Skip this if philosophical brain-doodling bores you. 🙂

I get a bit exasperated whenever I read about some organization, often our government (which has all our tax dollars to play with), that spent a great deal of money on studies to prove something that everyone already knows to be true. Common sense is no substitute for science, but neither is science a substitute for common sense. Sometimes, however, finding such a study comes in useful. How? Some of you with common sense probably are ahead of me here. Scientific proof of the obvious is a handy thing to have when you’re faced with people who don’t believe what you say unless it’s backed up with, well, proof. Proof other than your own observations, that is.

I found an article about stress studies, studies which have been done over many years. Proven and tested fact, all you doubters!! (Present company is excepted – I know my friends are going to totally get this.) According to the summary in the article, the hormones created by stress prompt the body to go into “survival mode”. This is one of the many things that we can thank evolution for. When you ponder it, our knowledge, technology, and pretty much all of civilization is a thick cover laid over our basic evolutionary instincts, and a lot of our mental issues are due to trying to reconcile the instinctive beast within us with what our brains insist is reality. Really, an amazing number of things that we do and feel are based on chemicals. (As my friend Dana says, we’re just bags of chemicals.) But to drag myself away from exposition and parenthetical expression, let me get to the point. When the body is in survival mode, all of its functions are tuned to instant reaction, fight-or-flight. In the brain, this shuts down the higher cognitive functions, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the strength and duration of the stress.

Now, I would call creativity one of the higher cognitive functions. Not only does it require abstract thought, but it also involves the delicate operations of imagination and visualization. Even more, a high level of brain activity is required for the complex task of taking things from the imagination and converting them into physical reality. This is true of any kind of art. Add the effort needed to not only achieve a physical representation of imagination and abstract thought, but also to polish it and present it so that it makes sense and has beauty and meaning, and you have an amazing thing going on which has little to do with the survival instinct. Anyone disagree with me here?

So let’s get personal. Where is the sore spot that made me want to get on my soapbox and tout the info from these studies? Simple. When I tell people who are not artists that I can’t write because I’m upset, or over-worked, or under too much pressure, or enduring constant interruptions, etc., those people hear “I won’t write” instead of “I can’t write”, and they believe that all I have to do is sit down and put my fingers on the keyboard. They think I’m lazy or making excuses or just whining. Yeah, srsly. They don’t say it, but I know they’re thinking it. I’m no mind-reader; it’s implicit in their attitudes and often their words. Like, “Oh, sorry, I’ll go away and leave you to it, but first, can I ask one question?” or “Forget about those overdue bills for a while and just do your writing.” Etc. Insisting that I am unable to engage my imagination and creative force doesn’t make a dent in these people. They seem to equate artistic work with things like digging potatoes or washing the car, easy to put down and pick up.

God, I hate that. A sidebar to that is those people who think that creativity can be steered like a car. These are the people who suggest:

  • that I write something that will make me rich (“Why don’t you write about vampires? They’re really popular.”)
  • that I write in another genre (“I don’t get fantasy – why can’t you write about real life?”)
  • that they have had such an interesting life that I might consider writing it for them (Sure, folks. Let’s see, it takes approximately 180 hours to write and edit a short book, so at, say, a reasonable $20/hour, you’ll owe me $3,600. That’s assuming that I want to put aside all my own projects for 4-6 months. Riiiiight.)

I could go on for a while, but I think my ranting mood has passed. Now I’m tired. G’night!