I have been slogging through a series of exercises to enhance and inspire creativity. When I came to one in particular this week, I made a big decision. The exercise in question asked me to list 50 Things That I am Angry About. Several times, I considered doing this assignment, but it always felt wrong.
If I really pushed myself, I might be able to come up with that list. But to what end? I knew with certainty that if I didn’t feel angry before making this list, I surely would after.
Author and creativity expert, Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way), calls anger “creative fuel.” And I have used this powerful fuel a number of times to move out of toxic situations and to inform my own creative path.
That said, I have also used anger as an excuse to not move forward in my own life, narrowly vacillating between feelings of despair and anger, powerlessness and blame. Feeling smug and justified in all my anger, I camped out there for years. During these times, I could have completed this exercise without any problem.
I’ll admit that I initially wondered whether my reluctance to complete this list was repressed anger or denial. But I’ve been there too. Simply put, these days I really love not being angry. It’s just not a place I want to linger at for very long any more. My reticence this week was a cue that I have moved to the other side of anger. Upon realizing this fact, I effortlessly created a different list—of 50 Things I Feel Great About.
Anger can be creative fuel and it can wake us up to things that aren’t working, injustice, and our own buried dreams. And it’s awfully hard to feel hopeful or inspired without first acknowledging (and dealing with) buried hurt and anger. But they are only a place to start. That’s because anger isn’t the only creative fuel. On the other side of anger, exhilaration, anticipation, passion, enthusiasm, and wonder provide excellent creative fuel too.