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For Lasting Creativity, Be Your Own Best Friend, Not Your Harshest Critic


At Pacific Standard, Tom Jacobs reports on the results of a compelling study about the link between creativity and “emotional intelligence,” that elusive capacity to be aware of one’s own emotions and feel empathy for others. The study, conducted by the Marconi Institute for Creativity in Italy, suggests that those who overcome distractions and failures quickly, treating them as the basis for new creativity rather than as setbacks, produce more and better work over the long run. Perhaps being your own most sympathetic friend, rather than your harshest critic, is the foundation of a lasting and fulfilling artistic practice. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

This suggests seemingly irrelevant stimuli can benefit the creative process—but only if you have the emotional intelligence to treat them as potentially helpful, and incorporate them into your thinking. If you are flustered by the prospect of failure, this becomes much more difficult, as such information is perceived as an irritating distraction rather than something you might be able to build upon.

Agnoli and his colleagues point out that Vincent van Gogh created brilliant art in the wake of many missteps and failures. They write that, while we can’t measure the master’s level of emotional intelligence, “he was able to extract energy from deep frustration to produce some of the most beautiful works of art our world has known.”