Passion and Voice, a second excerpt from Eric Maisel's new book "Making your Creative Mark"

Passion and Voice
An Excerpt from Making Your Creative Mark by Eric Maisel

A logical — and vital — relationship exists between passion and voice. It is very hard to be passionate about what you’re doing if you haven’t found your voice as an artist. Imagine being forced to sing an octave too high or an octave too low, straining to hit notes that you can’t really hit and that aren’t natural to you. It would be very hard to be passionate about singing in that situation.
It is exactly like that with respect to whatever art you are creating. Whether you have been forced by circumstance not to create in your own voice, or whether you’ve avoided creating in your own voice for psychological reasons, the result will be a tremendous lack of passion for what you’re doing. Creating in your authentic voice produces and sustains passion.
With that in mind, here are ten tips for finding or reclaiming your voice. They are framed in terms of visual art, so if you are not a visual artist you will need to translate them so that they make sense for your art discipline.

1.    Detach from your current visual library. A very common problem, and almost always an unconscious one, is the need an artist feels to make his work look like something he holds as “good art” or “real art” — very often old master art. Because he possesses an internal library of the successful artworks of well-known artists, without quite realizing that he is doing it, he aims his art in the direction of those successes. It is vital that an artist detach from that visual library — extinguish it, as it were — so that his own imagery has a chance to appear.

 2.       Try not to rest on skills and talent. Maybe you excel at producing dynamic-looking cats or turning a patch of yellow into a convincing sun. That you have these talents doesn’t mean that you ought to be producing lifelike cats or brilliant suns. Your strongest subject matter and style choices depend on what you want to say rather than on what you are good at producing. By all means, parlay your skills and talents — but don’t rely on them so completely that you effectively silence yourself.

 3. Allow risk-taking to feel risky. Very often the personal work you want to do feels risky. Intellectually, you may find a way to convince yourself that the risk is worth taking — but when you try to take the risk, you balk because you suddenly feel anxiety welling up. Remember that a risk is likely to feel risky. Get ready for that reality by practicing and owning one or two robust anxiety-management strategies (more than a score of them are described in my book Mastering Creative Anxiety).

 4.       Complete projects for the sake of making progress. When you make new work that you think aims you in the direction of your genuine voice, try to complete that work rather than stopping midway because “it doesn’t look right” or “it isn’t working out.” You will make more progress if you push through those feelings, complete things, and only then appraise them. It is natural for work that is a stretch and new to you to provoke all sorts of uncomfortable feelings as you attempt it. Help yourself tolerate those feelings by reminding yourself that finishing is a key to progress.

 5.       Think at least a little bit about positioning. You may want to develop your voice independent of art trends and say exactly what you want to say in exactly the way you want to say it. On the other hand, it may serve you to take an interest in what’s going on and make strategic decisions about how you want to position yourself vis-à-vis the world of galleries, collectors, exhibitions, auctions, movements, and so on. It isn’t so much that one way is right and the other is wrong but rather that some marriage of the two, if you can pull it off, may serve you best: a marriage, that is, of marketplace strategizing and of intensely personal work that allows you to speak passionately in your own voice.

 6.       Try to articulate what you’re attempting. Artists are often of two minds as to whether they want to describe what they are attempting. Paraphrasing a visual experience into a verbal artist’s statement often feels unconvincing and beside the point. On the other hand, it can prove quite useful to announce to yourself what you hope to accomplish with your new work. By trying to put your next efforts into words, you may clarify your intentions and as a consequence more strongly value your efforts. The better you can describe what you are doing, the better you may understand your artistic voice — and the more passionate you can be in talking about your work.

 7.       Try not to repeat yourself. Repeating successful work has a way of reducing anxiety and can bring financial rewards as well. But it may also prevent us from moving forward and discovering what we hope to say. A balance to strike might be to do a certain amount of repeat work, for the sake of calmness and for the sake of your bank account, and to also add new work to your agenda. If you keep repeating yourself, it will prove very hard to remain passionate about your work.

 8.      Revisit your earliest passions. Life has a way of causing us to forget where our genuine passions reside. You may have spent decades in a big city and completely forgotten how much the desert means to you. You may have been so busy painting and parenting that your burning passion for creating a series of cityscapes fell off the map somewhere along the line. Finding your voice may involve something as simple and straightforward as making a list of your loves and starring the ones that still energize you. This is one of the simplest and smartest ways to discover what you are passionate about and what you want to say.

