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This book is written for the creative person who from time to time may feel stuck in the creative process and seeks help in order to regain creative energy. It is for those seeking fulfillment of their creative potential--whatever that may be. It may also benefit psychotherapists treating such people for it provides an understanding of the hurdles creative people often confront.
To immerse oneself in any creative pursuit can be a delight when you are in "the zone"--at one with your muse. Another way to describe the zone, is to recall and consider exceptional experiences in which you felt deeply moved; a concert, a visit to an art gallery or museum, sexual attraction-- events that cause arousal of the senses.
When the work doesn't come easily to the artist, composer, writer, sculptor, it is as though a dark curtain has fallen. Paris's familiarity with creative people enables her to help lift the fallen curtain, first by understanding what is blocking the creative process, and then through the guide she presents as a compass to help one find renewed inspiration.
Paris prods the creative person to be aware and to face his fears. She urges creative people not to attribute a block as a sure sign of laziness, inadequacy, or an unconscious wish to fail, but to examine these notions using other more expansive terms such as a fear of rejection, or emptiness, poor self esteem, humiliation. Expanding the meaning of these words seems redundant and obvious, but perhaps she has found it has helped restore creative energy.
What may prove of greater benefit is her suggestion that the creative person carefully examine his past disappointing experiences, and the way in which he had coped with them. This examination may yield important information that has intruded upon the person's current state. Examining specific memories of success can more likely re-fuel trust in oneself, offering real proof of one's ability.
More importantly, she recommends the creative person seek new experiences towards immersion when one is blocked as a way of convincing oneself that it is safe to move forward.
Further, Paris recommends reaching out for support from relationships and to find other activities that create immersion to provide strength. She is a clear advocate for psychotherapy as a way towards immersion primarily because it is a safe relationship that provides support. We agree that working with a therapist with whom one feels connected is essential--for all patients.
Paris tries to make a case that creative people do their work as a way of generating certain kinds of relationships. She strongly believes that "our self-in-connection-with others is so vital that it lies at the heart of most of what we do." This is a radical concept and it based on a shift in human behavior theory from Freud to Winnocott, to Balint.
Popular literature on creativity focuses on identification of traits that distinguish the creative person from others. These traits include perseverance, individuality and drive. Brain scans have identified areas of the brain that are used during creativity.
Paris believes creativity is a psychological state and process, and that traits are not static or dependent upon given ability. Some readers will disagree. One cannot hope to be a composer without having a good sense of sound and rhythm.
Her focus appears to be on developing relationships that serve a person well. She believes that imagining connections with others can be the seeds of the creative urge.
In this reviewer's experience with creative people, it is difficult to make that leap. While I believe that close relationships are important and vital for good mental health, I do not believe that such relationships necessarily trigger or enhance creativity for I have known many introverted, enormously creative people who fail miserably at relationships. From library shelves to museum walls and concert halls comes fine work from famous people for whom relationships have been difficult and unrewarding. Could they have been more successful had their relationships provided them with emotional nourishment? Perhaps their attachment to their craft gave meaning to their lives that they did not have otherwise.
Paris spends too much print in her efforts to convince the reader that relationships are what creativity is all about and that relationships give us the courage to create. She also believes that difficult relationships can thwart creativity. This reviewer believes this may be true for some creative people, but is not true for others. In fact, when relationships go bad, a creative person may find it provides a space for creative work to occur and can offer solace. Such creators allow themselves to get into the zone, perhaps to wash away the hurt.
Paris continues her abundant focus on the importance of relationships with regard to creative people when she writes about fantasizing connections with others as a seed to creative urge. Yes, fantasy can propel you into a state of immersion--of being in the zone, but does it always yield a creation? She provides no statistics to prove this outcome.
She writes about the need for affirmation from others, yet there are artists with superior ability and creativity who are content with their artistic expressions and do not seek validation and approval from others. Many refrain from exhibiting and selling their work. They prefer to keep their work to and for themselves. They treat their creativity with reverence. Their fame may come after they depart and their works are revealed.
Paris' sharing of anecdotes about the creative people that she has known makes for interesting reading.
At the end of the book, she treats the reader to her "Incomplete Sentence Prompts." This is a good tool designed to foster the reader's awareness and clarify internal fears, fantasies and assumptions.
© 2008 Sandra Levy Ceren
Sandra Levy Ceren, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist, Diplomate, Marital and Sex Therapy, American Board of Family Psychology, Fellow, Academy of Family Psychology