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Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions Paperback – May 18, 2010

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Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions + Mastering Creative Anxiety: 24 Lessons for Writers, Painters, Musicians, and Actors from America's Foremost Creativity Coach + Fearless Creating: A Step-by-Step Guide To Starting and Completing Your Work of Art
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library (May 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577316215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577316213
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 6.6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #470,533 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Eric Maisel (Coaching the Artist Within), a creativity coach and columnist, and wife Ann Maisel (What Would Your Character Do?) have collaborated on a self-help book with an intriguing twist: that the right kind of "productive" obsession is not only desirable but an essential feature of creativity. To lend credibility to their claim the Maisels reference research into consciousness that suggests the cerebral cortex contains dynamic cooperatives of neurons which may lay the foundation for "a productive obsession that is a large neuronal gestalt of long duration - a big idea that lasts a long time." In answer to the criticism that any obsession might be dangerous, the Maisels acknowledge that this possibility hasn't been thoroughly investigated but believe the gains outweigh any potential negatives. The process of nurturing productive obsessions, the authors believe, is at the heart of how we value life and find purpose. It goes beyond simple stimulation, neat ideas, or interesting hobbies. By "investing meaning," in our ideas, we can move from mere interest to "the meaningfulness of authentic engagement." All too often people overlook the basics of a productive life, distracted by multitasking, marketing, and information overload. With this provocative departure from the usual lifestyle manual, the Maisels are out to break us of those tendencies.
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“Turn brain potential into passion, energy, and genuine accomplishments.”
Camille Minichino, physicist and author of the Periodic Table Mysteries

“What a pivotal way to experience your brain and all that it can create! I love that this book celebrates and teaches the concept of productive obsession and the multitudinous gifts of brainstorming.”
SARK, author, artist, and creative fountain

“A great tool for anyone who might be feeling stuck with a creative urge or idea but hasn’t brought it to fruition. You’ll discover how to use your brain as your ally and go beyond what you thought possible.”
Phyllis Lane, documentary filmmaker

“Elegantly combines the most inspiring elements of mindfulness, engagement, focus, and flow. Eric Maisel shows how we can be more productive by turning obsessions into positive passions.”
Susan K. Perry, PhD, social psychologist, author of Writing in Flow, and creativity blogger for Psychology Today

More About the Author

Eric Maisel, Ph.D., widely regarded as America's foremost creativity coach, is the author of more than 40 books. His titles include Secrets of a Creativity Coach, Why Smart People Hurt, Making Your Creative Mark, Coaching the Artist Within, The Van Gogh Blues, Fearless Creating, Mastering Creative Anxiety, Creativity for Life, A Writer's Paris, A Writer's San Francisco, and many others.

In addition to training creativity coaches, leading workshops nationally and internationally, and maintaining an individual creativity coaching practice, Dr. Maisel is in the forefront of the movement to rethink mental health. He writes the Rethinking Psychology blog for Psychology Today and among his books in this area are Rethinking Depression and Natural Psychology: the New Psychology of Meaning.

Dr. Maisel leads Deep Writing workshops at workshop centers like Esalen, Kripalu, Omega, Hollyhock and Rowe and in locales like San Francisco, New York, London, Paris, Prague and Rome. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, he has conducted hundreds of interviews, and his print column "Coaching the Artist Within" appears monthly in Professional Artist Magazine.

Dr. Maisel's websites are and He can be contacted at

Customer Reviews

It was excellent and very inspiring.
C W Bratton
The metaphor of productive obsessions and the practical tips offered for keeping a creative idea alive are really very useful.
Roccie Hill
Eric and Ann Maisel want us to use our crazy, creative minds to make great art.
Jed Diamond

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer VINE VOICE on June 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I like Maisel. I found his book The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods useful and, for lack of a better word, inspiring. So much so that I tracked down a couple of his other books and started to read them as well, and added Brainstorm to my Wish List the day I learned it was coming out.

But here's the thing: for someone who is a creativity coach, his body of work does not show a great deal of creativity. Not only do I not seeing Maisel producing notable works of, say, literature or film or art, but even the books he creates tend to be pretty much the same sort of advice over and over, with minor variations in emphasis. As good as I found Atheist's Way, it's hard not to conclude after seeing the efforts that came before or after it that it might not have been just one more marketing trick, one more way to package some advice that is very sound, very excellent--but not very original--for an additional audience. In one sense there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I was grateful for the nod to atheists' hard work of creating meaning and wresting meaning from a universe that does not easily yield it.

In another sense, though, it's hard to escape the sarcastic voice in my head when I read "Brainstorm" saying something along the lines of, "Physician, heal thyself." Don't preach to me about the crucial nature of creativity, of productive obsessions, when you have been writing the same book for several years now.

That, however, is a meta-criticism across the entirety of Maisel's output. Taken by itself, Brainstorm is a good book.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By M. DeFoe on May 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really wanted to like this book, and I do - to a point.

There are excellent points made in the book - about choosing the direction of your mental energy, not wasting your obsessions, turning off bad obsessions, and brainstorming with intention. These fall under a general distrust of "scope creep." Very important to keep in mind and something I've recently taken more serious to great benefit.

But the majority of the book is filler - fluff stories and anecdotals that extend the page count and justify the seller's cost I assume. These junk sentences surround, and at times smother, the good and valuable nuggets of wisdom that give life to this author's argument.

This is an okay book with very good points made. Don't waste your time reading every sentence - skim this book, highlight the important segments (they pop) and don't let the rest frustrate you. Accept it for what it is and use the few and good from these pages to your advantage.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Richard Szponder on September 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
In Brainstorm: Harnessing the Power of Productive Obsessions, Eric and Ann Maisel suggest that obsessing over an idea can be healthy, if the idea is related to creativity. Based in psychology, Brainstorm suggests that we waste too much time and energy on unproductive thoughts, and if we force those thoughts out of our brains while at the same time focusing on creative ideas, the possibilities are endless.

Brainstorm is highly theoretical in that it very frequently discusses human potential in ideas and concepts that seem very possible. However, it offers little to no practical application of the concepts. The book's ideas are primarily demonstrated by quotes from individuals who have participated in the Maisels' productive obsession groups, but very frequently is there any explanation as to how any of these individuals achieved their results.

The most practical help within the book are the chapters on determining what is productive versus non-productive and how to choose a productive obsession that is worthy of your heart's strongest desires. Each chapter concludes with a real-life example of a creative individual, famous or not, who succeeded in conquering the boundaries and bringing new ideas to fruition.

Another important chapter in the book explains to the reader that creativity is not necessarily about the end product by rather about appreciating the journey along the way. Focusing too heavily on the end product can impede the natural twists and turns that creativity takes along the way. Perhaps the end product will be quite different from what the individual set out to initially create. And perhaps it will be much more extraordinary.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nessie Shaw on June 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The thing I love about this book and all the other books I have read by Eric Maisel is that they have such a thorough-going practical application. This book has helped me increase my productivity on my important projects by at least 100 percent. If you are stuck and procrastinating over important tasks, this book provides the proverbial kick up the........ but does it in such an elegant manner you barely notice.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By C W Bratton on January 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After hearing Eric Maisel, the author of Brainstorm on an NPR program I purchased the book. It was excellent and very inspiring. If you have ever had an idea to write, this will help you get started. This book gives you tools you stop procrastinating with excellent techniques and suggestions. I bought 6 more copies and gave as gifts.
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