I came across an interesting study the other day titled “Everyday Creative Activity as a path to Flourishing.” It wasn’t the title that grabbed me. Frankly, the news that being creative will make a person happier is not surprising to me. But in reading it, the thing that I found intriguing was the time delay on the positive return. In a nutshell, the study showed that being creative today will increase your sense of well-being tomorrow.
It is well documented that people are more likely to engage in creative pursuits when they are feeling happy. This is something we can easily manipulate to a certain extent. We can boost our creative juices just by doing a little dance or watching a fun video clip (I’m pretty sure this explains the preponderance of cute cat videos on the Internet). And we’ve all met writers who, when asked about their writing routines, say they write when the mood hits them. But what do we do when the mood doesn’t hit, when all the cat videos in the world aren’t enough?
According to this study, the best thing we can do is push through and be creative today. By engaging in creative activity, we increase our odds for happiness tomorrow, and by doing so, we are actively working to create an environment in our head that is conducive to more writing. In short, this study is a data point in support of writing every day.
One Way Street
And consider another interesting find of the study: it doesn’t work the other way around. That is to say, feeling good today will not increase the likelihood of your being creative tomorrow.
Say you’re feeling crappy this morning and don’t feel like writing. Instead of sitting your but in the seat and doing the work, you decide to do something that will lift your mood and make you feel all fresh and shiny so you can jump back into your writing tomorrow. Turns out it doesn’t work that way.
It’s a one-way street. Being creative today will lead to increased happiness, but being happy today will not lead to increased creativity. That’s kind of a bummer, true, as it can be difficult to push through lousy moods and keep writing, but it’s also encouraging. We have the power to influence our future state of mind.
Be Creative Today
Personally, I know that writing is easier when I do it every day, but according to this study, I am also setting myself up for a happier life when I make the effort to engage in my creative work every day.
Of course, the study said nothing about the creative endeavor having to be writing. I suppose, if one were facing some serious writer’s block, one could bake an elaborate cake or knit a scarf or something. If the point is to keep the creative juices flowing today so that we can wake up tomorrow feeling good and ready to work, the actual medium probably doesn’t matter.
But I for one will keep plugging away at my writing, because frankly the world doesn’t need anymore cookies and I’m no good at knitting.