Creative Mania and Obsession

by Barbara Martin

in Motivation & Inspiration

If you are a creative person and you are internally driven to passionately make meaning as Eric Maisel describes in his creativity book, Coaching the Artist Within, then you are a good candidate for developing what he calls “positive obsession” and “mitigated mania” in the course of doing your creative work.

Positive Obsession, Negative Obsession
Maisel carefully explains that making meaning with passion, drive, etc. serves to spark and generate the massive amount of mental energy required to create. To maintain that high energy level, you may need to encourage a “positive obsession” in yourself.

This is a state where we obsess over our work. Obsess possibly in an obtrusive and recurrent way, but also in an “appropriate and wanted” way, obsession being a “passionately held idea that serves your meaning-making needs.” Maisel is careful to note that this type of obsessing is in strong contrast to a negative obsession. A negative obsession or “passionately held idea that serves no good purpose” is to be avoided, of course.

Love What You Do

A positive obsession helps you to “love your own projects, your own ideas, and your own creative impulses” and thereby generates the mental energy needed to support your creativity in a fierce and fiery way.

All Out Mania: Too Much of a Good Thing?

Sometimes a creative person will become so engrossed in their work, so entranced, so obsessed, that they reach a pathological state known as mania. Maisel insists there is a distinction to be made between the energized artist who mediates the mania, who retains control of their life and mind, who is able to control the level of mania sufficiently to survive it without cracking vs. the artist who is not able to do that and loses all control.

Obsession: to the Exclusion of Others

Maisel makes another distinction between the positive and negative aspects of mania – the flipside of a positive obsession, of a self-absorbed artist who is creating at break neck speed, is that you will treat the people around you badly. This is a potential issue to be aware of and look out for.

Finding A Certain Balance

So the trick is to be able to generate the mental energy/passion you need to get the work done, but to maintain enough control and balance to handle the consequences of that passionate energy. In other words, let go and create passionately with fire in your belly and yet … keep a grip on things sufficient that you do not derail, flame out, burn out or worse.

If knowledge is power, what step(s) can you take to energize yourself, and to protect yourself while you go about your life purpose passionately making meaning?

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Darlene January 13, 2010 at 7:43 am

I like this post since I can also address myself as a creative person.:)

Laurel Rogers April 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

The balance mentioned above can be terribly elusive, particularly when suffering from Bi-Polar illness. While I do appreciate the importance of this rational approach to the creative self, when in the grips of a genuine manic episode self-awareness itself is compromised, rendering the ego completely unable to assess its own thoughts and actions. Oftentimes medication is necessary to achieve the appropriate ‘state of mind’ to choose the positive path of the artist.
I thoroughly enjoyed this article, and plan to subscribe to “Reptitude.”
Thank you for such a thoughtful article.
Laurel H. Rogers

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