Why I can’t be creative while feeling sad (And why you should care about it)

A sad guy sitting on a bed

When we are happy, we think clearly, or at least we feel so. We may not see some bad things “as they are”, but we do see good things, and in general, we feel “normal” and feel life “fluid”. On the meantime, as everything is “normal”, thoughts are clean and you feel good, creativity comes naturally, and ideas, thoughts and general creation too. When we are sad, none of this actually happens.

It depends on how sad you are at the moment, but in general, if you’re an “average person” (say, who gets equally sad and happy moments, and is not somehow depressed or something affecting those emotions), when you get sad, is for a reason. Maybe a friend insulted you, maybe you didn’t win at something you were sure you would, or maybe the friend that insulted you for not winning just died. Those are just examples of what could make you sad. Now, regarding that reason, thoughts come in the way.

When we are happy, as I said, life feels “fluid”, as you think what you want to think. When you are sad, unwanted thoughts come in the way, and make you think in things you don’t want to think about. Like, for example, the bad thing that caused your sadness, or just other bad things, just because we are masochists sometimes.

Creativity doesn’t come naturally when I’m sad

If you remember correctly, my articles are based on empirical knowledge (information I gather basically from observing others and myself), so this may not be (and should not be) the same for everybody. Yet it is for me, and you may be affected by this too. So the point is…

I can’t be creative while sad. The reason is that when I’m sad, I over-think everything. I think and think about why I’m sad, and about other sad things. I think I’m an “average person”, and I can tolerate many things, yet I can be sad, just as anyone else. The thing is that sad, I can’t think straight. Life doesn’t feel “fluid”, as unwanted thoughts come in the way. Just as writing is difficult with interruptions, being creative is difficult being sad.

Thinking and feeling

Sadness and happiness are emotions. We, as humans, think and feel, somehow separately. How I feel doesn’t really must affect what I think, but surely how I think. Happy people usually write happy things, and sad people sad things. People is affected by their emotions, even when creativity is the center of it all.

Thoughts are anything but emotions. The emotions may control the “fabric” of these thoughts to some degree, and even the reading of them (see Lines of thoughts, if you’re interested), but not the thoughts themselves. They are separated entities, and as so, you may feel super happy about winning some argument, while thinking about how you cheated and told a lie. The thought itself can form a feeling (guilt?), but the main emotion is not related to the thought; none caused the other.

People tend to rationalize feelings. You usually feel bad because something happened, that made you feel that way. With that information, you could (you do) think that rationalizing the emotion, and understanding why you feel bad, to then “downplay” the reason to not feel bad, will actually work. Yet it doesn’t actually work, because, as I said, emotions and thoughts are different things, even if you “make a copy” of an emotion, and “translate it” into a thought, to then “edit” it erasing the sadness effect, the original emotion won’t change.

It does get better

Emotions do disappear, or transform, with time, only, as far as I know. If you’re at least 5 years old, you could make a long list of how many times you’ve been sad. You could also make a list of how many times you’ve been happy. It’s not about comparing both lists, but to realize nothing lasts forever. Even if that thought is sad itself, it tells you a bad feeling will eventually go away.

So, creativity and my thoughts/emotions

The creative process can be seriously interrupted by a sad mind, which is normal. The reason, as I told, is that bad emotions make the fabric of thoughts to create bad ones, even if unrelated to the moment. In my case, the bad thoughts themselves don’t interrupt my creative process, but the way I handle those thoughts.

I shut down.

Usually I’m thinking a lot, about anything I want to think. When I’m sad, I think a lot, too, but about things I don’t want to. That makes my mind a mess, as in the first case I can organize my thoughts to an end, yet in the second, I can’t. So my solution, is to just shut down my mind, and stop thinking, or at least stop trying to think in this organized way I like so much. That is what interrupts my creative process.

Why does it matter to you how I handle this?

It should give you a picture of a way to handle bad thoughts, bad emotions, a reason a person (I) may stop thinking, the way emotions and thoughts are not completely (but yet) correlated and, in a few words: Another thing to think about this week.

Think about yourself, about something that bothers you, about bad feelings, about how you handle them, how you should handle them, how people think, act, and feel. Think about yourself as a machine that can always break down, but can always be repaired.

How are you feeling right now? Are you sad about something? Are you happy? How is your creative process going? Can you think of 5 different uses for a paperclip? More? None? Share a piece of your mind below in the comments.

Photo by Mylla Ghdv.

2 Thoughts


  1. Hmm… I’ve noticed that when I’m in a bad mood I can never get much done, but I never thought about it like this. I guess the solution is to simply do maintenance work while you’re feeling down or perhaps get away from work all together?

    • I don’t think a solution is to just stop doing anything, because you would just feel worse. Yet, I know feeling bad we tend to dislike doing things, or at least they become hard to do.

      My personal solution it most of the time what you said first: To do “maintenance work”. By that I mean to do anything productive, not necessarily creative, so that you’re still using your time, yet not trying to think much.

      If I think about it, that’s the “painless” solution. You can still be creative feeling down, but it hurts, it’s difficult, and it feels impossible. I wrote this article feeling down, because I could overcome my feeling to do something I had to do, and wanted to do right. Did I?

      I hope you’re feeling good today!

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