I believe you have heard many stories that artists created their greatest works when they were deeply upset or suffering from poor mental health.
T.S. Eliot described his "considerable mental agony" and how he felt "on the verge of insanity" in a letter. Likewise, Vincent Van Gogh wrote about "horrible fits of anxiety," "feelings of emptiness and fatigue," and finally took his own life.
People can't help but ask, can creativity and happiness exist at the same time?
Ambivalent study results
Many previous studies indicate that a positive emotion can enhance creativity. But others suggest that a negative emotion can spark creativity.
For example, the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied extensive creative individuals across many disciplines, and found that they all loved what they did and enjoyed "designing or discovering something new."
On the other hand, a large study in Sweden found that authors were more likely to develop mental disorders compared to people doing non-creative jobs. According to this study, "anxiety can focus the mind" and negative emotions can spark creativity.
One of the reasons for the different results may be due to time scale.
What affects creativity
In the short term, you can force yourself to create and meet urgent deadlines if you are stressed or if there are external rewards (such as money). But in the long term, external rewards or pressure cannot sustain your creativity easily. Instead, pressures at work such as the fear of judgment and failure can cause unhappiness and lack of creativity.
If you want to sustain your creativity and happiness over longer periods, you should try to seek both pleasure and purpose.
To seek pleasure and purpose
The psychologist Paul Dolan defines happiness as the "experiences of pleasure and purpose over time." He describes purpose as relating to "fulfilment, meaning and worthwhileness" and believes we are at our happiest with a "balance between pleasure and purpose."
So, if you want to be creative in the long term, you should first ask yourself, if your work is meaningful and fulfilling, and if it can support your happiness.
When your work is truly interesting and enjoyable for you, and you have a sense of purpose to drive you to do better, then you may be able to gain both creativity and happiness.
For those creative people who suffer from poor mental health, however, it is a more complicated picture. Maybe the process of producing creative work can at least please them for a while.