Creative Anger

December 11, 2012

Maybe it is just me.

A not insignificant fraction of my scientific life is motivated by Creative Anger.

Another way to explain this state of mind is when you respond to some issue that arises with “No way, that is total bullshit….and here’s why.”

The “why” is where the creative process is engaged. It may be a marshaling of relevant literature. Perhaps to the level of writing a scientific argument down. Introduction to a paper, a discussion section…maybe even a whole review article. If you have it really bad, even a grant application.

Other “whys” may stimulate you to a new experiment or line of them. A lot of my creative anger responses seem to involve the discovery that no, nobody has published what are incredibly obvious studies. And clearly, “Clearly!”, I say, these must needs be done.

And we’re off….

No Responses Yet to “Creative Anger”

  1. Dr24hours Says:

    Sometimes my blogging is fueled that way, but not my science.


  2. Travis Says:

    I wouldn’t call it anger, but disagreeing strongly with a paper has certainly led to a few projects for me. Although I haven’t always been right in my initial disagreement.

    My labmate and I did this analysis in response to a paper which we felt made very strong conclusions on very flimsy data, and didn’t fit very well with the available literature. So we did a study of our own using data that was available in our lab, expecting to show the earlier results were a fluke. But our findings actually supported the initial study, and other studies have since found similar results.

    In my mind this sort of thing is a win-win. Whether your work confirms the initial study or refutes it, either way it helps science move forward.


  3. drugmonkey Says:

    Whether your work confirms the initial study or refutes it, either way it helps science move forward.

    of course. It doesn’t matter if we’re right or wrong, just that it leads to additional information, analysis and/or understanding.


  4. eeke Says:

    When I get my manuscript reviews back, the creative part of the anger seems to be missing… we just get the dismissive “that’s bullshit!” sort of statements. Otherwise, I personally don’t need to be angry about something as a stem for creativity, but if that works for you, well fine.


  5. DJMH Says:

    I agree, and I think anger/irritation is a sign of the larger issue, passion. Feeling passionately that what someone has published is problematic is a good indication that you’re engaged in the question at some level already, and that’s what can really fuel the spark.


  6. Grumble Says:

    When I was a grad student, I was in a field where there were the most vicious arguments. Accusations of data forgery at worst, or sloppiness at best, flew. One of my first published papers is a simple demonstration of inability to replicate some BSD’s work. My state of anger was pretty much continuous. My reaction was to leave the field entirely and never look back.

    Occasionally I still get a paper to review from that field. In one of them, I found evidence of outright fraud. Needless to say, although that field inspired a great deal of anger, it hasn’t inspired me with much creativity.


  7. anonymous postdoc Says:

    I found several years ago that when obligated to bowl on social occasions, my scores were significantly better if I bowled angry.

    Anger improves focus. It’s a great mood for drilling down details. However, it’s a terrible point of view for evaluating new ideas because it prioritizes details over possibilities. There is social psych literature to support this, but if I admit to much familiarity with social psych literature I will be kicked out of neuroscience.

    The upshot of all this is I try to avoid making reviewers angry whenever possible, which, duh, of course, but its helpful to have this specific reason. I tend to have my most interesting ideas when in a very positive, broad-connections sort of mood…but then I reevaluate with a more critical eye or else it comes out crap. However, if the genesis of an idea comes from my grumping, that usually leads me to futile attempts to shoehorn things into the wrong framework.


  8. P Says:

    Dear DM,

    Article in this week’s Economist that your readers may find of interest – would enjoy hearing your thoughts.


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