Ever Feel “Runners High” When You’re Creating?

It’s a serious question, because I’ve experienced this endorphin “rush” as I’ll call it several times while painting and it’s an incredible, unexpected and extraordinary feeling all rolled into one.  I’ve read how runners experience this and recent medical studies have verified a physiological change that occurs.

In my case the rush I know right when it happens, it’s when I actually feel whatever it is I’m painting, I mean really mentally and physically feel the subject when everything comes together – like a one big “wow.”  I feel this in my stomach and head – I know it’s sounds weird, but it is what it is.

I know what paintings and exactly when the rush happened, it’s usually when I’m painting skies or waves.  For instance last week when I was painting Quiet Essence, it happened when I got the last of the sun painted, again when I was painting Open Wave there was a part of the translucent part of the wave that was incredible, and on Golden Glow it happened while I was in the middle of painting the sky.

I asked an artist friend about this and here is what she said, “You got it!! That zen feeling is what it’s all about!! The definite difference between (in my opinion) slaving over a photograph to produce a pretty picture vs. having a piece of art be born in front of you from somewhere beyond your comprehension. Those moments are what I live for in art. And yes, if only every time we painted it happened!! But I guess waiting and hoping for those moments is what it’s all about. Until you experience it’s a very hard thing to explain. And let me tell you, that the experience you felt when you painted is VERY apparent in your painting. And THAT’S what makes that piece so good. Not the detail, not that you got every leaf and blade of grass perfect, but that you had that experience of the painting moving beneath your hands. People can feel it and respond to it.”

I’m very curious to all the creators out there –  painters, photographers, music creators, writers, etc.  . . . while pushing paint on canvas, while shooting or in photo development, when finding the perfect note or score or verse, or when the chapter comes alive through your words or a line of poetry comes into being . . . do you experience the endorphin “RUSH?”

About Mary

Oil Pastelist
This entry was posted in Posts. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to Ever Feel “Runners High” When You’re Creating?

  1. Good morning Mary, So pleased to be part of this very interesting conversation.
    I can see why the image you showed – The Wave – prompted you to have an endorphin rush. Forgive me for putting words in your mouth, but it would seem to me that you felt and experienced the energy of the wave…..and that interconnected you completely with the painting…and consequently the euphoric feeling.

    As I mentioned yesterday, when painting every day for several hours, which I have had the good fortune to do for many years, there times when I can almost predict when this illusive gift will occur…and indeed it is a gift. I often think it’s why many artists, including myself, are willing to give up so much to pursue their work…because once you have had this experience, it is never forgotten. It comes with a sense of euphoria, fulfilment and wellbeing.

    When we are in this zone…this zen zone…..we are removed from all the madness of logical life…i.e. time, language, etc. – and so consequently when I come out of a days painting, particularly one where I reach the zone…..it takes several hours to ‘return to earth’:)

    I also believe that most prisons and rehab centres are filled with people who are extremely creative, but have never been able to pursue their creative path…..they have books and paintings inside of them, which are never expressed even at the basic level, and so consequently the unidentifiable frustration of this, causes people to act out in anger and many other destructive ways.

    It is such a fascinating subject – one that I feel holds the answers for a much better world.

    Thank you again. Janet:)

    • Mary says:

      Ah Janet you are so spot-on with you opening paragraph – absolutely, it’s the connection of being one with whatever you happened to be creating or physically doing. Perhaps it is the level of concentration. When I paint the sea, I feel the wave and energy of the wide expanse of the water and then a certain point is reached, the connection, yes the endorphin rush is very real.
      It is so obvious from your writing that you experience the physical, spiritual connection – I would be surprised if you didn’t. Your words give such a perfect description, “illusive gift” however fleeting, is a gift that the first time I experienced it – it was not lost on me. I really agree with you too, that it does take some time to come back down to reality when painting or creating in the zone.
      How interesting that you would talk about prisons or rehab centers, could very well be what is happening with the level of frustration. I’m willing to bet that musicians experience this when playing or singing, or someone in competitive sports ~
      Glad you enjoyed the discussion this is one that has fascinated me for a while – really loved your comments. Thanks so much for joining in on the discussion.

