dabble at making art, you don’t find your efforts very satisfying, and you don’t feel that you go deep all that often. The confidence that you need to manifest during this stage of the process is the confidence that you are equal to the rigors of creating. If you don’t confidently accept the reality of process and the reality of difficulty you may never really get started.

Stage 2. Incubation/Contemplation

During this second stage of the process you need to be able to remain open to what wants to come rather than defensively settling on a first idea or an easy idea. The task is remaining open and not settling for something that relieves your anxiety and your discomfort. The confidence needed here is the confidence to stay open.

Stage 3. Choosing Your Next Subject

At some point you need the confidence to say, “I am ready to work on this.”  You need the confidence to name a project clearly (even if that naming is “Now I go to the blank canvas without a pre-conceived idea and just start”), to commit to it, and to make sure that you aren’t leaking confidence even as you choose this project.  Choosing is a crucial part of the creative process.

Stage 4. Starting Your Work

When you start a new creative work you start with certain ideas for the work, certain hopes and enthusiasms, certain doubts and fears – that is, you start with an array of thoughts and feelings, some positive and some negative. The confidence you need at that moment is the confidence that you can weather all those thoughts and feelings and the confidence to go into the unknown.

Stage 5. Working

Once you are actually working on your creative project, you enter into the long process of fits and starts, ups and downs, excellent moments and terrible moments – the gamut of human experiences that attach to real work. For this stage you need the confidence that you can deal with your own doubts and resistances and the confidence that you can handle whatever the work throws at you.

Stage 6. Completing

At some point you will be near completing the work. It is often hard to complete what we start because then we are obliged to appraise it, learn if it is good or bad, deal with the rigors of showing and selling, and so on. The confidence required during this stage is the confidence to weather the very ideas of appraisal, criticism, rejection, disappointment and everything else that we fear may be coming once we announce that the work is done.

Stage 7. Showing

A time comes when we are obliged to show our work. The confidence needed here is not only the confidence to weather the ideas of appraisal, criticism, and rejection but the confidence to weather the reality of appraisal, criticism, and rejection. Like so many other manifestations of confidence, the basic confidence here sounds like “Bring it on!” You are agreeing to let the world do its thing and announcing that you can survive any blows that the world delivers.

Stage 8. Selling

A confident seller can negotiate, think on her feet, make pitches and presentations, advocate for her work, explain why her work is wanted, and so on. You don’t have to be over-confident, exuberant, over the top – you simply need to get yourself to the place of being a calmly confident seller, someone who first makes a thing and then sells it in a business-like manner.

Stage 9: New Incubation and Contemplation

While you are showing and selling your completed works you are also incubating and contemplating new projects and starting the process all over again. The confidence required here is the confident belief that you have more good ideas in you. You want to confidently assert that you have plenty more to say and plenty more to do – even if you don’t know what that “something” is quite yet.

Stage 10: Simultaneous and Shifting States and Stages

I’ve made the creative process sound rather neat and linear and usually it is anything but. Often we are stalled on one thing, contemplating another thing, trying to sell a third thing, and so on. The confidence needed throughout the process is the quiet, confident belief that you can stay organized, successfully handle all of the thoughts and feelings going on inside of you, get your work done, and manage everything. This is a juggler’s confidence—it is you announcing, “You bet that I can keep all of these balls in the air!”
Manifest confidence throughout the creative process. Failing to manifest confidence at any stage will stall the process. It isn’t easy living the artist’s life: the work is taxing, the shadows of your personality interfere, and the art marketplace if fiercely competitive. If you learn some key ideas, for instance that you must act confidently whether or not you feel confident, you give yourself the best chance possible for a productive and rewarding life in the arts.   


Eric Maisel is the author of Making Your Creative Mark and twenty other creativity titles including Mastering Creative Anxiety, Brainstorm, Creativity for Life, and Coaching the Artist Within. America’s foremost creativity coach, he is widely known as a creativity expert who coaches individuals and trains creativity coaches through workshops and keynotes nationally and internationally. He has blogs on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today and writes a column for Professional Artist Magazine. Visit him online at

The following article was adapated and posted with permission from  the new book Making Your Creative Mark ©2013 by Eric Maisel.  Published with permission of New World Library

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Creative Inspiration - Artist Trading Cards (ATCs)

Artist Trading Cards:

a wonderful by-product of your practice art that you don't like!

(and scraps from collage and so on)

In my fundamental workshop: Energizing and Experimental Abstract Painting in Acrylics and Mixed Media we all work on lots and lots of little 9 x 12" on loose canvas paintings. Adding paint, removing paint, splatting paint. We may make mini masterpieces but mostly we make a lot of rejects or practice pieces - which I encourage as it really gets participants into process. The challenge is we end up with a lot of unwanted art!

This blog is just ONE of the many things you can do with your little practice pieces when you are finished working on it. My litmus test for whether you should keep working on an art piece is this: if it de-energizes me (ie it ain't fun no more) I know it's time to put it aside: WHen it's not working, give it up! and in this case - turn it into something else.

Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are simply small little pieces of cut up heavy water color paper (or you could use loose gessoed canvas) in the size of a business card that you can embellish and decorate with scraps from your reject loose canvas pad paintings, among other things - collage papers, found objects, string, yard….the list is endless. My recommendation for adhering things is YES! glue which has a claim to fame of drying flat, that's why I prefer it.

