Make More Art: The Health Benefits of Creativity

James Clear found a review analysing over 100 studies about the impact of art on health. Here’s some of the things researchers had to say about the impact of visual art (see James’ article for all of them):

“Improved well–being by decreasing negative emotions and increasing positive ones” “Reductions in stress and anxiety; increases in positive emotions” “Reductions in distress and negative emotions” “Improvements in flow and spontaneity, expression of grief, positive identity, and social networks”

I have written about creation for health benefits before so it’s cool to come across this article backing up my pseudo research on the topic with some studies. James even cites a study that found cellular changes as a result of creation:

writing as a treatment for HIV patients... resulted in “improvements of CD4+ lymphocyte counts.” That's the fancy way of saying: the act of writing actually impacted the cells inside the patient's body and improved their immune system.

Consuming stuff seems to make you feel a little better at first, then worse if you consume too much. I don’t know about you, but I tend to default towards trying to consume something when I’m trying to feel better. Whether it’s food or something on the internet, it generally doesn’t work very well.

If I’m feeling down, I’ve found that the process of cooking food often helps me much more than eating does. I think it’s because creating something helps you feel better and I think it applies to more than food.

Let’s talk about that.

To create is to express yourself. To give words or form to what’s inside you. To make some part of what’s in side you tangible to others. Arguably what’s inside you isn’t even tangible to you until you create something.

In this search for meaning we’re all in, making something tangle to look at, hear, or feel is part of the search.

Consumption of stuff is important too. It fuels the flame and gives you material to test. It shows you what others have to show and lets you see things that couldn’t be created in a vacuum inside you.

But creation is where you take that fuel and do something with it. It’s the place you go to show part yourself that couldn’t be created inside someone else. It’s your exploration, it’s your thing.

Make more art. Your health and happiness will improve and we'll all be better off for it.

The Enemy of Creativity is Comparison


I got a Panobook from Studio Neat today. It’s really nice. The cover is lovely, and the paper itself is beautiful to write on (and I’m only using a bic!).

Do you ever feel bad writing in new notebooks? Like whatever crap your writing or drawing isn’t as nice as the notebook deserves or something? I do. The Panobook has lovely paper and such attention to detail that I felt bad writing in for the first time.

I learned from Merlin Mann that the way around this is to break the spell straight away. Draw something stupid on the first page. Scribble on it. Write a dumb quote. Put a sticker in there. Shit. Someone has to do it. Once you realise that the notebook is just there for you to fill up in whatever way you want, there’s nothing left but to fill it up! Create in it. Draw. Write. Make Things. No-one will laugh at you here in this notebook.

And even if they did somehow find the notebook, look at it, and for some reason laugh at you, it’s because they’re not creating. It doesn’t mean you should turn off your creative tap. It doesn’t mean you should stop creating.

Creativity is how you figure stuff out. It’s how you learn about yourself. Fuck, it’s how you get in touch of who you are. It’s play. It’s human.

It starts with the first page. And Don’t Fucking Stop. I get it. You’ve heard this before. And you can’t draw anyway. Well fuck. If you really can’t draw then that’s something you can learn to do in this notebook.

The enemy of creativity is comparison.

I’m sure I heard that somewhere but I can’t remember where. A few months ago I would’ve let that stop me writing because I wanted to be scientific and cite my sources always. That’s a fair point - people should get credit if they want it. But creativity is also taking what you see around you and bringing a part of yourself to it. I’m not saying you should steal. I am saying don’t fucking let details like that get in the way of you tapping into your creative stream.

I wrote about making something instead of consuming something next time you and try to relax. Did you try that? What did you make?

Once you besmirch the first page of your notebook and keep creating, the next step is realising that’s the whole point. It’s about attitude. In this culture where work is the primarily valued thing, it can be easy to measure the value of your play and creativity in terms of money. Imagine for a second that the value in whatever you’re creating in this notebook (or whatever you’re doing!) is just as important as the work you do. Hopefully you don’t need much imagination because if it feels good to you and you get something out of it, it has value.