 9.       Think about integrating your different styles. Maybe you make two sorts of art, abstract relief paintings and realistic flat paintings. This division may have occurred at some point when, perhaps without consciously thinking the matter through, you decided that the one painting style allowed you to do something that the other didn’t. It may pay you to revisit this question today and see if the two styles can be integrated into some third style that allows the best of both current styles to come together. Whatever you discover from that investigation — whether it’s to move forward in a new way or to recommit to your current methods — you will have helped yourself better understand your artistic intentions. A lot of new passion can arise from these efforts at integration.

10.     Accept never-before-seen results. It can feel odd to speak in your own voice and then not recognize the results. Because what you’ve created may be genuinely new — and completely new to you — it may look like nothing you’ve ever seen before. That can prove disconcerting! Don’t rush to judge it as too odd, a mess or a mistake, or not what you’d intended. Give it some time to grow on you and speak to you. Your voice may sound unfamiliar to you if you’ve never heard it before!

Remember: one of the keys to maintaining passion and enthusiasm for your work is finding your own voice and speaking in it!
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

Excerpted from the new book Making Your Creative Mark ©2013 by Eric Maisel.  Published with permission of New World Library

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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Making Art in the Midst of Life

My friend John, who is a writer, told me last time we were hanging out that his 

dream was to work & save up some money, and then go somewhere and rent a little cabin and write.  It’s a great dream and know
ing him he’ll probably do it. The only part of it that makes me a little uneasy is the concept that the writing will be put off until that time. Fundamentally any art – writing, painting, pottery, running, singing 

needs to be done regularly, daily, and with some kind of consistently even in the midst of life.

 There is a good chapter in Eric Maisel’s book Coaching the Artist Within  entitled Creating in the Middle of Things in which Eric talks exactly about how we must learn to do our art even in the middle of our every day lives. To quote from this chapter;

 “ Unless you are impervious to the facts of existence – and no one is – you must learn how to create in the middle of things.  You must learn how to create when wares are raging and when your hormones are raging.  You must learn how to create even if you hate your country’s policies or your own painting style.  You must learn how to create even if you are embroiled in a bad marriage or living alone and lonely.  You must learn how to create even if you work eight hours a day at a silly job or, sometimes worse, find yourself at home with time on your hands.”

 I whole heartedly agree. We can’t be waiting for the perfect time, mood, or place. The time is now to make our art. It will never be perfect even when we have millions in the bank and are sitting cozy and comfy in our little retreat cabin. The time and place is now, in the midst of our lives, just as they are!

 Currently I have just moved with my daughter (now 6 years old) – third move in the last eight months, this was the biggest move from Southern California to Washington State. Thank God my Dad came down and helped us drive the UHAUL the 1500 + miles. That on top of being in the middle of a divorce, unpacking, re-doing my website, finishing my 08 taxes, filing for UI, editing a short video about my techniques and latest Pure Abstraction work, that on top of making daily meals and dishes and laundry and the other day to day of life. So there is a full life here but still room for art in the midsts of it. Always room for art, for the joy that it brings its worth the discipline to go and do it.

Boxes may be left unpacked, dirty dishes in the sink, but I’m still doing some art – however small. The photo in this blog is one my friend Lyza caught me when she brought by some boxes for us. One of my art tables folded up, ready to be packed, made the perfect little painting area and I started hand painting some journal covers the day before we packed the UHAUL the next day and drove up north….

 SO WHAT, I’m going to do some art anyways!

Looking for a unique and personal gift? Check out this one of a kind Breakthrough re-usable tote bag. MugsApronsPrints & Greeting Cards. Need a little inspiration? The Little Inspiration Book, ideas to empower women by DEB & Sand in my Bra, funny women write from the road.

Deb Chaney's original art can be viewed and purchased at the following locations...
in Beverly Hills Raw Expression paintings at SWITCH Boutique238 S Beverly Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90212-3805, (310) 860-1650  
in Santa Barbara at Java Station Coffee House4447 Hollister Ave, Santa Barbara, CA 93110-1734, (805) 681-0202 
in Los Angeles Patchwork Paper - framed originals - at Via Roma Boutique17215 Ventura Boulevard, Encino,Ca, 91316 (818) 386 - 0736

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