When the author Stephen King gave up alcohol, his biggest fear was that he would lose his ability to write. Like many other people, he had developed the idea that substance abuse can help people be more creative. Later he was able to see through this justification for addiction. The fact that he has produced some of his greatest work since becoming sober is evidence that such a belief is a myth. The truth is that addiction only ever really gets in the way of creativity.
Creativity can be defined as the ability of people to come up with new ideas. Those individuals who earn the label of creative would be considered more thoughtful than the average person. Such creative types are able to look at the world and see things in a way that other people miss. It is their ability to think outside the box that gives them the ability to be original.
It is true that many creative people have addiction problems. This does not mean however, that their creativity is as a result of their substance abuse. It is more likely that some individuals with a creative personality are also prone to addiction. There also appears to be a link between mood disorders and creativity. Just because such links exist does not mean that addiction or mood disorders are causing the creativity.
The connection between addiction and creativity is also nowhere near as clean cut as people might presume. Many of these famous addicts produced their best works during those times when their addiction was most under control. Jackson Pollock created all his famous paintings during a two-year sober period. While he was in the midst of his addiction, his work was noticeably inferior.
It has been suggested that addicts tend to have certain characteristics. Many of the elements of the addictive personality are also associated with being creative. These characteristics include:
* A tendency to act impulsively. The individual will take chances that other people would not consider. Such behavior could be of benefit when being creative.
* A tendency to value nonconformity.
* A need for regular stimulation and excitement
* Being prone to attention seeking. This may motivate people to be creative.
* An enjoyment of risk-taking.
It is also suggested that addiction and creativity might be driven by blunted dopamine functioning in the brain. This neurotransmitter is part of the body’s internal reward system. It is suggested that addicts and creative people experience a reduced level of pleasure because of their low dopamine levels. They have to work harder to feel good so they are motivated to get involved in high risk activities.
It is highly unlikely that taking alcohol or drugs helps people be more creative. It is common for some people in early recovery to feel that they have lost their creative abilities. This is because it can take some time for their mind to adjust to the loss of the addictive substance. Thinking can remain cloudy for the first few months. Once the individual has achieved long-term sobriety they will experience a clearness of mind that they never knew before. Here are a few things that people can do to increase their level of creativity:
* Meditation is a wonderful way to help people get back in touch with their subconscious mind, where creativity is believed to come from. Those who develop a regular meditative practice will benefit greatly. It is also possible to get similar results from tai-chi and yoga.
* Lucid dreaming is a technique that people can learn in sobriety. This is another way to communicate with the creative aspects of the brain. There have been a number of great inventions that were discovered because of lucid dreams.
* Going for long walks and other types of exercise seems to increase creativity.
* Many people find that by writing things down allows ideas to form that would otherwise have been missed. Journaling in recovery is one way to allow the mind to roam free.
* Just spending time every day in silence is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Many of us have an aversion to silence, but it can be highly beneficial – even if it is just for a few minutes.
* It is a good idea to always have a notebook handy. That way it is possible to write down any inspirational thoughts. People tend to forget their creative ideas unless they record them right away.
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