January 26, 2008

more questions for eric maisel

In the book, you say, "The centerpiece of a meaningful life for creators is meaningful creating." In aiming to achieve this, do you think there are benefits for people to create outside their "usual" medium? (i.e., artists try their hand at writing; writers dabble in a visual art project, etc.)

E: There are; and obvious dangers, too. Our first job is to make meaning in a particular discipline over time, because this gives us the best sense of continuity and completion and is the best way to make ourselves feel proud, existentially speaking. If we are a writer, we want to write well and regularly, other mediums come second. If we are a painter, we don't want to neglect our painting because of some momentary meaning enthusiasm. So, first things first: our lifelong apprenticeship in one discipline. That having been said, it can be wonderful to work in another discipline, especially if your primary one is at the mercy of others: for instance, if you are an actor waiting to be hired, it can be grand to get your performance piece written and produced. So the short answer is yes, but beware that you don't shortchange your primary discipline.

Could you explain more about the importance of creating a life plan sentence/statement? Should a life plan statement change over time, or is it best if it is written in general enough terms so that it isn't altered by time, circumstances, and life changes?

E: If you agree to commit to active meaning-making, you need to know where to make your meaning investments, both in the short-term sense of knowing what to do with the next hour and in the long-term sense of knowing which novel you are writing or which career you're pursuing. Having a life purpose statement or life plan statement in place serves as an ongoing reminder of the sorts of meaning investments that you intend to make, both short-term and long-term, and helps you make the right "meaning decision" about where to spend your capital and how to realize your potential. But it also necessarily changes over time, as you have additional life experiences and refine and reformulate your sense of what is meaningful to you. Create a beautiful one for right now and then revisit it periodically, especially if the blues have crept in.

With depression having existential roots in many creative people, do you think that antidepressants and other psychiatric medications are over-prescribed in modern culture?

E: Yes. They work for some people some of the time and checking in to them may make good sense, but they are not at all as effective as the public has been led to believe. A recent study showed that 95% of published reports praised the effectiveness of antidepressants and 90% of unpublished reports disputed the effectiveness of antidepressants - reports that went unpublished because of the clout of pharmaceutical companies, psychiatrists, and the medical-industrial complex. They sometimes have their place, but they are no real substitute for actively making and maintaining meaning.

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