The Creative Personality - Ten paradoxical traits of the creative persona

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living.

Creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity.

Language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding, and technology-- are the result of creative power.

When we're creative, we feel we are living more fully than during the rest of life. The excitement of the artist at the easel or the scientist in the lab comes dose to the ideal fulfillment we all hope to get from life, and so rarely do.

Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.

If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it's complexity.

They show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an "individual," each of them is a "multitude."

Here are the 10 antithetical traits often present in creative people that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

1. Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they're also often quiet and at rest.

They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm. It seems that their energy is internally generated, due more to their focused minds.

This does not mean that creative people are hyperactive.
In fact, they rest often and sleep a lot.

The important thing is that they control their energy. It's not ruled by an external schedule. They consider the rhythm of activity followed by idleness or reflection very important for the success of their work.

2. Creative people can be Highly sexual, yet often celibate.
They seem to have quite a strong dose of libidinal energy, which some express directly into sexuality.

At the same time, specially when they are working, they can maintain a stage of celibacy for years.

3. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time.
A certain immaturity, emotional, social and mental, can go hand in hand with deepest insights. An example of the same is Mozart.

Creative People are experts at using two opposite ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent.
In Convergent thinking involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer.

Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. 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.

What matters is the dimensions when these ways of thinking is used.

4. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
There is no question that a playfully light attitude is typical of creative individuals. But this playfulness doesn't go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, perseverance.

5. Creative people alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.
Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. The rest of society often views these new ideas. as fantasies without relevance to current reality.

What makes a novel idea creative is that once we see it, sooner or later we recognize that, strange as it is, it is true.

6. Creative people trend to be both extrovert and introvert.
We're usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines.

Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously. They can be extremely extrovert in areas of their expertise and extremely introvert in other areas.

7. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time.
It is remarkable to meet a famous person who you expect to be arrogant only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead. Yet there are good reasons why this should be so.

These individuals are well aware were they stand. Their mind makes them aware of the long line of previous events leading to current post. Hence they can be extremely humble in situations where they are praised.

At the same time, they know have accomplished a great deal. And take to pride, specially when someone disrespects their thought process.

8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative.

It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture/knowledge.

Most people follow a single thought process they are either traditional/conservative or rebellious...

Creative people can internalize both attitude and use the ones that they feel right in a situation.

"The idea to create something is not the aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating. The need is to break out of tradition and express yourself in the most positive way possible".

Hence creative people have the willingness to take risks, to break with the safety net of tradition for their emotional freedom.

9. Most creative people are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.

When creating, creative personality are so passionate and involved in the work that they flow in the moment.

Unlike most people, soon they detach and move away from that moment.

Thats when they become very objective and critical of the work created.

This trait gives them the capacity to forget bad memories very fast, become critical about it and enjoy the present much more.

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

Creative expression is everything for them. But because people cannot understand that, they find themselves more than often alone. This exposes their vulnerability.

They value work in terms of energy spent on it. So even the smallest of work might be extremely dear to them.
Extreme criticism of their work makes them feel alienated. They might fail to understand why people cannot appreciate the energy they have put into it.
Lack of appreciation, specially from "important people" make them feel they are loosing on their creative quality.
This leads to feeling misunderstood, trying to adjust to popular requirement, sense of emptiness and sadness, extreme restlessness and addictions.

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. It gives them extreme joy that no money can ever buy.

Dr.Hemant Mittal

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