Creativity and Anger

Most artists know Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Many creative people who enjoyed that book will enjoy Walking In This World as well. I’m running an on-line reading group for the book, and this week is Chapter 3. Having struggled through Chapter 2, I was a little weary and more than a little wary.

Chapter 3 is worth the whole book. It’s on anger, and using anger as a creative impulse. Cameron says,

“Anger is a profoundly powerful fuel that we can use to make art and to make more artful lives. When we deny our anger or fritter it away in complaints, we are wasting precious fuel and precious clarity.”

Who knew? I’ve been trying to be less angry lately, more compassionate.

I was at a business meeting yesterday, and another participant was condescending and patronizing to me. I made myself feel patience and gratitude. Yes I did. But a teeny portion of me wanted to grab her super-hot skinny caramel freakychino and pour it over her bleached head. I felt bad about that emotion. I said something kind to her.  She then insulted me. I struggled to tell myself this was about her, not me, and feel gratitude. I did not feel gratitude. I felt rage. I wanted to walk toward her with my arms open wide to hug her and then just hug her neck a little hard till she turned blue. I did not feel compassion.

Julia Cameron didn’t scold me. Right there, on p. 66, she says, “Rage at a bully or at a bullying situation is actually a wonderful sign. Once we own it, it is our own rage at allowing ourselves and others to be bullied. If it is our own, we can use it. Yes, this rage feel murderous and distorting, but is is actually a needed corrective. If our rage is that large, so are we.”

That idea—that our huge rage indicates our size, our talent—is revolutionary. When I came home, I was exhausted from all that suppressed anger. I wanted to go to bed, but that doesn’t help my anger, so I worked on the book I’m writing. I charged through almost a whole chapter, creating a draft of strong emotion and power, none of it anger. I was amazed.

Again, here’s what Cameron says:
“Anger is a call to action. It is challenging and important to let our light shine. It is important to name ourselves rather than wait for someone else to do it, or pretend that we can continue to bear it when we can’t. When we complain that others do not take ourselves and our values seriously, we are actually saying that we don’t. If our aesthetics matter so much to us, we must act on them in a concrete and specific form.”

Anger is a creative urge and a power to be harnessed in service to our creativity. Once the anger fuels the creativity, it also fuels the creative solution. And that brings us back to the place where we can feel calm, compassion and even humor.  Without the release of writing, I might still be replaying that scene from yesterday in anger and humiliation. When I wrote this post, I felt not a shred of anger or resentment. It was gone, vanished like rain on a hot rock. There is power in anger and it is fuel of creativity.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She is the author of the 2011 book, Raw-Art Journaling; Making Meaning, Making Art.

9 thoughts on “Creativity and Anger

  1. Hi there, I’m working through the Artist’s Way right now myself. The idea that “anger is a call to action” has totally revolutionized my life. When you said, “Anger is a creative urge and a power to be harnessed in service to our creativity.” I had a light bulb go off about how my ideas of service can include my creativity – thank you for that! I so relate to this post of yours, and feel a warmth in my heart that others are on this path with me.

  2. Pingback: Day 105 – Anger, Sweetness, and the Importance of Sending a Unified Message to the Universe! | My Own Experiment With Truth

  3. “But a teeny portion of me wanted to grab her super-hot skinny caramel freakychino and pour it over her bleached head.” – Oh Quinn, this made me laugh so hard.

    There are so many things that anger me, but I’m a helper, a nice person, a go to person, I’m not supposed to be angry, right!?! I have been practicing using my anger instead of squelching it. Kind of like you, to get something finished and use that energy instead of letting it eat away at me. I have also been practicing at identifying and expressing just what I am angry about, sometimes even to the person who triggered that anger. Sometimes it works for me to simply identify why I’m angry, journal about it and tuck away the lesson for the future, usually with a plan of action (It is too difficult to think thoughtfully in the midst of the rage).


  4. We were discussing this this AM…or something along these lines. Why are there people out there who bug us…make us angry? My husband and I tried to take a look at what is it in us (ourselves) that notices these feelings…and how do we use this “noticing” to really look at ourselves, perhaps seeing what it is in us that is “feeling”.

    Well….something like that. We came to the mutual conclusion (which almost never happens for us!) That it is not the “person” that is the issue, it is the feeling or upset (big idea) that that person embodies for us. Because when we look at the feeling or issue, and really wrestle with it, seeing that person the next time is not so upsetting.

    Thanks for your post, Quinn:) How’s the book coming along?

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