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Thread: Productive expressions of anxiety

  1. #1
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    Productive expressions of anxiety

    discussion in another thread got me thinking.

    how does anxiety manifest for you, in terms of productive behaviors and activities?

    i can think of two instances for myself when it was super obvious anxiety was driving me, and obviously i can never choose when this happens.

    occasionally, when i reach a creative rut, i catch myself spending hours looking at artist portfolio sites and doing research into techniques i could potentially try or potential publishing outlets to consider or whatever. this doesn't sound horrible, and in fact sounds like necessary research anybody would be doing as it pertains to any hobby or serious craft, but it always feels really, really bad, like i'm not doing anything out of passion or love.

    the other time was when i was in the middle of the preliminary stages of writing/drawing out a comic. i was really immersed in this project and in mapping out all the panels, like i couldn't stop unless it was to eat or sleep. i knew it was perfectionism and it didn't feel like i was being creative, it just felt really bad. the results were good, though, so somehow that worked out.

    ok, i'm curious about you.

  2. #2
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    related: writers are some of the most neurotic artists/people i've ever met, i think cuz their creative process is so internalized. that's a stereotype, too, but yeah.

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    Merry Christmas Blorg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tele View Post
    related: writers are some of the most neurotic artists/people i've ever met, i think cuz their creative process is so internalized. that's a stereotype, too, but yeah.
    One of my professors is a poet and she said that poets often have a combination of strong emotions and high emotional intelligence-- so it's a combination of extreme neuroticism with extreme anti-neuroticism (word?) that makes them good writers. That makes sense to me. I bet it's similar for other types of artists too. It's probably important for some artists (you?) to be able to switch between subjectivity and (relative) objectivity, ie "editing mode," and anxiety might help that switching process.

    I'm not a creative writer but I write a lot of essays for school and I associate anxiety with editing mode. I think it can aid the pursuit of objectivity. I don't actually find dissociation (which is what happens to me after severe anxiety) useful in the editing process because it's too extreme but I think it says something about potential uses of anxiety since it feels like a twisted form of objectivity (or at least objectification). In small doses, anxiety helps me distance myself from my work and see it more clearly; I'm not sure I find it useful during the actual writing phase, but it probably helps with the 'reductive' phase of production.
    "Better not to feel too much until the crisis ends—and if it never ends, at least we’ll have suffered a little less, developed a useful dullness...The constant—and very real—fear of being hurt, the fear of death, of intolerable loss, or even of “mere” humiliation, leads each of us, the citizens and prisoners of the conflict, to dampen our own vitality, our emotional and intellectual range, and to cloak ourselves in more and more protective layers until we suffocate." - Toni Morrison

  4. #4
    Unrelated to creativity for me (though that can provoke anxiety, certainly): I tend to toggle between hyper-productive and completely useless. The productivity may or may not be directed at the object of anxiety--it can be washing dishes or something, too. Sometimes I find that I need to do smaller, simpler things before tackling the thing that makes me so nervous. I also will often displace my anxiety about issue X or decision Y into relationships--I decide that people hate me, that I've been too honest with someone and scared them away, that the person I'm dating is fed up with me, or some variations on those themes.

  5. #5
    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dot View Post
    One of my professors is a poet and she said that poets often have a combination of strong emotions and high emotional intelligence-- so it's a combination of extreme neuroticism with extreme anti-neuroticism (word?) that makes them good writers. That makes sense to me. I bet it's similar for other types of artists too. It's probably important for some artists (you?) to be able to switch between subjectivity and (relative) objectivity, ie "editing mode," and anxiety might help that switching process.

    I'm not a creative writer but I write a lot of essays for school and I associate anxiety with editing mode. I think it can aid the pursuit of objectivity. I don't actually find dissociation (which is what happens to me after severe anxiety) useful in the editing process because it's too extreme but I think it says something about potential uses of anxiety since it feels like a twisted form of objectivity (or at least objectification). In small doses, anxiety helps me distance myself from my work and see it more clearly; I'm not sure I find it useful during the actual writing phase, but it probably helps with the 'reductive' phase of production.
    i think you're right about that, that anxiety is more useful while in "editing" mode. i think i may be naturally more in tune with that side of the production process as i find it much easier to create stuff when there are designated limitations. sometimes, the stricter the better, even. i'm not really one to translate emotional themes into images, but maybe that's something to work on. or maybe i just rarely get swept up in my emotions in that way.

    the mapping out of compositions and doing outlines and planning, sometimes i actually really hate that part of the process. it's almost like i'm afraid of getting sucked into the rabbit hole of possibilities then having to edit edit edit and come up with 15 iterations of things edited down from the one before, just for that final idea that may or may not blow the others out of the water. getting too attached to ideas will make it hard to throw your ideas away. but once i get that down the rest flows.

    thinking about this and talking about it is really helpful to me and i learn a lot about myself every time.

