The Four Energies

Last week, a colleague sent me a link to a post from Austin Kleon’s blog. If you’re not familiar with Kleon, he describes himself as a “writer who draws.” He’s also the bestselling author of Steal Like An Artist and other books. While I’m relatively new to Kleon’s awesomeness, I totally understand why my colleague sent me the link. He’s an awesome writer. And artist.

The post that my colleague sent referred to “The Four Energies” that authors tap into when they write. Kleon’s post actually references a Jane Friedman newsletter who pulled the concept from a book by Bill O’Hanlon. In his post, Kleon shares this quote from O’Hanlon:

“In my view, there are four main energies you can tap into when you write your book. The main writing energy you discover may be just one or you may find that you have a combination of more than one of these energies that fuels your writing endeavors. The four energies are Blissed, Blessed, Pissed, and Dissed. The first two represent the positive energies; the last two, the negative.”

According to O’Hanlon, we’re motivated to write by what we love and by what upsets us. Our inspiration is derived from some combination of Blissed, Blessed, Pissed and Dissed energies. On his post, Kleon describes each of these energies:

  • “Blissed” energy comes from what you’re on fire for and can’t stop doing.
  • “Blessed” means you’ve been gifted something that you feel compelled to share.
  • “Pissed” means you’re pissed off or angry about something.
  • “Dissed” means you feel “dissatisfied or disrespected.”

My colleague sent me the post with the simple message, “When I read your blog, I usually know which energies are motivating you.”

But I wonder whether everyone can. So, let me unpack the energies from last week’s post. Reading that post, one could probably divine that I was angry over something that was happening (I was!). While I wouldn’t go as far to say that I also felt dissatisfied or disrespected, there was a slight undercurrent of being “dissed.” The personal reflection of my earliest political demonstration probably emanated from a mixture of feeling blissed and feeling blessed, but I can’t say for sure. Sometimes, I’m in the moment and things connect in my head and I just go with it. It’s hard to conjure up those same energies a week or two out.

I also wonder whether these same energies apply to other forms of writing. I spent a good portion of this morning sending emails, and I can say with confidence that a handful were definitely derived from the “pissed” and “dissed” energies. Recognizing that, I should probably put some more positive energy into the world today. For what it’s worth, this post definitely originated from a “blessed” energy. It’s always cool to learn something new and to feel seen by those around you.

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