  2. Pingback: Ever Feel “Runners High” When You’re Creating? | Oil Pastels by Mary

  3. Well written, every word resonates in perfect harmony with the exact feeling of being in the “ZEN”. That warm feeling of joy is emanating from all my available pores of my body, there is no other “rush” like the artist rush and that is glorious and highly addictive, that’s the reason I can’t stop what I’m doing and that is creating all the time, and sharing that feeling just adds to it! Eva:)

    • Mary says:

      Oh yes, I knew that you’d get this one – probably could write the book on that ZEN feeling; it’s unreal when it happens. I don’t get it on every painting but want the experience of feeling it while painting; when I do get the endorphin rush I know the piece will convey exactly what I was feeling at the precise moment I was painting. It’s so evident from your designs they show you experience the Zen-like feeling and you are so right, it is highly addictive.

  4. Pingback: Lily in the Dark, oil pastel | Oil Pastels by Mary

  5. dsaquarelles says:

    I enjoy very much painting watercolors with great pleasure during the painting, but sometimes when finished, it’s very special, it’s “whaou” . very exciting! 😉

    • Mary says:

      I’m so glad to hear from you on the endorphin rush and more excited to learn that you experience this as well. It’s amazing to read from everyone’s comments when they describe what the feeling is like and what it means to them. Wonderful to hear from you on this!

  6. Stefano says:

    Great post, Mary!
    Yes, a a photographer I totally know what you are saying as I have experienced the “rush” myself. Usually for me it happens when you realize that it is all coming together the way you as the artist were hoping it would, when you capture the decisive moment, when you correctly “previsualize” what is about to happen, when you say to yourself “got it!” 🙂
    Take care

    • Mary says:

      Fantastic hearing from you on this. Several other photographers have commented as well and it’s amazing to learn when in your process it happens – so neat at the precise moment when you’re capturing “the” shot.

      For me there’s a certain point in painting when there’s something that I’m painting and all of a sudden there it is and I have an intense feeling as I’m blending and moving the paint around the surface.

  7. I get that sometimes, though not quite as intensely as you describe. It’s a great feeling when things just come naturally. Actually, I did a psych degree and somebody came up with a term for a similar (but not identical) feeling – ‘flow’. I wish I knew how to make it happen more often, it feels great!

    • Mary says:

      HI Jessica it’s great to hear from you. “Flow” is good, as writer, Tim mentioned last night on here – he calls it “burn.” Whatever the label, it’s a very special and intense connection to whatever it is that we’re creating. I’m sure you’ll experience it again – what’s great, is you have experienced it and you know what it is.

  8. timkeen40 says:

    Thanks for the visit. We are on the same page. It is an amazing feeling, isn’t it?


  9. poppytump says:

    Hoping for more of it in the future Mary I do get it with listeneing to pieces of music 🙂 Lovely to hear your description !

    • Mary says:

      Thank you so much Poppy and it’s great to hear from you. You know I just knew it, music brings on the same endorphin rush – no doubt. And the more I hear from others, I don’t doubt this rush is the real thing. It’s wonderful meeting you!

  10. mamiesmith says:

    I sometimes get this feeling of energy and focus when I’m deep into a project and listening to some music in the background. Those are the times when I feel like I could go on painting forever! 🙂 Loved the post!

    • Mary says:

      Ah Mamie so you get that Endorphin Rush too – don’t you just love it!! And for me, when I get real focused while painting – I could go on for 4 or 5 hours and never look up. This is just amazing – so glad you commented!

  11. I definitely did when photographing Bald Eagles in action. It’s thrilling to capture life in motion.

    • Mary says:

      So cool! I’ll bet it was one of those moments to look up and see those beautiful creatures overhead – I knew as a photographer you’d feel endorphins. There is nothing quite like it –

      It’s been exciting reading everyone’s comments!

  12. exiledprospero says:

    Writing, for me, is best described as painfully slow (imagine, if you will, some medieval instrument of torture), and as such the pleasure of a voluptuous euphoria is quite absent.

    Photography, and again I speak for myself, is a cold-blooded process of selection. Many times, excitedly, I think–oh, this will make a wonderful photograph ( so naive!)–and it turns out to be less than stellar. The meticulous process of selection is, as in the rigors of writing, devoid of any type of visceral elation.

    • Mary says:

      Oh, so let me just say when you do experience this “visceral elation,” you will be most surprised and in awesome kingdom. Trust me Ariel’s Prospero this is true and will happen.

