The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression

Overview

Creative people of all kinds look for understanding, empathy, and meaning in life. That is what they do, what they work with. This fact will to lead to depression--but not because understanding, empathy, and meaning are not possible. They are simply not always on terms that are easy to accept. This depression of creative people does not have to be physiological, nor does it necessarily respond to pharmaceutical treatments.

Dr. Eric Maisel, an internationally known expert on the ...

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The Van Gogh Blues

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Overview

Creative people of all kinds look for understanding, empathy, and meaning in life. That is what they do, what they work with. This fact will to lead to depression--but not because understanding, empathy, and meaning are not possible. They are simply not always on terms that are easy to accept. This depression of creative people does not have to be physiological, nor does it necessarily respond to pharmaceutical treatments.

Dr. Eric Maisel, an internationally known expert on the creative process and best-selling author, has developed a four-step plan for engaging this type of depression and moving past it. Using examples of famous creators like Vincent van Gogh and Fyodor Dostoyevsky and not-so-famous creators who have struggled with this kind of depression, he shows that despite the difficulty, creative people hold the ability to forge relationships, repair themselves, and create meaning in an utterly unique and powerful way. Dr. Maisel's approach legitimizes creative people's own instinctual beliefs that standard treatments are not the answer.

Vincent van Gogh, the icon of the tortured artist, cut off his own ear and spun out of control in his depression. Would he have benefited from Prozac or Zoloft? Possibly. Are all creative people--designers, writers, engineers, architects, dancers, others who seek to find meaning in their work--destined to end up like van Gogh? Not at all.

Men and women who seek to create meaning through their work are heroes in many ways. They have opted to matter. They lay their work as a veneer on top of the forces of meaninglessness and chaos, making them vulnerable to a unique kind of depression that often is not physiological and does not respond to pharmaceutical treatments.

The source of this depression is embedded in the creative process itself. Creative people often get depressed when they are unable to create or when their creative efforts fall short of their hopes--even when they create successfully, they can get depressed due to a lingering sense that their work only temporarily disguises life's apparent meaninglessness.

In order to counter this kind of depression, Dr. Eric Maisel says creators must become meaning experts, learning to navigate through the terrain of meaning. They must engage in a conversation with themselves about what is meaningful--and then work a plan to create that meaning. The Van Gogh Blues contains all the information one needs to have this conversation and create a personalized meaning plan.

The great news is that this can lead to liberation from depression, truly a self-created map out of depression. Despite the fact that we have no choice but to experience pain and suffering while being alive, we can choose to make sense of our time here, take it seriously, and stick to our plan to create the meaning we seek. We can force life to mean.

Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is an internationally known expert on the creative process, a creativity coach, psychotherapist, and best-selling author. His other books include Living the Writer's Life, The Creativity Book, and Sleep Thinking. He lives near San Francisco.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The assertion that creative people are especially vulnerable to depression certainly isn't surprising, and Maisel (The Creativity Book) knows it. But it's not that they're genetically prone to psychological disorders, he says-it's that they feel depressed because they're "caught up in a struggle to make life seem more meaningful." The author of several small press novels during his younger years, Maisel now identifies himself as a creativity coach, and here seeks to offer artistic types a "plan for managing creator's depression." This isn't a simple how-to: his somewhat scholarly, philosophical style can make it difficult to translate analysis into necessary action. But given that creative types are inclined to enjoy the abstract, they just might benefit from this work, as well as enjoy learning about aspects of their personalities that they may not have previously identified or understood. Maisel explores the creative's sometimes disheartening quest for meaning, and he suggests possible solutions to the personality weaknesses creative people are also prone to, such as narcissism, addictions and critical thinking about themselves. Although at times insufficiently specific-how exactly can we learn to "brave" anxiety?-Maisel's book has helpful suggestions for artists and writers searching for encouragement and emotional respite. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Psychotherapist Maisel (Living the Writer's Life) is deeply concerned with meaning. Effectively mixing academic research, his own thoughts, and the stories of artists, he persuasively argues that creative individuals measure their happiness and success by how much meaning they create in their work. When they can't channel pathos, they often become depressed. Rather than resort to pharmaceuticals, however, Maisel, a self-described "meaning expert" who coaches and counsels artistic clients, prescribes a four-step plan to help readers harness depression and use it to explore what's lacking in their lives. That's not to say that Maisel is irresponsible: he does suggest considering drugs in certain cases, but on the whole, he does not think that artists respond well to them. Useful for mental health professionals, artists, and art libraries, this book purports to be a lifelong approach. Those looking for a quick fix should check out Jordan Ayan's Aha!: 10 Ways To Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas. Also consider Frederic F. Flach's optimistic and refreshing The Secret Strength of Despair. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"The Van Gogh Blues is a courageous and insightful gift to all writers, artists, and others whose efforts and hopes have been hobbled by depression. Eric Maisel shows us how to stay out of depression's clutches so that we can consistently move forward with dignity, resolve, and unassailable passion."--Sharon Lebell, author of The Art of Living

"Maisel's concepts in The Van Gogh Blues are right on the mark and address an area that is critically important and largely neglected. In addition, his writing style is superb."--John Preston, Psy.D., author of Consumer's Guide to Psychiatric Drugs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781577316046
  • Publisher: New World Library
  • Publication date: 12/28/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 324,842
  • Product dimensions: 5.62 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author


Eric Maisel, Ph.D., is an internationally known expert on the creative process, a creativity coach, psychotherapist, and best-selling author. His other books include Living the Writer's Life, The Creativity Book, and Sleep Thinking. He lives near San Francisco.
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Recipe

"The Van Gogh Blues is a mind-blowingly wonderful book.”
Midwest Book Review

"Maisel persuasively argues that creative individuals measure their happiness and success by how much meaning they create in their work.”
Library Journal
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