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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Be Mused : Happy and Productive?

Be Mused

Happy and Productive?

Happy and ProductiveDear Muse,

I'm a sculptor and writer. I've found that heartbreak and anxiety is the best thing for my art. Whenever I am scared or grieving or dealing with craziness, my art thrives and I become super productive and inspired. Some of the best art I've done was during an extended period of heartbreak.

But the difficulty is that when I am happy, I neglect my art. The desperate need to create just isn't there when I am happy romantically and emotionally. But though I am happy, still I miss my art.

If I want to be happy AND productive, what do I do? — Sadly Not in a Funk

You're sad because you're not sad? And you're most productive when you're miserable? Funny. My two-year relationship with my boyfriend just ended and I barely have the energy to answer your question. I've stopped eating, I sleep too much, and I can't focus on much of anything at all. Of course heartbreak affects us all differently.

It is unclear whether or not you make your living as an artist. If you do earn the majority of your income this way, you might want to pick up a part-time job on the side — especially if you think prolonged happiness is in the cards for you. (Interestingly, I once knew a man who was so happy he had to be hospitalized for a solid week. No, I did not make that up.)

More likely, the support you get from your writing and sculpting is emotional rather than financial. The fear, the grief, the craziness all inspire you to create. Your art fills a void when you need it, and there's nothing wrong with that. If the desperate need to create just isn't there when you are really happy, then why force it?

I know most of us need to worry about something — especially when things seem to be going too well. Not to mention that the grass is always greener on the other side. When you were heavy into writing and sculpting, I bet you were pining for someone to spend your life with. And once that wish came true, you started to pine for the long stretches spent immersed in your art.

You probably won't like this, but, tell me, which is most important to you: your happiness or your productivity? It sounds to me like you can have one or the other — but not both simultaneously since relationships take a lot of time to cultivate and maintain and there are only so many hours in a day.

Consider the highly productive Sir Isaac Newton. The English physicist and mathematician formulated the laws of universal gravitation and motion. He was the first scientist to build a reflecting telescope and he established the fields of optics and calculus. Also a natural philosopher, Newton published several important works including Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Newton was such a busy person that he sometimes forgot to eat — and he certainly didn't make time for love. He never married and many suspect that, at age 85, he died a virgin.

Rather than focusing on your lack of productivity, why not sit back and enjoy your happiness for as long as it lasts? Think of yourself as a cyclical artist who does his work on an as-needed basis, and, please, don't wish for heartbreak; it will come on its own. •

© 2001 Susan M. Brackney. All rights reserved.

Susan M. Brackney Need a little help finding your way on the road less traveled? Susan M. Brackney, author of The Lost Soul Companion will try to solve your creative quandaries. More »