Sunday, January 20, 2008

Creating in the Midst Of - Part II

First a plug for two interviews coming up here at the Creative Circle Cafe on February 14th and 15th which I think you'll really find interesting and helpful. I'm pleased to share again the work of Dr. Eric Maisel who I'll be interviewing about his book The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path through Depression, just released in paperback by New World Library. I hope you'll join us. The focus for each interview near as I can say now will be as follows but these are working titles and could change.

  • Love Helps Heal the Blues - February 14th, Valentine's Day
  • Tenderness and Depression in Creative People - February 15th

Antidotes for Northern Hemisphere Blues
So, now Part II in a four part series entitled Creating in the Midst Of where we're chatting about issues that support or hinder our creative work and this week we're going to chat about feeling blue and some ideas about self-care. If you live in the northern hemisphere, work indoors, travel to and from work mostly in the dark and don't spent a good amount of time outside during daylight you might be a good candidate for a case of the Northern Hemisphere Blues. The days begin to get longer after Winter Solstice on December 21 but by the time that rolls around we've already got lots of short, light-deprived days under our belts. For many of us this delivers a case of winter depression. While it's true that many folks don't seem to experience negative side effects from light deprivation at this time of the year, it's not "all in your head" if you can't concentrate, lose your focus, become sad and disorganized or experience a host of other symptoms. The cumulative effects often begin to show up in late December and January so it seems timely to put in a friendly plug about some simple ways we can gently help ourselves through this time. To that end my blog today is an incomplete, unscientific list of suggested ways to love yourself through and out of the Northern Hemisphere Blues. If you're feeling the blues, don't take it lying down. Perhaps you'll find just the right mix amongst these healing homespun suggestions for self-care. If you try one thing and nothing changes, try another, gently try a bunch of them.

- talk to someone you like and trust about how you feel, on the phone or in person and even email works.
- do some gentle exercise on the floor at home, a daily stretching routine might help and get you started.
- try a light lamp. I have friends who swear by them. It should be certified to meet the treatment specifications you need. You may be able to get a prescription for a light lamp from your doctor.
- try to spend some time outdoors once a day, take a walk, sit on a bench. Spend time with nature.
- spent time with friends even if you don't feel like talking.
- ask a friend or family member if you can check-in with them once a week about tasks you feel are important to help you focus and complete them. Be sure to tell them you need encouragement not censoring.
- look back over the last year or two for events that might have added to your depressed feelings and, if you find any, be aware that you're still processing those events so give yourself a break; be patient. Consider talking with a psychologist or therapist.
- if symptoms persist or you feel hopeless talk to your doctor. Listen to all your options and try to keep an open mind. Many neighborhoods have a free clinic if paying to see a doctor is a problem.
- remember you're not alone, you're not weird and it's not weird that this is happening to you.
- try as much as possible to resist the temptation to shame or blame yourself for the way you feel or for not being able to think your way out of it.
- give yourself a pat on the back for everything you do manage to accomplish on any given day no matter how small you think the accomplishment is.
- humility and acceptance are a challenge to achieve at the best of times nevertheless "just for today" try to be humble and accept your situation as it is while you begin a gently daily practice of some new kinds of self-care.
- take a peek at The Van Gogh Blues by Dr. Eric Maisel and just released in paperback by New World Press (ISBN 978-1-57731-604-6). The book offers 230 pages of humane insightful help, ideas and stories.
- consider hiring a professional organizer for just a couple of hours a week, do so to help you stay on top of bills and paperwork. One friend who did this said it made all the difference in the world, it was miraculous and made the difference between doing something and doing nothing. This might sound extravagant but it's very practical.
- once in a while consider dropping off laundry at your local self-serve laundromat many of which will charge by the pound to wash and fold your laundry. If you can afford it take laundry in once a week. Again, this is a practical option which conserves your energy for family, your job, etc.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Creating In The Midst Of - Part I

Today is Part I of a four part series. We're going to be chatting about some of the challenges to creativity which arise because of the nature of our work, our personalities, and the responsibilities and commitments we have in other areas of our lives. We'll look at how to stay positive about our creativity in the midst of that. The call to create and to stay true to our creative vision is a challenge for most creators at some or many points in their life. Without digging too deeply we'll look at some of these challenges and talk about gentle ways to reward and honor yourself for doing the creative work you do.

Additionally while creative friends in the southern hemisphere are enjoying long days in the height of summer our creative friends here in the northern hemisphere could well be experiencing a down turn in spirit, perhaps full blown depression, brought on by less sunlight and shortened daylight hours. So I'll talk a bit about that as well.

