The Role of Enthusiasm in Creativity
Artist Robert Beech sent me an e-mail in which he posed a good question: "How do you define enthusiasm?"Here's the rest of his e-mail:
"I picture enthusiasm as a small flame inside. Most of the time it burns so low as to be unnoticeable. Yet sometimes, it burns brightly. At such times, I feel excited, whimsical and interested. Above all, I associate it with a feeling of movement, of progress toward my goals.
"A lot of artist self-help and motivational books encourage us to have enthusiasm, but they don't define it in any useful way and don't say how to generate it. Enthusiasm can come about as a result of creative work, but it can also be used as fuel for creative work. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?
"Lack of enthusiasm should not be used as an excuse to avoid creative work, as in 'I can't paint now. I'm not in the mood.' Having enthusiasm makes any creative work proceed much easier and faster.
"How does one 'generate' enthusiasm? Is it even possible?"
All excellent thoughts to ponder. Here are my ideas on this topic:
- Enthusiasm is a lot like that other elusive beast: happiness. They can't be attained through a direct route. Try it sometime. Sit down and force yourself to "be happy" or "be enthusiastic." It doesn't work. Enthusiasm is a byproduct of pursuing something you are passionate about.
- Robert is right: Creative people who need to be enthusiastic before starting work on an artistic project are just like those who sit around waiting for a visit from the "muse." If you're inspired and can't wait to partake in your chosen talent, congratulations. That's a great state to be in, but ...
Luckily, I don't suffer from writer's block. But I do battle with writing avoidance all the time. In fact, I had to deal with it as I began this very blog post you're reading right now. What did I do? I just started writing. As I warmed up, additional ideas came to me. Before I knew it, I was immersed in the subject and ended up with enough decent material to fill this post. And at the end of the process, I felt satisfied that I had created something of value.
This state of immersion is often called being "in the flow." It's a great place to be. And you can get there regardless of how "enthusiastic" you are at the beginning.
A couple of ways to kick-start your enthusiasm:
- Reconnect with the original reasons you were excited about your creative path. Think about times you were really pumped about a performance, piece of writing, painting, photograph, etc. Then try to tap into that heightened state.
- Collect positive comments from fans and favorable reviews of your work. Sometimes, when you're down (and we all have those moments), it's nice to remind yourself of the positive impact your art has had on others.
- Consult with a supportive creative friend. Although enthusiasm should come from within, it helps sometimes to get a boost from someone who understands your plight. Make a list of creative comrades you can call or e-mail when the going gets tough. And you should be prepared to encourage them when they need your help, too.