The Myth of the Creative Personality

Is there such a thing as a creative personality?

Yes and no. But mostly no.

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is one of the most respected and influential academic researchers in the field of creativity, pioneering the concept of Flow, the hyperfocused state of elite artists, scientists, athletes and others in which they lose themselves in optimal efforts.

Another of his books (Creativity) is based on interviews with a hundred of the most exceptionally creative people across a variety of fields. I suppose the point is to find out what the rest of us ordinary human beings can learn from these superheroes. But the impression I walk away with is that there is no point in mere mortals like you and me even trying. We either have it or we don’t.

That is an unfortunate message, because basically I think it is balderdash.

Yes, there probably are some inherently hypercreative people. And good for them. But the rest of us can still grow and expand our creative gifts, even if we aren’t blessed with a so-called creative personality.

For example, the work ethic (and its cousin, perseverance) are totally underrated when it comes to creativity. We can all grow in discipline, in stick-to-it-tiveness. We can all grow in Grit. Creativity does not just happen in moments of flow but over a period of weeks and even years as scientists pursue a problem and artists hone their craft.

As I’ve said in Write Better, one key to creativity is to expose ourselves to as many different experiences and ideas as possible because the essence of creativity is combining two or more previously existing things or concepts. The more we have in our mental grab bag, the more likely we are to come up with a unique combination. Again, it’s something ordinary people can do and grow in—not just the elite.

DNA, birth order, culture and much else have a major impact on how creative we might be. But don’t you believe that they tell the whole story.

photo credit: mohamed Hassan from Pixabay (hero); Günther Aichhofer, Pixabay (ants)

Author: Andy Le Peau

I've been an editor and writer for over forty years. I am passionate about ideas and how we can express them clearly, beautifully, and persuasively. I love reading good books, talking about them, and recommending them. I thoroughly enjoy my family who help me continue on the path of a lifelong learner.

One thought on “The Myth of the Creative Personality”

  1. I could not agree more! A friend of mine said: If you want to be an artist it takes 10% talent (if you are lucky) and the rest is hard, consistent work. I think he is right. I appreciated the chapter in your book where you wrote about exposing yourself for many kinds of ideas and experiences. I really took that to heart and looked at my own actions. When I am stuck in my writing I go for a walk, when I feel “empty” I am looking for an art exihibition or listen to music. The work of other fellow beings moves me on, where would I be without them?
    Thank you for this post, it made me think.

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