Creativity researchers have long-ago accepted the fact that creative people are complex. Almost by definition, creativity is complex, reports Huffington Post. ” Creative thinking is influenced by many traits, behaviors, and sociocultural factors that come together in one person. It would be surprising if all of these factors didn’t sometimes, or even most of the time, appear to contradict one another.
“As creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi notes in his 1996 article for Psychology Today entitled “The Creative Personality,” creative people “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.”
“To me, some of the most fascinating contrasts are those found in creative performers — those who are constantly on stage and in the public eye. Out of Csikszentmihaly’s list of 10 complex personality traits of creative people, which were based on interviews with a wide variety of creative people, I think these three are the most relevant to creative performers:
“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…This does not mean that creative people are hyperactive, always “on.” In fact, they rest often and sleep a lot. The important thing is that they control their energy; it’s not ruled by the calendar, the dock, 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 the success of their work.
“Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We’re usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliability measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.
“Creative people’s openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment… Being alone at the forefront of a discipline also leaves you exposed and vulnerable.
“These three seeming contradictions — energy/rest, extroversion/introversion, and openness/sensitivity — are not separate phenomena but are intimately related to one another and along with other traits form the core of the creative performer’s personality.
“All three are also linked to what Elaine Aron refers to as a highly sensitive personality (HSP). HSP’s make up 15-20 percent of the general population and tend to be more aware than others of subtleties, get more easily overwhelmed when things get too intense or there is too much sensory input, are easily affected by other’s moods, and are deeply creative and moved by arts and music. Some of the most creative people have very high levels of sensitivity.
“A recent study illustrates this point. Psychologist Jennifer O. Grimes went to three major summer metal rock tours, including one of the largest heavy metal/hard rock festivals in the world — “Ozzfest.” Talk about extroverted performers! Grimes interviewed 21 musicians associated with signed touring acts in an isolated room backstage for approximately 20-25 minutes.
“Behind the curtain, how did these hard rock musicians describe themselves? Below are some of Jennifer’s impressions (for a fuller summary, see here).”
Introversion / Extroversion
- All participants showed interest in physical activities but also reported requiring “alone time.”
- Most participants reported “overthinking everything” and being hypercritical, exhibiting critical attention to detail and a careful method of planning everything.
- Those familiar only with the subjects’ stage persona believed the subjects to be friendly, bold and approachable. The acquaintances who were able to respond to Grimes’ interview questionnaire reported that the subjects were not approachable or appeared to hold a condescending view of others until one became better acquainted with the individual. Those closer to the musicians thought they were warm, friendly, calm and pleasant.
- The introverts in her sample seemed adept at using introversion and extroversion in various facades to manipulate their appearances to the various circles of friends, acquaintances and others. As Grimes puts it, musicians were adept at “juggling multiple faces” (I really like this way of phrasing it!).
- Many of Grimes’s participants felt as though they were often misunderstood or perceived in a negative light, sometimes due to shyness.
Openness / Sensitivity
- The musicians in Grimes’s sample reported being in the zone onstage, and being able to “tune out” external stimuli unrelated to the task. At the same time, Grimes found a lot of the musicians reported a heightened sensitivity to their surroundings and their experience of sound, lighting, scents, etc.
- All of the musicians reported some degree of unusual perceptions, especially relating to high sensory sensitivity.
- All participants described music as a means of self-expression, relating to others, and finding fulfillment. Subjects reported that listening to or creating music allowed them to recharge when overstimulated.
- Musicians reported that any amount of inhibition hindered creative production. Apparently, this was a conscious decision: artists explained how they learned to work with the process so that they did not unintentionally inhibit their creativity by blocking their own flow.
- Many of Grimes’s subjects showed an appreciation of fantasy; daydreaming was commonly reported.
- Grimes concludes that it is her hope that the stereotyping about introversion will cease to pervade introversion literature without unbiased support for those claims.