Traits of Creative People

30 08 2009

from Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention

by Mihaly Csikszentmaihalyi

The Ten Dimensions of Complexity

Are there traits that distinguish creative people? If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it would be complexity…… It involves the ability to move from one extreme to the other as the occasion requires.  But creative persons definitely know both extremes and experience both with equal intensity and without inner conflict. It might be easier to illustrate this conclusion in terms of ten pairs of apparently antithetical traits that are often both present in such individuals and integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

1.  Creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest.

2.  Creative individual tend to be smart, yet naive at the same time.  Why a low intelligence interferes with creative accomplishment is quite obvious.  But being intellectually brilliant can also be detrimental to creativity.  Some people with high IQs get complacent, and , secure in their mental superiority, they lose the curiosity essential to achieving anything new.  Learning facts, playing by the existing rules of domains, may come so easily to a high-IQ person that be or she never has any incentive to question, doubt, and improve on existing knowledge.  This is probably why Goethe, among other, said that naivete is the most important attribute of genius.

3.  The third paradoxical trait refers to the related combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.

4.  Creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other.

5.  Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion.

6.  Creative individuals are also remarkably humble and proud at the same time. Another way of expressing this duality is to see it as a contrast between ambition and selfishness, or competition and cooperation.

7.  Creative individuals to a certain extent escape this gender role stereotyping.

…….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.

8.  Creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent, Yet it is impossible to be creative without having first internalized a domain of culture.  A person must believe in the importance of such a domain in order to learn its rules: hence, he or she must be to a certain extent a traditionalist. It is difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the some time rebellious and iconoclastic. The willingness take risks, to break with the safety of tradition, is also necessary. The economist George Stigler is very emphatic in this regard: I’d say one of the most common failure of able people is a lack of nerve, They’ll play safe games…

9.  Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well.  The energy generated by this conflict between attachment and detachment has been mentioned by many as being an important part of their work.

10.  Finally, the openness and sensitivity of creativity individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.  (58-76)

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