Balance is an interview series with creatives about how they find balance in their work and lives.
In 2011, I attended Western Kentucky University's Mountain Workshops as a multimedia participant (an incredible experience that I highly recommend to anyone who wants an intensive hands-on learning experience) and it was the first time I heard Eric Maierson speak about fear. I still remember his talk so clearly. He started off by showing Francisco Goya's grotesque painting "Saturn Devouring His Son" and saying rather bluntly: "This is what my fear looks like."
My mind was blown. I'd never heard someone of his prestige speak so frankly about the struggle of making creative work. Yes, I'd heard Ira Glass talk about The Gap and that's wonderful, but the vulnerability that Eric showed in sharing how he continues to experience that fear and anxiety around creating, even now, was incredibly profound for me.
Which is why I'm thrilled that Eric was willing to be interviewed for this blog! You should also check out his blog about creativity and fear and his work at MediaStorm, if you aren't already familiar with it.
You write a lot about your fear and the creative process in a sometimes shockingly honest way. But a lot of people only want to share their successes and high points with the world. Why do you think it's important for people to also share the struggles?
Eric: To talk only about success leaves out half the story. The struggles make us human. In one way or another, we are all striving to create some reflection of who we feel we are. And to hide that does a disservice, particularly to people who are just beginning this journey.
For years, I thought the challenges and frustrations of creating were unique to me. I think there’s great strength in knowing that we’re not alone.
For people who don't know you, can you give a little bit of a background as to what your creative journey has been thus far?
Eric: My creative journey, I think as it is for most people, has been one of discovery. I try out things that I’m interested in and some things just stick and feel natural. And I continue to pursue them, with the hopes of getting better. But from my current vantage point, looking back, I think that I’ve always just wanted to tell stories. That’s taken different form and shapes through the years but it’s been the single common denominator.
What are some of the challenges for you about doing creative work and what are some of the ways you've learned to overcome those challenges?
Eric: My biggest challenge has been self-consciousness, or more precisely just believing in myself. I think self-consciousness is a necessity for creative work but too much and you begin to short circuit. You start to doubt yourself and your abilities, When someone tells me they like what I do, I have to try really hard not to dismiss it. I think for a lot of people, it’s easier to focus on the negative.
Why do you do what you do?
Eric: That’s a hard question because for me, and I know this might sound pompous, but it feels so integral to who I am, this constant struggle to make things, that I can’t really imagine not doing it. Ever since I was a kid, I just had a yearning or a hunger to be able to express how I feel.
What do you do to find balance in your life and/or why do you think it's important to find balance as a creative professional?
Eric: I’m not sure I’m a good person to talk to about balance. I work a lot. Either at MediaStorm or at home on my own projects. I think if you enjoy what you do, you want to keep doing it. That being said, I do take brakes. If I’m writing something and I get stuck, I might switch to another project to let my brain work on things in the background. But I’m always working on something.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Eric: I find inspiration everywhere, from books, to movies, to the internet. Sometimes a word or phrase or image will become lodged somewhere in my thinking and it will burrow its way in until I do something about it.