Do Negative Emotions Sharpen Perception?

Sharon Rawlette

Blurry LightsLots of people carry in their heads the image of the tortured artist: the writer/painter/musician whose brilliant artistic achievements spring from a soil rich with personal failures, miseries, addictions, and/or mental illnesses. Writing guru Julia Cameron persuasively argues that creativity does not require depression. Or agony. That well-adjusted artists are, actually, quite successful and productive–maybe even more so than the sorry cases the media likes to latch onto. And I do think that Cameron is right that building a career in a creative field requires a substantial level of mental health. It’s one’s rationally optimistic side that keeps one sitting down to work day after day, gives pep talks when needed, and also makes sure that one is well-fed, well-rested, and otherwise fueled for the creative act.

But I am not quite ready to let go of the tortured artist archetype. I am glowing with mental health these days (or so it seems to me), and I have been…

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