Louis Birner has always been fascinated by people and their problems. He found the study of psychology a thrilling experience. He has been a psychologist for 50 years. He is also an oil painter and author of 10 books, mystery novels and mostly self-help books. His book, "Get Creative Not Depressed" was recently published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises in January.
You specialize in the resistances to creativity. How did that come about?
"I had a number of patients who had problems completing or starting a creative effort. I studied these patients to learn more about their inhibition to creative effort. I worked to help them resolve their resistances."
What is your latest book about?
"The book, (like the first edition published 10 years ago) deals with the resistances to the creative act. For most of us creativity does not come easily. Indeed, to produce something new is a daunting task. One needs to find the time and the emotional space to be creative. The main ingredient to stimulate creativity is to put in the time consistently. There is such a thing as a creative moment. One has to learn to look for that moment. Writers for example rewrite their work looking for something better. A good painter or musician strives for a better performance of his art. In art, one works to work well. The artistic persons' greatest ally is the willingness to invest time. Try long enough and something good will happen. The book stresses the art of trying without working against the self."
You are a psychologist and an author, which came first?
"Much of the work of a clinical psychologist is the writing of reports. My first job was as a psychologist centered about writing reports. Topics that interested me led me to learn how to write professional papers for publication. First I became a psychologist and then I became a writer. My first published psychological paper was an analytical study of James Bond."
What are the issues that hinder many a creative person?
"The most singular issue is putting in the time. The true artist devotes most of his time to his art."
What causes doubt, bad habits, uncertainty and procrastination? What is the key to overcoming these problems?
"Bad habits, doubt, procrastination, and uncertainty are emotional problems. These patterns are the result of improper training. In such situations getting emotional help can be a very good idea. Why live a life full of doubt and uncertainty while you avoid action through procrastination?"
How does the usefulness of creative imagination help battle self-defeating acts?
"Creative imagination is a wonderful thing, but it must be set in the framework of a discipline and of time. Without a disciplined use of time the artist can defeat his efforts. I make this point in both the first and second editions of the book."
What impact does the unconscious mind have to all of this?
"That is a loaded question. There are psychologists that do not believe in the presence of the unconscious. I, however, do. In my opinion, the unconscious can influence us and leave an imprint on what we do and attempt to do. People who are brought up with conflicts often carry their conflicts with them when they try to do creative work. A background of positive experience has a positive effect on the unconscious in my opinion. A background of very negative experience can effect the unconscious in negative ways. One of the greatest feelings on an unconscious level and conscious level is self-love."
How did you get started writing mystery novels?
"I learned a little about writing a mystery novel by taking courses in the subject. A good mystery story always leads one to think about the meeting of a villain and a detective hero. I started writing mysteries about nine years ago."
What is your first mystery, "So Tender So Fair," about?
"A serial killer is raping and murdering a number of young and beautiful woman. After he murders them he puts a crown on their head and a quotation from Shakespeare in her hand. The trouble with the case is that there are no real leads and no clues. The public is angry and the police captain is not pleased with the detective. After an intense investigation of the lives of these women, he finds a clue. These woman all knew their murderer and insulted him in one way or another. At one point the women were actresses in a play which was directed by their future murderer. They made his plays a failure. Now he is out for revenge."
I noticed that you are an oil painter. What style of oil painting do you do? Is this done as self-therapy?
"When it comes to oil painting I guess I am an impressionist. I have my own style. I enjoy painting very much and consider it therapeutic."
As an artist have you been impacted by procrastination or other self-defeating acts?
"At certain points I have wasted time, been lazy, and under-productive. I always strive to do better. Taking good care of your mind and body aids the creative process."
I also noticed that there is a connection between writers and depression. I read that writers suffer from depression at a higher rate than the rest of the population?
"Many writers have suffered from depression. This is true for other artists, as well. Many of the famous ones had bouts of depression. Winston Churchill had what he called his "black dog" of depression. This does not mean that all writers are depressed. Some are. Depression is the world's number one mental health problem. As to just why writers get depressed is not really known. However it does occur. Most people are not aware that in ourselves we have an enemy ... a piece of us that resists creativity. Get to know your resistances and you can change the format."
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