Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happiness Feeds Creativity

Can we say that The Myth of the Tortured Genius has outlived its day?  Wikipedia has an article about Tortured Artists and their stories are well known. From Van Gogh to Janis Joplin we admire their creations but feel sad for their process.

It’s completely a myth,” says Tom Wilbeck, Associate Dean of Student Affairs at The Art Institute of Houston. “Clinically speaking, there’s really no evidence that most accomplished artists are mentally unstable or have come from an unstable background.”

I suppose the Myth of the Happy Genius just isn’t as fascinating.

Photo by mrfitz
 Teresa Amabile, Director of Research at Harvard Business School, and her colleagues have good news for all you reasonably content, untortured creative people.  Happiness does more for innovation than does melancholy and ennui.

In an Administrative Quarterly article they describe research performed by tracking electronic diary entries of employees for 5 months.  Amabile found that “positive feelings–joy, love-are positively related to creativity, and negative emotions-anger, fear, sadness–are negatively related to day-to-day creativity”.  Even better, good moods can increase the flow of creativity for up to three days.

Is anyone surprised?

These and more findings are in Amabile’s latest book The Progress Principle which I’ve admired earlier.

So, do what makes you happy (making art?) and you'll be more creative.  Sounds like a virtuous cycle to me!


Z'anne said...

I know that when I get down, I don't feel like making any kind of art. But! When I'm happy, you can find me at my bead desk or trying to get to the studio. ;)

Maggie said...

Very true for me too Z'anne.