Emotional Keys to Creativity

Watching cat videos before writing might be okay

Anne Janzer
3 min readApr 19

kitten playing with laptop

You know the joy of writing when the ideas flow freely? When your Muse shows up, supplying words and images as you draft? Set yourself up for that delightful state by embracing a sense of fun.

Putting yourself in a positive mood before you write pays off in creativity. Today, I’ll share scientific support for the idea that writing should be fun.

Positive moods enhance creativity

A significant body of research shows that positive moods boost creativity.

In one study, researchers asked hundreds of young adults to report on their moods and their perceived creativity each day. In the results, positive moods correlated with creativity. The more energetic the mood (excited, energetic, and enthusiastic), the stronger the link with feeling creative.

Negative states didn’t work the same magic.

What does this mean for you in your writing?

  • Experiment with setting your mood before your work. One friend told me he played positive music before he started writing. Our emotions often leak through into our writing, so pay attention to how you approach your work.
  • Don’t give up on writing if you’re in a bad mood! Showing up on the tough days builds resilience and maintains progress.

However, it’s not as simple as “Happiness breeds creativity.”

First, researchers in that study found that the emotion/creativity link was stronger for people who have more open-minded personalities. (Openness is one of the standard personality traits.)

Second, the correlation isn’t perfect, because we are complex creatures. Other factors affect our creativity-including motivation. Oddly, too much motivation can work against us.

Cute cats or delectable desserts?

According to a series of studies led by Professor Eddie Harmon-Jones at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, another factor contributes to creative moods: motivational intensity.

This report measures productivity by “cognitive scope” — how narrowly we focus our attention. Of…

Anne Janzer

Author, Writing Coach, Unapologetic Nonfiction Geek. Writing about Writing Itself (very meta). AnneJanzer.com