Generating Mental Energy


Do you ever say, “I’m too tired to paint” or “I just don’t have the energy to create”? It is important to understand the relationship between energy and creativity.

We understand the energy needed to exercise or breathe or walk. But what kind of energy does it take to be creative? It’s not physical energy, it’s mental energy. It takes mental energy to sit through a boring meeting and resist the urge to get up and leave. It takes mental energy to resist eating that last cupcake on the counter. It takes mental energy to start a painting. A person who actively works at their art is using more mental energy that someone who is receiving other’s wisdom. An active creator is powerful, just as the sun is powerful, and for the same reason: the processes at work produce power.

The mind makes mental energy then uses the mental energy to think, to imagine, to calculate, and to fantasize. All are a part of making art. Mental energy has to do with the way the mind views the world and with our human need for meaning.

Answer these three questions:

  1. What generates mental energy?
  2. What saps mental energy?
  3. What replenishes mental energy?

Answers that come to my mind are “desire”, “fear”, “courage”, “curiosity”, “doubt”, “hope”, “passion”, “complexity”, and “clarity”. Apply these words to the appropriate questions and add some of your own.

How can you increase your mental energy? One powerful way is by cultivating positive obsessions and by eliminating negative ones. A positive obsession is a passionately held idea that serves your meaning making needs. A negative obsession is a passionately held idea that serves no good purpose.

Aleta Pippin, an abstract painter, explains obsessions this way:

“Good obsessions seem to be our life force. They inspire and motivate us forward. They are our reason for getting up in the morning. They feel joyful… When good obsessions become our focal point, they lead us to success…The most significant thing about bad obsessions is that you feel guilty, not good enough, that you don’t measure up. They are based in fear and we use them as tools for self-flagellation. In fact, they will prevent us from moving forward and achieving our goals, because of the attention we give to them. They become our negative focal point, preventing success.”

Nothing is more important to your creative life than producing and renewing the requisite mental energy to create. Focus on developing positive obsessions to move your art forward.

Creativity Lesson

Digging for Meaning