“If there is one word that makes creative people different from others, it is the word complexity.”
Writer Juliet Bruce, PhD adds that creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced me-high chick-sent-me-high-ee) notes:
“Instead of being an individual, they are a multitude.
“Like the color white that includes all colors, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves.
“Creativity allows for paradox, light, shadow, inconsistency, even chaos – and creative people experience both extremes with equal intensity.”
Here are a few qualities he lists, as Bruce summarizes:
* A great deal of physical energy alternating with a great need for quiet and rest.
* Highly sexual, yet often celibate, especially when working.
* Smart and naïve at the same time. A mix of wisdom and childishness. Emotional immaturity along with the deepest insights.
* Convergent (rational, left brain, sound judgment) and divergent (intuitive, right brain, visionary) thinking…
* Both extroverted and introverted, needing people and solitude equally.
* Humble and proud, both painfully self-doubting and wildly self-confident.
* May defy gender stereotypes, and are likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other as well. A kind of psychic androgyny.
* Can be rebellious and independent on one hand, and traditional and conservative on the other.
* A natural openness and sensitivity that often exposes them to extreme suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Despair alternates with bliss, despair when they aren’t working, and bliss when they are.
Bruce adds, “The most important quality among creative people, says Csikszentmilhalyi, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake.”
From post by Juliet Bruce Understanding Creative People.
Also see Csikszentmihalyi’s article The Creative Personality: Ten paradoxical traits of the creative personality.
Also see his book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention.
The Creative Personality by James Taylor, founder of C.SCHOOL™, a personal development company for creative professionals and organizations, and Music Business Institute.
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Artists may be more serious and aloof
An article by Steven Zeitchik about actor, writer, producer Zoe Kazan notes she is “the offspring of two Oscar-nominated screenwriters, Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, and her grandfather is that Kazan…
“Kazan says she was a lonely child. Her folks bucked the caricature of the overscheduling Westside parent in favor of plenty of unstructured time at home, where she and her sister were encouraged to daydream. (“It was dolls but with no dolls.”)
“Her friend group at school — Wildwood, Windward, Marlborough — could be limited, owing to her adolescent bookishness.
“Sometimes I was the only person raising my hand in class. I would almost get upset at everyone — like ‘why don’t you care more?’” she said. “It became very important to me to be loved by teachers.” …
“Kazan’s social blossoming happened at Yale, where she found common ground with like-minded text nerds.
“I remember the first time I met Zoe,” said New York theater director Lila Neugebauer, a classmate and close friend who will direct “After the Blast.”
“Even at 20, nothing was trivial; nothing was surface. There was a kind of underlying gravity.”
Said Kazan: “I’m a very serious person. Unfortunately, sometimes.”
The director of ‘The Big Sick’ (co-starring Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani), Michael Showalter said that Kazan “does not suffer fools easily.”
“The point raises uncertainty when cited to her. “I’m trying to understand what Michael means by that. It seems like, what, not an adage, maybe an axiom?”
Ethan Hawke, whose stage directorial effort “Things We Want” ranks among Kazan’s theater credits, noted how her single-mindedness played at the audition.
“She came in and just started breaking down this play with all these killer insightful comments,” he said. “I walked out of there thinking ‘this is a very serious human being.’”
From article: Zoe Kazan, an intense intellectual in a Judd Apatow world by Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2017.
[Photo from Zoe Kazan Facebook page.]
Research on young artists
A research study reported by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi concluded that “young artists, compared to college students of their age and sex, tend to be significantly more socially reserved and cool, aloof in their relations with other people.
“They tend to be serious and introspective as opposed to carefree and other-directed.”
“Cat people” are more creative
In her powerpoint presentation Introduction to Creativity, KH Kim, Ph.D. writes:
Creative people tend to:
* be much traveled
* have friends younger & older than themselves
* have mentors
* have childhood trauma, especially among artistic creators
* have less formal education for the most eminent creators
* be left-handed
* be first-born (for status quo scientists & political leaders, & classical composers)
*be later-born (for revolutionary scientists & political leaders, & creative writers)
* own a cat
* have a childlike approach to a problem
* have a sense of humor
KH Kim is a professor of innovation and creativity at the College of William and Mary, and author of The Creativity Challenge: How We Can Recapture American Innovation.