(These pieces were fun as I added in stamps and words)

One year my daughter (I think she was in grade 1 at the time) and I made home made ATCs for every child in her class for valentines day. Hopefully by the time this blog post is due to post I will find them so I can share them with you.

Another thing I sometimes do is make a card and then glue my business card to the back of it and give them away as gifts.

If you need some inspiration for designs of your cards, check out this book: "The Artist Trading Card Workshop" which has tons of images that could leave you creating for hours.

(found the photo - I think we made nearly 30 cards that year for every
child in my daughter's class and both her teachers!!)

Lastly, keep on eye out for my "Creative Inspiration" blogs as I will post more ideas on cool things you can make with your practice pieces/aka unwanted art!

Tell me what is it you plan to do...

The Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean –

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I don’t know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

--- by Mary Oliver

Road trip stop #2: Half Moon Bay, California

Our second stop was to visit our friends Tom and Rachel the co-authors of Alfonso the Christmas Pumpkin, a sweet children's book and wonderful gift for any little ones in your life. They were expecting a baby any minute when we were if you see their picture and she looks pregnant - she is!!!

Tom and Rachel live in quaint little Half Moon Bay, California - right outside the San Francisco Bay area. This time of year was the Famous Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival, so there was pumpkin paraphernalia and decorations everywhere. Here are a few photos from our explorations around town and along the coast...

Tom and Rachel minutes away from baby delivery...a nice pre-child dinner out.

Greg & Deb done up and out for dinner in Half Moon Bay.

Gorgeous architecture...

pumpkins everywhere..

Believe it or not I think someone lives in this reconstructed boat!

A retreat center we came across on the beach...very interesting

Ashland, Oregon

This October I drove from Vancouver, BC to San Francisco, California to meet with a friend who is opening an art gallery downtown San Francisco next year.

My boyfriend and I decided to make a trip of it and made a few artistically inspirational stops along the way that I wanted to share with you here from our trip.

Here's our first stop in Ashland, Oregon -where the annual Shakespeare festival is held- and where we enjoyed some fabulous food at the Dragon Fly Restaurant, a walk through town and some time in nature at the park located in the center of town.

Awe-some new book to support Creative Mortals

My friend, mentor, teacher and fellow creative Jill Badonsky just released her awe-some new book:  The AWE-MANAC: A Daily Dose of Wonder.

I had a few questions for her about what's inside the book and her own creative
 process in writing it you may enjoy this tidbit from our conversation...

Deb - How did you choose the events that ended up in the Awe-servances part of 
The Awe-manac:
Jill - Good question. The creative prompts in The Awe-manac are designed from the events or celebrations that happened on those days in history. So the events had to actually audition for their potential for creative thinking, inspiration or humor. Also, I researched favorite celebrities and historical figures (and a few personal friends) and added them as well. Lastly, if a quote really inspired me, I tried to find the birth-date of the person who wrote it so I could include it.

Deb - Which "Anti-aging Potion" do you recommend for people to use to truly "stay young."
Well, all of them will give you a frame of mind of loving life more which is a sure antidote to aging, but the FOOOF potion is all about how thinking like a child can lighten you up. Stress is a leading cause of premature aging so lightening up can help that. Also, the Inner Awe-lixir reminds us that there's a whole world inside of us that can act as a refuge and a place of rejuvenation and inspiration.

Deb - Lots of things in this book make me laugh out-loud (which of course is a very good thing!).  Did you spend a lot of time laughing while you created this?
Jill - I had a blast writing this book. I laughed out loud quite a bit because it seemed like I was channeling someone very funny. To create laughter, to me is one of life's greatest gifts and making funny associations and inventing prompts is one of my very favorite pastimes. To get myself in the mood to be funny I would watch Ellen, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert beforehand, as well as read Paula Poundstone's book. So they were my Muses and helped keep me in a festively funny mood.

Deb - I love the fact that you can open this book on any given day of the year and begin!  Each day is a session in creativity unto itself.  How do you envision people using this book? 

I envision that they will open the book on any given day and have a session in creativity unto itself. I hope people don't think they need to do all the prompts everyday, but just sample and even just daydream what they would do with the prompt as well as during every opportunity possible find a few minutes to jot down some ideas and on occasion just pour their hearts out. My wish is that some of the thoughts and inspirations make each day more special and wake people up to the fact that the shift we need to make in this economic downturn can be positive when we take small moments and make them special, creative, or humorous.

Jill Badonsky is an artist, writer, playwright, yoga teacher, nationally recognized workshop leader, creativity consultant and founder of Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coaching.  Jill also writes a monthly column for Creativity Portal, and is chief editor of the monthly The Muse Flash.  Jill's services operate out of  The Muse is In, a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations unblock their creative potential. She is author of The Nine Modern Day Muses (and a Bodyguard):10 Guides to Creative Inspiration for Artists, Poets, Lovers and Other Mortals Wanting to Live a Dazzling Existence   and  The Awe-manac: A Daily Dose of Wonder.


Looking for a unique and personal gift?  Tote bagsMugsApronsPrints & Greeting Cards.All with Deb's original artwork. The Little Inspiration Book, Sand in my Bra Written/co-written by Deb.

Original ART  available to view and purchase Beverly Hills  paintings at SWITCH Boutique Santa Barbara at Java Station Coffee House Los Angeles at Via Roma Boutique.

Deb Chaney Contemporary Abstract Artist PO Box 3931 Santa Barbara, CA 93130 805-570-1582