The Incongruous, Improbable Creative Personality


Fast Company has a great article on the paradoxical traits of creative personalities based on the work of psychology professor and noted creativity expert Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi that rang true for me as both an artist and a geek.

Here are a few of my favorites:

2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.

“It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.”

To create, you need both wisdom and innocence; you must be able to approach a problem with a beginner’s mind, but with something truthful and relatable and human to say.

5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted.

We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.

Performers especially seem to exhibit this trait in my experience; we’re very good at being bright and bubbly and connected with those around us, but we also need lots of alone time to recharge our batteries.

7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping.

When tests of masculinity and femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.

Rigid categories of any type don’t fit creative souls; and this goes for gender as well.

10. Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment.

“Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake. Without this trait, poets would give up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles, economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities, and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.”

Robert Scoble asked a very insightful question about this at Dent 2014: “why is it that so much beauty comes from painful stories?” Creativity seems to be the child of human suffering and our immense will to heal.


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