Creativity, is it all in the mind?

Posted by Ivan Grieve on

Type in to a search engine the phrase “I can’t believe the way I’m feeling about this” and most likely the first few results returned will be YouTube videos of bands, musicians / artists expressing their emotions. The list will then become peppered with self help and mental health links amongst further lyrics.


Most artists are emotionally wired into the environment in which they live, though frequently portrayed as being “over sensitive”. The courage of the artists to lay bare their emotions and may be insecurities, should not be underestimated we shall comeback to this “courage”. The first point we must consider is the essential quality of the artist, to open up emotionally in order to be creative. This opening up of emotions is where an artist has to risk something.

In “Courage to Create “ a book by Rollo May, he states  “Artists pursue meaninglessness until they can force it to mean something …They immerse themselves in chaos to give it form.” I thing many artists, including myself may identify with this. Personally I work prolifically and then gradually allow my feelings about the subject to emerge.



The emotional freedom of a child entwined with adults desire to make something that will always be there, is perhaps where the beating heart of creativity may lie? This is the polar opposite of conformity, control and material wealth, which eat away at the shoots of true artistic creativity.

This piece is called “A sunset in the Desert” by Beatrice Grieve.

In fact May goes on to explain the careful balancing act between conviction and doubt, this may be manifested by artist failing to experiment or take a risk in their practice. Conversely continual scepticism and self doubt leaves an artist lacking drive or any hope of developing. So the creative person balances these emotions continually in their work.

 In  “Creativity, Emotions and the Arts” (Zorana Ivcevic Jessica Hoffmann Marc Brackett Botín Foundation) the authors  write ; “Pablo Picasso, one of the most creative artists of the 20th century, saw artists as receptacles for emotions and vehicles for transforming felt emotions into tangible works of art (Picasso, 1988).”

Referring to (Bledow, Rosing & Frese, 2013) there is an explanation for emotion of working on something and then having to decide “Am I happy with this? Do I need to push it further (and maybe be more creative still?) This is a good example of the balancing mentioned above, the happiness or satisfaction versus the frustration and or sadness in the process. How one we creatives respond to these feelings can make the difference between giving up and achieving something satisfying.


A artist friend of mine kept a journal every day of his moods and emotions, including hunger and tiredness. He has been able to use this mood diary to identify the times of day and circumstances to best harness his creative energies and understand his emotions.

There is a theory of emotional intelligence that posits individuals who have the ability to use emotions to help thinking understand the influence of moods on performance and can apply this understanding in their work (Salovey, Mayer, & Caruso, 2002).

Another reference to emotional intelligence skills, is that it can be taught, practiced and developed (Brackett, Rivers, Reyes, & Salovey, 2012; Rivers & Brackett, 2011) and people can learn how to deliberately use their emotions as aids in the creative process.

Scott Barry Kaufman in the Emotions that make us more creative, identifies that key aspects of the creative personality are adaptability and the ability to switch seamlessly from one mood to another, intuition and laser like focus through to daydreaming, rebelling and yet following tradition. This I guess maybe why artists are sometimes perceived to be chaotic. I firmly believe that leading a life with passion and intensity lends itself to being creative.

artist’s mind creativity emotions feelings making mood

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