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The Creative Personality.

(6 minute read.)

'That explains a few things...'

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As an aid to understanding me…

Edited extract from 'Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People', Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

I've devoted 30 years of research to how Creatives live and work.

Creative individuals 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 ten traits often present in Creatives, that are integrated with each other in a dialectical tension.

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

  • They work long hours, with great concentration. This doesn't mean they're hyperactive, always 'on'. They rest often and sleep a lot.
  • Their energy is not ruled by an external schedule. When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types immediately recharge their batteries.
  • They consider the rhythm of activity followed by idleness or reflection very important for their work. This is not a bio-rhythm inherited with genes; it was learned by trial and error as a strategy for achieving their goals.

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

  • Contrasting poles of wisdom and childishness… immaturity, both emotional and mental, can go hand in hand with deepest insights.
  • They're able to use-well two opposite ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent.
    • Convergent thinking involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer.
    • Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves 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.
  • The generation of novelty is not the main issue. Some often claimed to have had only two or three good ideas in their entire career, but each was so generative that it kept them busy for a lifetime of testing, elaborating, and applying.
  • Divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and this selectivity involves convergent thinking.

3 Creatives combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.

  • 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.
  • 'If it takes a week to cut this, it'll take a week. Time is of absolutely no consequence'.
  • Despite the carefree air of many Creatives, most of them work late into the night and persist when less-driven individuals would not.

4 Creatives alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.

  • 'A leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present…' is something which society often views as fantasies without relevance to current reality. And rightly so.
  • This 'escape' is not into a never-never land. The point is to go beyond what we now consider real and create new.
  • Most assume creatives are strong on the fantasy side… whereas scientists, politicians, and businesspeople are realists. This may be so in day-to-day routine activities. But when a person begins to work creatively, all bets are off.


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