How Mood Inspires Creative People

One of the most striking characteristics of the creative individual is their sensitivity to, and fondness for, particular feeling tones or subtle moods. Artists of all kinds strive to capture their favourite mood (or moods) in their work. The desire to accomplish this combined act of self-gratification and sharing is often a major motivating factor in why the artist chose to work in the arts. However, the preoccupation with mood can infiltrate all aspects of a creator’s life. The taste for a special mood often extends to the creator’s work habits. They not only want to produce the mood in their work, they must inhabit the mood while working. Many artists are so sensitive to feeling tone, so dependent on a particular subtle mood in order to access their creativity, that they quite literally cannot work should the needed feeling tone be absent.

Daphne du Maurier rowing near her old house at Ferryside

Mood (or atmosphere) and a sense of place are intimately related. Writers who have a strong sense of place prefer to work in specific locations. (Image: public domain.)

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The Origin of High Quality Creativity

In an earlier post on this topic, I stated that artists (of all kinds) develop their artistic vision by “examining and exploring the implications and ramifications of their personal vision of existence. In other words, they explore their philosophy of life.” The most powerful elements of a personal vision of existence or philosophy of life are the product of the creative person’s unique set of emotionally important ideas, which make up the self. High quality creativity springs from the struggle to attain self-knowledge and authenticity. Great literature, poetry, painting, and sculpture tells us something about life as the artist sees and experiences it. By recognizing, and then shining a light on, the archetypal aspects of their vision and their experience, artists include the illuminating sense of the universal in their work.

Writing Desk by Olga Rozanova (cubism)

High level creators learn how to combine their own worldview with the process of self-discovery to develop their unique artistic vision. (image: wikipaintings)

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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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Are Creative People Less Sane?

Man Woman Yin Yang Symbol

Creative people tolerate awareness of polarities and contradictions rather than trying to bury one side or the other. This can make them seem unpredictable. (Image: public domain.)

Are creative people less or more sane than ordinary people? Creative types are unusually sensitive to the nuances in tone of voice, body language, innuendo, and so forth. They notice more than does the average person; they are perceptive. Regrettably, this ability has a drawback in that it means creators are more vulnerable. Already at risk simply because they are who they are, creators often have a hard life, which, being sensitive, they feel keenly. If their work does not sell, they may suffer poverty. If it challenges accepted views, it may attract enough opprobrium to diminish their self-confidence and dislodge their sometimes-precarious self-esteem. For these reasons, a creator may develop a set of psychological difficulties that resemble insanity. Yet in spite of this, creators retain their special ability with nuance. They remain better equipped to test reality than more ordinary types who, at least on the surface, appear much saner. That sensitivity to nuance, to subtle differences confers upon the creator a remarkable ability to see what others overlook. Those who see more understand more.

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The Creative Magic of Absorption

The way to get creative projects rolling is to get enthusiastic about them. We must keep thinking about what we propose to do long enough for the priming effect of absorption to begin drawing forth the relevant ideas and information from our inner and outer lives. Isaac Newton believed that to solve a problem required “thinking on it continually.”

Archimedes by Domenico Fetti (1620)

We are at our creative best when completely absorbed in what we are doing. (Photo: Wikipedia)

By continually thinking about our project, we get into the creative mood specific to that project. A cocoon or atmosphere of feeling surrounds what we are doing. We have enveloped ourselves in a creative possibility cloud. As our mood-focussed attention gathers the relevant ideas, images, and bits of information around the emotional nucleus, the proposed project will take shape and the momentum will steadily increase. American sculptor Louise Nevelson said of the artist’s work, “It absorbs you totally, and you absorb it totally, everything must fall by the wayside by comparison.”

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Using Mood to Enhance Your Creativity

Scientists studying human cognition have found that memory and mood are inextricably intertwined. Even more interesting is that we can take advantage of this situation by using a simple technique known as nuance priming.

Moody Night Scene on the River

We can deliberately use mood to enhance our ability to notice relevant information within ourselves and in the world around us. (Image: Vintage Printable)

Nuance priming is also a creativity research term. It means recalling or getting into a particular mood in order to exploit the brain’s habit of using feeling tones to sort and store information in related clusters called emotional cognitive structures. This is a fancy way of saying that the brain files ideas and memories in groups according to their feeling tone. Recall feeling tone X and we will get access to other things stored with the same, or similar, mood. This is a kind of deliberate associative (as opposed to logical) thinking. However, we are not actually doing the associative thinking. We are setting up a scenario to make use of the brain’s natural associative way of doing things.

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