Saturday, December 12, 2020

How Does Stress Effect Creativity? ~ by Rhonda Frankhouser






           A Letter to My Writer’s Soul



RE: Your Long Absence


My dearest, darling muse,


It’s been nearly a year since you left me. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve missed your snark and light-hearted wit. The freedom and adventure you once instilled in me has withered, leaving my soul collapsed around sadness and fear.


I pray each day that the stress radiating from every avenue of life will subside and give you a fighting chance to break through, but this world we now live in is not the same world of my youth. The hate, anger, blame, sickness, and division is beyond repressive. It’s downright destructive, and I’ll never forgive that it keeps you a severed arms’ distance from me.


Until such time as you are freed to grace my mind again, I promise to do my part. I will gather adventures for fodder; transform angst into character; become a barrier to negativity, and remember my many blessings amid the devastation.  


I want you to know that I am ever thankful for our past together – and ever hopeful for a blissful reunion one day soon. But mostly, I want you to know that I forgive you for disappearing. Sometimes, I wish I could do the same.







So, let’s talk about this very touchy subject. How does stress effect the Creative – and why is it different for every person?

Recently, I had a conversation with an esteemed writer about the effect stress has on creative individuals. It baffled us both how some thrive while others falter under various types of pressure. As you can probably tell by reading my letter above, I’m definitely a member the latter group under stress that relates to family, livelihood, and health, while stress derived from competition ignites an engine of creativity inside of me.

After our conversation, I did a little research into this phenomenon. Daniel Kunitz, in his article Why Creative People Need Stress in their Lives, states that stress is just another type of stimuli for our psyche to manage. Not all stress should be thought of as negative. It can be a driving force for success or a weight that drags you down, depending on how it’s buffered or perceived.


He further relays how different levels of stress effect the creative.

1.      Extreme levels - undermines all creativity. It’s best to give yourself permission to relax until it passes.

2.      Moderate levels - can either bring on inspiration or procrastination depending on how a person handles it. Most productive creatives operate best in the moderate level.

3.      Low levels – finds most creatives feeling stagnant and uninspired.


Personally, I’d never thought of stress in these terms. It’s always been this repressive energy created from my lack of control, or sadness over a situation, that holds me down until I can’t focus on anything other than the negativity.

Kunitz’ view of stress levels has given me permission, for the first time ever, to be still and quiet when there are too many sources of negativity working against me. When life gets overwhelming, it’s okay to disconnect and find a happy place. Take a walk, go for a coffee, and expect nothing from myself but survival. Like most creatives, I have a built-in guilt mechanism that kicks in when I’m not being productive – which of course, creates its own source of stress. Grasping the meaning of the stress levels, and understanding my own limits, has helped me cope with this guilt.

This hypothesis also encouraged me to gently push myself toward the laptop, (which I am doing right now, btw). If I’m gracious with my trepidation and just allow my fingers to hover over the keys – maybe the door will wiggle open for my fun-loving writer’s soul to peek through? Maybe writing is the cure to repelling the sinister effects of anxiety? My own therapy, perhaps?


Here’s my short list of stressors to avoid in today’s bizarre environment.

·         No more scroll hole on social media for hours on end

·         No more news that show only negative stories

·         No more political commercials which tell us nothing of how problems will be solved


I know, I know, everyone needs to be informed and be a part of the solution, but maybe we should all find a way to make things better by doing better things? Write something beautiful that gives readers hope for a brighter tomorrow. Paint, cook, draw to create lightness. If you have no energy to create, listen to music, read, breathe, but please, don’t dedicate hours of time you’ll never get back to things that are geared to cause upheaval.




But I digress. After reading a dozen articles on stress as it relates to creativity, I’ve given myself permission to think of stress as another method of motivation. Life’s pressures force action, which require healing, and finally adaptation. Just as physical exercise is designed to break your muscles down, so you can rebuild into an even stronger being, maybe using stress as a positive can allow us to manipulate it into useful energy for change? Human beings are amazing, adaptable creatures with the ability to transition through life, bouncing from one obstacle to another, to finally evolve into stronger, smarter, calmer versions of ourselves. After all that 2020 has put us through, I have no doubt our next evolution will be one for the ages.

Have a wonderful New Year!

Thanks for listening,

Rhonda Frankhouser

Award-Winning Author

Listen to Rhonda Frankhouser's podcast episode here.

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