By Christina Delay
Awe is Integral to Creativity
Unless you’re a full-time author, finding time and/or motivation to write can be challenging. So, finding time to boost your creativity at the expense of your writing time…crazy talk.
What if I told you that staring at a dark sky full of stars was integral to your creativity?
What if I told you that watching a video celebrating human ingenuity was as important as getting words on the page?
What if I told you that you absolutely should listen to that amazing album by your favorite band and not write?
What if doing all these things made you more creatively productive?
I know. Crazy.
Or is it?
Awe is defined as “an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.”
Researchers have long believed in the power of positive feelings to impact creativity, however a study by Jia Wei Zhang proves that simply having positive emotions isn’t the biggest influence on creativity.
In order to significantly bolster our creativity, we need to experience awe.
Zhang found that “the experience of awe can lead to an open mindset, orient people to explore, and approach experiences with unconventional perspectives—all of which are processes critical to creativity.” (Zhang, 2017)
Even more interesting is the study found that experiencing awe is more impactful on creativity than amusement. Zhang references another study conducted in 2007 that concluded that people who relived a memory of awe, as opposed to one of happiness, “reported being more willing to engage in a creative activity in the next hour.” (Shiota et al., 2007)
So, there you have it. Scientific proof that experiencing awe will inspire you to write in the next hour.
If you need a short-cut to getting motivated to write…this is it.
So how do you make a habit of something that seems spontaneous or uncontrollable?
Awe can be intentional.
We’ve all noticed a beautiful sunset. But there is a significant difference in noticing a beautiful sunset versus allowing yourself to sink into why that sunset is beautiful, to ponder all the factors that had to happen to not only create that fleeting masterpiece, but to also place you in that moment so you could experience it, and to understand that this moment will never be replicated. That you’ve experienced a once-in-a-lifetime sunset.
You do have the ability to turn simple moments into moments of awe.
In the beginning, set reminders on your phone to search for these moments. Or start your writing session with an intentional moment of awe.
Fortunately, habitualizing awe is fun, and once you get started, it’s easy to continue.
If you’re someone who has a difficult time being awed, here’s a starter kit for you. Once you start making awe a normal part of your day, you’ll find your own moments and be able to create your own ‘playlist of awe’ in order to kickstart your writing sessions.
- Starry nights
- Leaves blowing in the street
- A flower blooming
- Wind blowing through the trees
- A child’s laughter
- A sleeping child (which can be many different levels of awe)
- Reliving their childhood through photos
- The love you hold for your SO and/or children
- Your own parent’s or parental figure’s love and sacrifice for you
- The Arts
- Videos of your favorite type of dance (ballet, contemporary, jazz, hip hop)
- A beautifully written line in a book
- A painting that moves something within you
- Music – particularly a song that allows you to listen on a deeper level
- New-to-you sights
- Stained glass windows in churches
- A place steeped in history, which you’ve read about
- Walk in the footsteps of your ancestors
- Engage with people who don’t speak your language or share your culture
- New inventions
- New discoveries
- Theories about ancient civilizations
- Videos of the deepest parts of the ocean
- Stories about people who overcome great odds
What about you? Do you have a moment of awe you’d like to share?
Zhang, Jia Wei. Trait and State Based Experience of Awe Promotes Creativity. 2017, UC Berkeley.