Does Happiness Kill Creativity?

I used to crank out jewelry like a machine. I’d come home from a stressful day at work, and I’d sit down and lose myself in the process of cutting, shaping, hammering, and wrapping wire into pleasing forms. It wasn’t uncommon for me to make a half dozen pairs of earrings in a single sitting, and designs seemed to flow effortlessly from an image in my mind to the wire in my hand. That process seemed so automatic at times that I wouldn’t fully realize all I’d accomplished until I lined everything up on my workbench to determine how many batches I’d need to tumble polish overnight.

And then I got married. My life is so very different now. I no longer have a stressful job. I no longer work in an office full of snarky coworkers continually looking for ways to get under each other’s skin. I’m no longer responsible for keeping hundreds of thousands of dollars steadily flowing into the company’s coffers each month. I’m no longer fighting an up-hill battle against a CEO who can look me in the eye and (with a straight face, mind you) say, “I’m not a manager. I’m a nurse.”

Work was just part of the pre-marriage stress in my life, though. Some of the other stressors I left behind when I got married are my alcoholic father; a small, backwards town that is essentially owned and operated by some of the most corrupt people I’ve ever had the misfortune to know; and struggling to make ends meet on a diminished salary because I was underemployed when my husband and I started dating. Making jewelry back then was a welcome escape from an unpleasant and seemingly hopeless reality.

Today I am living a very different reality—one from which I have neither the need nor the desire to escape. I can’t recall another time in my life when I felt so content and carefree. I have an amazing husband who is my partner in every aspect of the word. I have a bright and beautiful daughter who fills our home with music and laughter. For the first time in my adult life, I have the luxury of not needing to work for a living. That’s big. Prior to marrying my husband in 2013, I’d worked full-time and lived solely on my personal income for nearly twenty-five years.

Sometimes I worry that I’m going to turn into a bored housewife, but I’m never bored. I’m never lacking for something to do, so boredom is perhaps the least of my concerns. What does concern me, though, is that I seem to have lost both my ability and my desire to create jewelry. I still have plenty of ideas in mind, but translating those ideas to wire no longer flows effortlessly. Rather than making finished jewelry ready to be antiqued and polished, I find myself making large piles of scrap wire and walking away feeling annoyed and frustrated. I’ve even tried new media recently with the hope that learning new techniques and working with new materials might reignite my creative spark. It hasn’t worked. Yet.

When I agreed to quit my job and move to Denver so my husband could advance his career, I imagined myself turning my jewelry hobby into a home business. I was excited about the prospect of working from home and finally having the time and energy to focus completely on something I love. And now that I have an abundance of time and energy to focus on making jewelry, I no longer have the urge to create.

There’s a reason the image of the tortured artist is so pervasive. Art, I suspect, is something akin to gemstones in that a certain degree of pressure is necessary for its creation. So I find myself wondering, is it possible to create art without stress?

Does happiness kill creativity?

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8 thoughts on “Does Happiness Kill Creativity?

    1. I agree, Malcolm. Something I’ve realized about happiness recently is that it tends to go hand-in-hand with complacency. Perhaps that’s the real killer of creativity.

      Learning has always been a necessity for me, so the key to reigniting my creativity may be to learn something entirely new…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. You have so hit the artistic nail on the head in this post. Although I am not an artist, I am a writer of poetry and fiction. Like you, I came home from a stressful day at work (I taught high school English), graded papers as fast as I could, and squeezed in my writing between 9:00 and midnight. A little over a year ago, I retired. I figured I would have the time I always craved to write. Except for the short (1,000 word or less) pieces I write for the monthly prompt club, I have written nothing. But, I am not bored, nor do I sit and watch television.

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    1. Thanks! I’m glad this post resonated with another creative type. Since publishing this post, I have managed to reclaim my creative spark, but my home life is still blissfully happy. Hence, I’m pleased to report that happiness does not appear to be a creativity inhibitor in and of itself, though I’m not writing that connection off entirely just yet. I’ve recently been processing some extremely harsh criticism that I received from an angry reader in response to some of my more recent posts, and that has caused me to spend quite a bit of time inside of my own head. Making jewelry is a very meditative process for me, so it’s a very effective vehicle for deep introspection.

      One other insight I’ve gained since writing this post (one that might be particularly helpful for you) is that my life has taken on a very different rhythm since I got married and became a full-time stepmom. It’s taken a good long while–nearly two years, in fact–for me to adjust to that new rhythm. Now that I have adjusted, I’m finding it much easier to reincorporate jewelry making in my new life; and I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see my work jump up to an entirely new level. I suspect you’ll find the same is true for your writing, once you’ve adjusted to the new rhythm of retirement.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Awesome post! Although I don’t necessarily think that happiness kills creativity, I think it does change the process. There’s nothing quite like a good angst to get your creative juices flowing.

    Liked by 1 person

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