      I also understand why it hasn’t hit you yet – you are analytical and processing (which you have to do w/photography and writing, no too dissimilar from painting), but when you let yourself go and forget about the best but go truly with the flow of what you’re doing, the experience will be there for you to fully enjoy.

      I’ve been concentrating so hard on developing my skills and remembering the technicals as a oil pastelist that while I enjoyed painting, I wasn’t experiencing it – but my first time was a wow. And now I know why, I’ve finally am at a stage where my paintings are taking over and this is wonderful point to be at.

  13. coastalcrone says:

    Yes, I have experienced this high creatively. I also run – slower these days – but it is similar. Good post!

    • Mary says:

      So glad to hear from you – it’s so interesting that many creative people have the Endorphin Rush, and I’ll bet singers experience it at a high level as well.

      Your comment is very similar to what Playamart – Zeebra Designs wrote.

      Thank you so much for commenting!

  14. Oh yes, we all know what you are talking about but it is nice to know it has a name 🙂 I have it in my painting phases and in my writing ones, it alternates.
    I describe in my poems, it is a beautiful moment of elation, peace, beauty, everything together!!
    It is nice to hear it coming from someone else and share it too.

    • Mary says:

      So happy to hear from you on this subject. You’ve described it perfectly for us all to understand what you feel. Wonderful – have a great day!

  15. Sure! Can’t expect it, but it’s glorious.

    • Mary says:

      I know exactly what you mean, because when I mentally try to force the feeling on a certain aspect of a painting – it’s not coming. So I suppose there is no forcing the Endorphin Rush, it will happen when it’s going to happen. I knew you understood!

  16. Creating something is a beautiful experience which you described really well! The process of writing my book, ‘The Right Relationship Starts with You’, had many moments of pure joy. That feeling where the words are just flowing and the thoughts are just pouring in, is quite wonderful. 🙂

    • Mary says:

      Yes, exactly that’s what I was talking about. I knew writers had it – there is no way you can create and have your audience feel your subject as they sometimes do without having been in the middle of an endorphin rush. This is very cool to know you experience it in your writing – it is a feeling of full and substantial joy, right?

  17. Healthy A-Z says:

    This is such a great post! Since I’m not a painter, I probably would not have thought about this, but it makes so much sense to me. And it’s why so many of your paintings speak to me. Your creativity, passion and connection with your subject clearly come through it. Your description of the feeling sounds like a feeling I sometimes get in yoga class. It has been explained to me as “being One with All that is or God.” It can’t get any better than that! So glad you shared!

    • Mary says:

      Oh yes, Cyndi then you know what I’m referring too. Perhaps in Yoga you are so focus on a sort of quietness that when you are really into a position you’re probably very much into feeling your pose and thoughts.

  18. I absolutely feel it!! Especially when I’m close to photograph something I’ve been looking for a long time, for example a dragonfly. 🙂 Sometimes I’m even afraid that my heart is beating so loud and hard that it’ll scare away the small critters! 😉

    • Mary says:

      How FANTASTIC Calee – now that’s what I’m talking about! I knew you had to experience it, just based on the feeling that I get when I look at your work! When the rush hits I’m almost afraid to continue and paint for fear I take the feeling away.

  19. … but of course! and of course, you knew that i would confirm… i experienced it more long ago, and i’m wondering if maybe now i have those feel-good endorphins coursing through my body at all times, not just during those eureka moments of long ago!

    now when i am working long hours on a painting, i get more of a sense of peace. does that make sense?

    when i peer over my left shoulder at the painting in progress – i see a giant swirl of yellow wash that is balanced against a swirl of orange (building to red) swirling in the opposite direction. rays radiate out, and the finished painting will be full of color and energy. people say that my paintings make the room seem to move, and that they make them smile. maybe i’ve learned to harness that runner’s high and inject it into the painting instead?

    thanks for writing this post!


    • Mary says:

      Thanks! Absolutely I knew you’d reply, after your note yesterday. You really get it – so maybe you haven’t lost your endorphin rush, but have injected it in a way for your paintings to release it to people who are lucky enough to see your work in person. And perhaps maybe you think you aren’t getting it any longer, but you’re totally absorbed into the peace you referred too.

      I love this . . . really nice Lisa. I’m off to paint. Have a wonderful day! Mary

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s