    Quote Originally Posted by MuseedesBeauxArts View Post
    Unrelated to creativity for me (though that can provoke anxiety, certainly): I tend to toggle between hyper-productive and completely useless. The productivity may or may not be directed at the object of anxiety--it can be washing dishes or something, too. Sometimes I find that I need to do smaller, simpler things before tackling the thing that makes me so nervous. I also will often displace my anxiety about issue X or decision Y into relationships--I decide that people hate me, that I've been too honest with someone and scared them away, that the person I'm dating is fed up with me, or some variations on those themes.
    going between hyper-productive and useless, i relate to that a lot and i think it's OK. for me something like wanting to travel is actually often a product of anxiety, although that sounds really weird. i want to go places and have big adventures to jumpstart myself out of feelings that i'm stagnating (my #1 irrational fear) but deep down i really just want a stable and rich domestic life, haha. both these things are rewarding to me.

    i'm certainly guilty of using relationships to try to deal with anxiety, although i'm much more conscious of that now and it's happening less often.
    Last edited by jigglypuff; 10-20-2014 at 03:13 AM.

  6. #6
    Dr.Awkward Robcore's Avatar
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    Productive/positive anxiety, as far as I can tell, is only possible as a survival mechanism....and in the context of the modern world where life isn't threatened, we express it in an effort to preserve facets of whatever it is that we identify with as parts of our self, eg. identity as an artist, as a type of worker; as ___ in a given relationship; etc. Frequently, we experience anxiety as we try to maintain a real or perceived status.

    While anxiety could be productive for maintaining some 'survival' in one of those areas, there's always a better way that's more sane...most often, just doing the same things without being anxious about it is just as effective. The anxiety doesn't actually give you an edge, or any sort of enhanced capabilities...it is just a motivator...

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    dormant jigglypuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robcore View Post
    Productive/positive anxiety, as far as I can tell, is only possible as a survival mechanism....and in the context of the modern world where life isn't threatened, we express it in an effort to preserve facets of whatever it is that we identify with as parts of our self, eg. identity as an artist, as a type of worker; as ___ in a given relationship; etc. Frequently, we experience anxiety as we try to maintain a real or perceived status.

    While anxiety could be productive for maintaining some 'survival' in one of those areas, there's always a better way that's more sane...most often, just doing the same things without being anxious about it is just as effective. The anxiety doesn't actually give you an edge, or any sort of enhanced capabilities...it is just a motivator...
    i see what you're saying, but i only care about status as a byproduct of security, so in that way it's still about survival.

    idk about anxiety not giving anybody an edge. it's a sort of motivation that doesn't feel very good. maybe it's more accurate to call it compulsion, at least until one learns how to be very disciplined with it as a source of energy.

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    Sky Anvil Vison's Avatar
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    This is the only way my house ever gets cleaned on a regular basis. I only want to clean when I'm fantastically happy or need to funnel off some anxiety. Since clutter causes me anxiety it is a self-perpetuating cycle.
    Oh fuck it, Its the 90's.

  9. #9
    Your Huckleberry lethe's Avatar
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    I differentiate between anxiety-the-mental-state and anxiety-the-physical-state.

    Anxiety-mental is usually focused on an outside identifiable situation, relationship or event. It includes feelings of insecurity, fear and worry. Sometimes it feels like it would be a good motivator, like a tiny persistent little whip driving me to complete, polish, or prepare. But when it plays out my results aren't any better or quicker. Sort of like how some people insist some drugs improve their creativity but it really only changes the way they look at their work (or lack of work). I think for me it's because tasks inspired by anxiety are coming from a defensive angle; I'm driven to the tasks not to accomplish something, but to prevent something.

    Anxiety-physical is much more overwhelming and difficult to control. In the right situation I have been able to harness the nervous rush to continue physical, mindless tasks longer than usual. Things like working out or cleaning benefit from the panicked energy, but chores requiring more mental focus are slowed down by the scattering of my thoughts.
    Don't remember changing this.

  10. #10
    <3 gator's Avatar
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    More often than not anxiety is not a productive thing for me. It is a crippling state of paralysis. Usually when I'm procrastinating it is not because I am lazy or leaving something for later, it's because something about doing that thing is causing me a high level of intense and irrational fear.

    I've tried to channel it into positive outlets though. Mostly cleaning, or exercise. When I was in school anxiety about papers and presentations would lead me to do a lot of extra prep and research, so I often had instructors remark about how thorough my knowledge of the literature was, or how many disparate sources I was able to weave into my work. It forces me to put an extra polish on work that I intend to show to people, which isn't always a bad thing.

    Mostly it has a negative effect on me though.

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