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Linda Dessau : Emotions and Thoughts in the Creative Process

Emotions and Thoughts in the Creative Process

By Linda Dessau

How can you SEPARATE emotions and thoughts from the creative process? My answer is that you cannot — they're positively intertwined.

When I was working on the Creativity Interviews, some artists I interviewed spoke about walking away from their art when they're feeling emotional — taking a break or getting some distance. But others talked about using their art to process challenging emotional experiences; pouring their heart out into their work and using it as a cathartic and therapeutic experience.

So we can see that there are a few different sides to this story. There are the emotions and thoughts we bring into our work with us, there are the emotions and thoughts we have ABOUT our creative work, there are the emotions and thoughts that are evoked in us AS we work creatively and there are the emotions and thoughts we evoke in others when we share our work with the world.

What We Bring in with Us

Artists spoke of achieving, "the right mental landscape — a mind clear of external disturbances", mental clarity — the "freedom from disruptive and negative thoughts, upset from personal life" or a positive outlook. (The Creativity Interviews, page 5)

We want that clear mental landscape, and yet we bring a LOT into the creative landscape with us.

When we embark upon creating something, we bring our whole selves into the process with us. Our prior experiences (and our thoughts and feelings about those), the state of our physical body (and our thoughts and feelings about that), our hopes and expectations of the future (and our thoughts and feelings about those), our relationships (and our thoughts and feelings about those) and, of course, our creativity and creative skills (and our thoughts and feelings about those).

Thoughts and Feelings about Our Creativity

Worth a special mention are those thoughts and feelings that we have ABOUT our creative lives. Do we deserve this time to create? Have we given ourselves permission to do it? What messages have we gotten throughout our lives about taking time for creative expression? Do we value our work? How has our work been judged by others and how do we feel about that? How do we judge our own work?

It seems that self-awareness is key. The more we understand these thoughts and feelings for what they are, the more time we spend evaluating them, questioning them, and discussing them with others, the better. With greater self-awareness and understanding, we're able to incorporate these elements into our work, instead of having them be something we need to fight against or overcome.

And when we bring them into our work, our work takes on a new depth, since it's drawn from a fuller range of our emotions and thoughts.

On the other hand, when we're left fighting against those negative and distorted thoughts and troubling emotions, and trying to work in spite of them, then stress, self-doubt, paralyzing procrastination and performance anxiety can result.

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