Why Misery Breeds Creativity

31 Mar

I have a theory about why creativity seems to go hand in hand with misery.  Note that I don’t think misery is required.  But it is a great fuel.  Why?

Van Gogh, self-portrait, 1888

I think the more unhappy we are, the more we resist what is.  We yearn for what isn’t, for what else could be, for what’s possible. In a bad family situation? A soul-numbing job?  Our mind starts seeking a new situation even if limited only to the universe of our brain.

Imagining possibilities is creativity.

We also become really cranky and resistant when we’re unhappy.  Fighting instincts are ignited.  This generally means that the polite filters we use to get along in daily life become frayed.  Our inhibitions are lowered, our emotions are freer, we are more open to risk.

If we are literally biting our tongues to keep our unvarnished thoughts from spilling out, they don’t just disappear.  They stew.  They fester.  If we don’t let them out somehow, they will rot us from the inside out.  So, we write, we paint, we dance, we sing.  We literally get it out through these physical acts.  And, in some small measure, we heal.

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7 Responses to “Why Misery Breeds Creativity”

  1. flujan April 1, 2012 at 3:31 am #

    This is so true. I loved this post!! You may like some of the posts under my “creativity” category. Check this one out if you have a chance… http://myvoyagethroughtime.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/dragon-heart-tiger-mind-working-through-the-pain/

    • pursuingthemuse April 1, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

      Thank you for the comment! I just read your Tiger Balm post and really liked it. I propose that art may be a balm for the mind 🙂

  2. patientdreamer April 1, 2012 at 3:52 am #

    mmm…. you may have something there. I know it was in a sad moment I started writing. It was like lifting a weight.

    • pursuingthemuse April 1, 2012 at 9:56 pm #

      That’s it exactly! Thank you patientdreamer!

  3. followingthemuse April 1, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Not so sure I agree entirely. It seems that sometimes the frustrations that come from the “yearnings” bottleneck us into doing absolutely nothing…just moaning about our unanswered dreams. Rather than spur us into some sort of creative energy, those feelings just slow us down and sometimes stop us entirely. Sad, isn’t it? So, next time I find myself heading for misery, wanting something that I cannot have, I’ll remember this post and turn that negative energy into something more creative and, therefore, much more fun! Yes, I can do this — pick up my paint brush, my pencil, my song sheet, my camera. Thank you!

    • pursuingthemuse April 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

      So true, misery can paralyze us at times too. Thanks for that perspective!

  4. Julie April 2, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    I think frustration and unhappiness is essential to the creative life, because that’s where breakthroughs come from. I don’t plan on cutting my ear off though – LOL!

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