In her book, she details much more about personality and social aspects of developing creativity.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 2:
(CLIMATES, ATTITUDES, AND THINKING SKILLS)
Let’s explore my creative CATs model to better understand the nature of creativity and, more important, how to best teach it to children.
One of the reasons for the name CATs is that creativity is literally related to cats.
More creative people identify as “cat people” rather than as “dog people,” or they choose to own cats rather than dogs.
(Reference: journal article: Personalities of Self-Identified “Dog People” and “Cat People” by Samuel D. Gosling, Carson J. Sandy and Jeff Potter.) [PDF]
Perhaps creative people are too busy creating or traveling to take a dog out for a walk? Perhaps they’re curious or independent like cats?
(But hopefully not to the degree in the saying “curiosity killed the cat” — phrases like this actually kill curiosity; instead, say, “curiosity makes good cats,” because curious cats are actually good at testing limits and determining what’s harmful or beneficial.)
Another reason for the name is that CATs stands for three practical steps for innovation.
They are: cultivate creative Climates (step 1); nurture creative Attitudes (step 2); and develop creative Thinking skills (step 3).
One of the intriguing personality areas described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is androgyny.
The photo is actor Tilda Swinton.
Part of her power as an actor and many of her characters is in their androgynous looks and energies.
Swinton has said she is fascinated by the question, “How do we identify ourselves, and how do we settle into other people’s expectations for our identity?”
She once commented she is “very often referred to as ‘Sir’ in elevators and such” and that it “has to do with being this tall and not wearing much lipstick.
“I think people just can’t imagine I’d be a woman if I look like this.”
[She won a 2008 Oscar for her role in “Michael Clayton.” The image is from a Facebook page.]
But androgyny is more than appearance.
Kathleen Noble, PhD, a professor and psychotherapist who works with many gifted clients, said in our interview, “Gifted women tend to be highly androgynous… they tend to combine qualities that we tend to ascribe to both genders.
“So for instance, you get women who are highly sensitive and highly empathic and compassionate (which are all components of psychic ability), combined with high energy and high drive, high independence and autonomy, which are qualities that the culture rewards in men but not in women.”
Ellen Winner comments in her book Gifted Children: Myths and Realities, “Perhaps because gifted children reject mainstream values, they reject gender-stereotyped traits as well. …
“Csikszentmihalyi’s talented females scored highly on achievement motivation and dominance, two traits associated with males, and rejected traditional feminine values such as neatness.”
She adds, “The gifted boys in his study scored highly on measures of sensitivity and aesthetic values, two traits typically associated with females, and rejected the stereotypical male trait of bravado.”
[Winner was referring to his book: Talented Teenagers : The Roots of Success and Failure.]
Perhaps consciously expanding boundaries such as gender stereotypes can help us be more fully creative and expressive.
[Photo above is from the Illustration section (under the Art & Design tab) of the CreativeLive learning site.]
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Factors of personality that predict creativity
This image is from a post by psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, who also refers to the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and summarizes newer research:
“Psychologists Guillaume Furst, Paolo Ghisletta and Todd Lubart present an integrative model of creativity and personality that is deeply grounded in past research on the personality of creative people.
“Bringing together lots of different research threads over the years, they identified three ‘super-factors’ of personality that predict creativity: Plasticity, Divergence, and Convergence.
“Plasticity consists of the personality traits openness to experience, extraversion, high energy, and inspiration…
“Divergence consists of non-conformity, impulsivity, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness…
“Convergence consists of high conscientiousness, precision, persistence, and critical sense. While not typically included in discussions of creativity, these characteristics are also important contributors to the creative process.”
See his fascinating article (in his Scientific American blog) for much more: The Messy Minds of Creative People.
Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
He is author of the books:
Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind (co-author: Carolyn Gregoire).
See many other titles on the list: Books To Fuel Your Creative Mind.
Being so complex, many creative people experience emotional and mental health challenges – here are some resources:
Emotional Health Resources
Meditation programs, biofeedback devices, stress relief products
YouTube / Mental Health – Emotional Health videos
Facebook / Emotional Health and Creativity videos
Anxiety Relief Solutions site