Commitment to creative work - decide to maintain a consistently friendly, warm and genuine respect for yourself and for your commitment to your creative work regardless of the blocks of time available for doing your creative work. The need or choice to earn a living outside of or in addition to income from your creative work, caring for family and your self, taking care of other commitments that are important to you often mean time is short for doing your most meaningful creative work. Having made the choice to be responsible about these things can lead a creative person to question their commitment to their creative work. This is unfriendly to yourself at the very least and taken to extremes leads to undeserved self-criticism, feelings of hopelessness and self-betrayal. Give yourself permission to manage your responsibilities in ways that seem best to you at the time. If that means creating around other responsibilities, give yourself a pat on the back for being a well-rounded person. If the stress of managing too many responsibilities starts to weight on you, be open to exploring changing when you do different tasks, what can be shifted or re-arranged and find a different balance. Sometimes, taking a rest is all that's needed - a day or a weekend saying no to everything except truly absolute essentials. Honor and praise yourself all the more if it's difficult to negotiate the time you need to do your creative work.

The blues - also for the next four weeks I'll talk a bit about ways that creative people can help gently banish the depression which is so common in creative people. Creatives experience a special kind of blues-the existential blues-as we strive to do our meaningful creative work, think deeply about meaning and by nature explore issues which can be tiring and challenging. This week I'm excited to invite you to learn more about how to handle the depression that creative people so commonly experience. On February 15 I'll be interviewing Dr. Eric Maisel here at the Creative Circle Cafe about just that and in the meantime here's the link to interviews with Eric about The Van Gogh Blues recently released in paperback, click Read the Schedule (this is a pdf file best opened in IE not Firefox). In the series interviews Eric talk very specifically about creative people and the special kinds of depression they commonly experience. Dr. Eric Maisel is the author of more than thirty books include Coaching the Artist Within, Fearless Creating, A Writer's Paris, The Van Gogh Blues, The Creativity Book, Performance Anxiety, Ten Zen Seconds, and many others. He's San Francisco-based creativity coach and trainer of creativity coaches, a California licensed marriage and family therapist and a national certified counselor, who these days provides only creativity coaching and not any therapy or counseling. He has been working with creative and performing artists for more than twenty years and has been writing for thirty-five years. He holds undergraduate degrees in philosophy and psychology, Master's degrees in counseling and creative writing, and a doctorate in counseling psychology.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Van Gogh Blues and "How Purpose Heals Depression" podcast with Dr. Eric Maisel

Hello, everyone. I have some lovely, inspirational opportunities for you all as we begin our sojourn in 2008, providing gentle and insightful ways to heal and successfully manage the recurrent depression most creative people experience. Incidentally this material can be used by anybody not only those who identify as creative people.

Opportunity number one is to sit back today, tune in and listen to Dr. Eric Maisel's podcast Your Purpose-Centered Life, where he's currently chatting about “How Purpose Heals Depression,” a nine-part series directly related to his book, The Van Gogh Blues which has just appeared in paperback from New World Library. Here's the URL if the direct link doesn't work for you: /214-purpose-centered-life. Many of you are already familiar with the work of Eric Maisel, Ph.D., author of more than thirty books, recognized expert in the area of creativity, psychologist, creativity coach and trainer of creativity coaches.

I hope you'll check back here at the Cafe for my interview with Dr. Eric Maisel on Friday, February 15 as part of his virtual book tour chatting about The Van Gogh Blues. The book tour runs from January 14 through February 23 with daily interviews, each one with a little different focus. Next week I'll post the full book tour schedule.

Pick up a copy of the book for yourself or an artist in your life.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year & the other 364 special days

Happy New Year to all. We had plans to celebrate and greet the New Year with friends but from the wee hours of December 31st until the wee hours of this morning I sick with nasty bout of stomach 'flu. My only New Year's goals are 'be well, be gentle, be wise.'

I have a special fondness for the New Year's celebrations but my my life has also taught me that it is "just another day" in the most positive sense, meaning that this perspective on things is intended to bring all the other "not-New Year" days up to that higher level rather than downgrading "new year's day" in any way. With first light every day our slate is wiped clean and we're handed a new day to use in whatever way we're able to and choose to from the situation and circumstances in which we find ourselves. That's not to say our conditions are easy or simple or the way we wish them to be.

For a goal-oriented gal like myself the beauty in this is that it provides me with a way to stay in today, this 24 hours; to measure myself and my accomplishments in smaller segments. With this lifeway I can usually stay in today, knowing that again at first light tomorrow I can change or grow or choose more boldly or more in line with my values. Yesterday is gone, the new day is wide open for choices and values.

Traditionally, many folks use the twelve month calendar and January 1st as the marker for measuring accomplishments in the year past and setting goals for the year ahead. Honestly, when I need something broader or bigger than "one day at a time" I'd sooner choose a segment of time chosen by my heart, not the calendar - after all isn't the calendar only meant to help us get to appointments on the correct date? Or more importantly how to gather at the same time to celebrate birthdays, marriages, passages? I don't believe calendar time is the best measure for who or where we are in our lives. I'd rather choose to measure increments of my life by the cycles of the moon or the seasons - like this: what did I accomplish in the Fall, when the leaves on the trees were turning gold and red? Listening to my heart or spirit or wiser self I can ask, what were the most meaningful accomplishments I remember from when the sumac was blazing scarlet? Marking time this way connects me to the Earth, all living things and the cycle of life outside calendar time.

A peaceful and balanced 2008 to us all.