So. Go dirty the first page of your notebook in whatever way you want. Hell, you can just tear it out if you want. Creativity is valuable in all its forms. Don’t let comparison in any form get in your way.

Images on this post are from Studio Neat

Thoughts on Facebook

I haven't been a Facebook user for about six months and I'm one of the only people I know who keeps a website. This week, as Facebook is releasing Instant Articles I'm finding myself compelled to spend more time writing on this website rather than going back to Facebook.

In the introduction post for Instant Articles, Michael Reckhow reports:

Mark Thompson, President and CEO, The New York Times Company said, “The New York Times already has a significant and growing audience on Facebook. We’re participating in Instant Articles to explore ways of growing the number of Times users on Facebook, improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement. We have a long tradition of meeting readers where they are and that means being available not just on our own sites, but on the social platforms frequented by many current and potential Times users.”

The fact is, Mark Thompson is right. The readers are on Facebook. If they're not going to the New York Times, then they definitely aren't coming to my website.

Back in March when Instant Articles was first announced John Gruber quipped:

I can see why these news sites are tempted by the offer, but I think they’re going to regret it. It’s like Lando’s deal with Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.

In his Facebook Reckoning post, Ben Thompson notes that Gruber's criticism is probably valid, but the publishers have no choice. They have to be on Facebook.

The problem with Gruber’s criticism is that Lando never really actually had a choice. Vader was far more powerful than he was; taking a chance on a deal was the best of a bunch of bad options. That, I think, is the case with most publishers when it comes to Facebook.

I hope all of this doesn't apply to me. I'm not a publisher am I?! I still feel a great compulsion to host my own stuff on my own website. Ben Thompson's Smiling Curve is keeping me sane.

Scrivener for iOS coming soon

Some good news on the Scrivener for iOS front.

The good news is that our iOS version is (at last!) feature-complete and is currently in internal beta-testing.

Scrivener is one of those apps that I love the idea of. I have started so many projects in Scrivener, but never finished one. I've done crazy things like trying to use it to help me create the class diagrams for the app I'm developing. I've tried using it to help me write 'Potential Investment' papers for my day job. I've tried using it for those longer blog posts that never quite make it onto my site. I love using the app, but I can't say I've really done anything with it.

Having Scrivener on iOS could change that. I use my iPad a lot to write. I use it constantly for my day job (like Federico). All of the creative work I do for my day job is done on my iOS devices these days, so not having Scrivener there has hampered its utility for me in that space. The more I think about it, the more I think that creative work in general is done on an iOS device for me. My Mac is an important part of the workflow, but I just don't do the creative work there.

I don't want to say that the lack of Scrivener has stopped me from being creative. Not at all. It's just that I am creative in other apps instead. I'm excited to see what the addition of Scrivener will do to my workflow.

Right now I'm using Ulysses for this type of work. I love using Ulysses, but in practice it really doesn't feel that different to using any other text editor on my iPad. It's not getting it the way of my creativity, but it doesn't seem to add to it.

I'm still not convinced that Scrivener will "add to my creativity" either. But I keep finding myself checking to see if it's out on iOS every few weeks. I think that's because I know that iOS is where I'm creative, and because of that the Scrivener Mac app never had a chance to help me do my creative work.

Given past debacles, I’m hesitant to talk about release dates, but we expect a summer release, though whether mid or late summer will depend on what is thrown up during beta-testing, of course.

They haven't announced a release date yet, but I'm guessing by the time it's Spring (for Australia), I'll have my hands on the app. Maybe I'll write a review.


I consider myself to be a new developer. In the last few months, I've been learning C, C# and ObjectiveC. I've still got a long way to go, but I'm sure I always will - you never really stop learning.

This weeks announcements from Apple have been exciting for me. In the last few years, Apple has consistently been iterating and making some great products. But this WWDC really felt different. They've been working on this for years, and the excitement is electrifying amongst developers. You can read about it here or here. There's a lot out there, that's only two people I follow.

This is a great time to be a new developer, I'm super excited.