Chapter 3 - the creative personality
- to be creative, a person has to internalize the entire system that makes creativity possible. So what sort of person is likely to do that? this question is very difficult to answer. 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 nothing else, this distinguishes them from the rest of us. but there does not seem to be a particular set of traits that a person must have in order to come up wiht a valuable novelty
- perhaps the first trait that facilitates creativity is a genetic predisposition for a given domain. On the other hand, sensory advantage is certainly not necessary. But a special sensory advantage may be respionsible for developing an early interest in the domain, which is certainly an important ingredient of creativity.
- without a good dose of curiosity, wonder, and interest in what things are like and in how they work, it is difficult to recognize an interesting problem. openness to experience, a fluid attention that constantly processes events in the environment, is a great advantage for recognizing potential novelty. Without such interest it is difficult to become involved in a domain deeply enough to reah its boundaries and then push them farther.
- a person also needs access to a domain. this depends to a great extent on luck. Being born to an affluent family, or close to good schools, mentors, and coaches obviously is a great advantage. (cultural capital). Those who have it provide their children with the advantage of an environment full of interesting books, stimulating conversation, expectations for educational advancement, role models, tutors, useful connections and so on.
- access to a field is equally important, some people are terribly knowledgeable but are so unable to communicate with those who matter among their peers that they are ignored or shunned in the formative years of their careers. Such a person may not have a chance to learn the latest information, may not be given the opportunity to work, and if he or she does manage to accomplish something novel, that novelty is likely to be ignored or ridiculed.
- access to fields is usually severly restricted. there are many gates to pass, and bottlenecks form in front of them. because of these bottlenecks, access to a field is often determined by chance or by irrelevant factors, such as having good connections.
the ten dimensions of complexity
- if i had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it would be complexity. By this I mean that they show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. Like the color white that includes all the hues in the spectrum, they tend to bring together the entire range of human possibilities within themselves. These qualities are present in all of us, but usually we are trained to develop only one pole of the dialectic.
- a complex personality does not imply neutrality, or the average. it is not some position at the midpoint between two poles. it does not imply, for instance, being wishy-washy, so that one is never very competitive or very cooperative. Rather is involves the ability to move from one extreme to the other as the occasion requires. Perhaps a central position, a golden mean, is the place of choice. 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.
- creative individuals have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest. they work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm. This suggests a superior physical endowment, a genetic advantage. yet it is surprising how often individuals who in their seventies and eighties exude energy and health remember a childhood plagued by illness.
- creative individuals tend to be smart, yet also naive at the same time. how smart they actually are is open to question. it is probably true that what psychologists call the g factor -meaning a core of general intelligence - is high among people who make important creative contributions. Another way of expressing this dialectic is by the contrasting poles of wisdom and childishness. furthermore, people who bring about an acceptable novelty in a domain seem able to use well two oppositve ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests and it involves solving sell 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 toswitch from one perspective to another; and originality n picking unusual associates of ideas. These are the dimensions of thinking that most creativity tests measure and that most workshops try to enhance.
- a third paradoxical trait refers to the related combination of playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
- creative individuals alternate between imagination and fantasy at one end, and a rooted sense of reality at the other. both are needed to break away from the present without losing touch with the past.
- creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion. usually each of us tends to be one or the other. creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to express both traits at the same time
- creative individuals are also remarkably humble and proud at the same time. it is remarkable to meet a famous person whom you expect to be arrogant or supercilious, only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead.
- first, these individuals are well aware that they stand "on he shoulders of giants". their respect for the domain in which they work makes them aware of the long line of previous contributions to it, which puts their own into perspective
- second, they also are aware of the role that luck played in their own achievements.
- third, they are usually so focused on future projects and current challenges that their past accomplishments, no matter how outstanding, are not longer very interesting to them.
- creative individuals to a certain extent escape this rigid gender role stereotyping. a psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses and can interact with the world in terms of a much richer and varied spectrum of opportunities. It is not surprising that creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too
- generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent. yet it is impossible to be creative without having first internalized a domain of culture. and a person must believe in the improtance of such a domain in order to learn its rules; hence, he or she must be to a certain extent a traditionalist. so it is difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.
- most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely ebjective 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.
- finally, the openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment. the suffering is easy to understand. the greater sensitivity can cause slights and anxieties that are not usually felt by the rest of the us. A badly designed machine causes pain to an inventive engineer, just as the creative writer is hurt when reading bad prose.
- these ten pairs of contrasting personality traits might be the most telling characteristic of creative people. of course, this list is to a certain extent arbitrary. it could be argued that many other important traits have been left out. but what is important to keep in mind is that these conflicting traits - or any conflicting traits - are usually difficult to find in the same person. yet without the second pole, new ideas will not be recognized. and without the first, they will not be developed to the point of acceptance. therefore, the novelty that curvives to change a domain is usually the work of someone who can operate at both ends of these polarities - and that is the kind of person we call "creative"