Sep 13, 2005

Stress Makes The Grass Grow

Or is that blood? I always get those two mixed up.

Without generalising to the rest of the world, what is it about stress that makes me creative? See, I'm trying not to make that a broad, sweeping, include-everyone sort of thing, because I know that not everyone is like that, but I know of more than a few very creative people who seem to be driven mainly by stressors in their lives. So what gives?

In my college days it seemed I could not retain knowledge unless it was the night before a big test, and I HAD to get it done. When I had presentations to make, speeches or things given in front of the class, my best prepwork seemed to come the night before, in an upheaval of adrenaline and depression at myself for not doing it sooner.

My painting is what I was most thinking of, though. I can clearly recall the dark, painful depressions of my college days, times when I thought that the end would never come, that the only thing I could do was to just keep trudging forward, hoping for any ending. Everything in my life seemed to be in upheaval, and with the twin spectres of Real Life and Get A Real Job facing me I thought that I might be torn apart. My paintings at that time were non-stop, coming one after the other, and many of those canvases from that time are still my favourites. None of them are still here, I've long since given them away or sold them for a few pennies, but those canvases bore the brunt of my anger, my fear, my depressions.

I can still clearly see myself standing in front of their huge blank white surfaces, literally attacking them with paint and brushes, yelling at them (and myself) until I was exhausted, and the painting was complete, a slice of my nightmare given form. Some, myself included, would say that it was a form of dementia, a temporary madness taken hold. Some, myself included, would liken it to a state of religious fervor, speaking in tongues and handling snakes style of thing. Some, again, myself included, would see it as a sort of pyschological transferance, giving physical form to emotional states and 'leaving' them on an exterior surface, to empty my mind of them.

I find (thankfully) that I cannot do that anymore. The rare times I get to sit in front of a canvas these days I do so with focus, careful brushstrokes and a final goal in mind, a set plan to guide me through the process. Granted it's still a very loose plan, and plans are made to be changed; it's still a very dynamic process, but I no longer feel the need to make canvases large enough that they can withstand a physical onslaught. I feel that I've lost something there, but I'm glad it's gone. It was a dark and somber time.

So now that I've drifted off subject a bit, or at least drifted off the original intent I had for this post (sounds like status quo for me) tell me something about you--do you find that stress induces creative states, or does your creativity fountain from some other source?

There'll be a test this Friday on the subject matter covered.


Regal Monkey said...

Where I used to do the VERY same thing... using the canvas as a sort of personal wailing wall... now I function in a much more measured way as I finish projects early, rarely procrastinate, and rarely am angered. Some of that loss of angst I simply attribute to getting used to the world, becoming familiar with the high and low emotional tides such that they're not all encompassing anymore. Rationality (relatively speaking, of course) comes with age, I think, if a person is open to learning.

Irrelephant said...

I'm becoming rational? Oh my stars and garters, we can't have THAT now! *lol*

Anonymous said...

While I wouldn't say I only performed well at the last minute, I did tend to work better under stress. I think I have to have about 10 things on my plate, then I will get them all done. If I only have one thing to do, I'll put it off and goof off and not get it done. I guess I'm wierd like that.

Vulgar Wizard said...

Stress causes me to write better papers for classes. Since I no longer attend classes, stress is useless to me and pisses me off regulary, causing me to take Lortab.

~ntnihh~ WTF?

Irrelephant said...

So what is is that makes us work better under stress? Fear? Guilt? The possibility of all that slacking we can get done BEFORE the deadline?