The Intrinsic Rewards of Mental Activity

I once saw a short film about the famous experiment where research scientists gave brushes, paint, and large sheets of paper to a number of chimpanzees, and then left them to their own devices. Soon, the chimps became so engrossed in daubing colour on the paper that they neglected their usual mating and eating habits. In a sense, they had become crude abstract artists! The important thing to note is that, while mating and eating are necessary for survival, daubing paint is not.

Mind Related Activities

Mind related activities can be so absorbing we neglect vital functions such as eating. (Photos: public domain)

The chimps were demonstrating that mind-related activity is so powerfully rewarding it can overpower even such basic life-sustaining drives as hunger and lust. If the effect is so strong in chimpanzees, we can easily see why human creators, with their more-powerful minds, behave the way they do. Here is the doorway that humans have walked through as we evolved beyond being just animals. Once our intelligence reached a certain point, mind became the primary driving force in our evolutionary development. Importantly, this is true not only because we became better at hunting and gathering, but also because mind is useful for much more than sharpening our survival skills.

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Make Bliss Your Creative Compass

Decorative Compass Rose

Certain shades of feeling are associated with your authentic will and can be used as a reliable inner guide or compass. (Image: public domain.)

We all know that enjoying the work we must do to earn a living makes life more pleasant. Tastes vary, naturally, but most people regard creative work of any kind as a highly desirable occupation. Many would gladly trade their “day job” for the chance to participate. We see one aspect of this yearning in the explosion of self-published authors currently flooding a startled world with oceans of novels and short stories. However, the idea of doing what we love applies at another level. Within the world of creative endeavour itself, it is especially important to do what we find most congenial.

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Guides to Understanding Creativity

The Dynamics of Creation Cover

Anthony Storr is unsurpassed when it comes to writing about creative people and the mysteries of the creative process.

If you are at all serious about being a writer, you need to know something about what it means to be a creative person. Few successful writers reach the heights without at least a rudimentary philosophical take on what they are doing. Luckily, creativity has spawned an entire writing genre with many fine books on the topic.

When it comes to books about creativity, my favourite author has to be Anthony Storr. No one does a better job of choosing the revealing anecdotes from creators’ lives. Being a psychiatrist himself, he is unsurpassed when discussing the motivation and attitudes behind the activities of creative individuals. He skilfully weaves anecdote and psychology into a lively, fascinating, and enlightening view of what creative people are like. His strong emphasis on creativity’s rewards is inspiring. All of Storr’s books are jargon-free and a pleasure to read. Here are three of his titles with a comment or two about each one.

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