Many authors and coaches declare that we can benefit from using our gut reactions, hunches, instincts – that using material we get in addition to the usual senses and rational thought can guide our personal development and enhance creativity.
The photo is writer, producer, director Guillermo del Toro and a creature from his acclaimed movie “Pan’s Labyrinth.”
He has commented on a couple of different aspects of intuition and its presence in our lives:
“When you have the intuition that there is something which is there, but out of the reach of your physical world, art and religion are the only means to get to it.”
He also spoke about people having two levels of thought: “One is conscious and the other unconscious or subconscious…
“Every time I star in a film, I think I cannot act. I’ve tried to pull out of almost every one I’ve done because of sheer terror.”
Nicole Kidman continued, “I can always come up with a list of actresses who would do better and try to convince the director to cast someone else.
“My mother keeps telling me to call it quits. She thinks my nature is too fragile for acting.
“She’d love it if I was a writer and had a more secluded life. I agree.” [Reuters Feb 17 2003]
Being sensitive and perfectionistic, perhaps also insecure, leads many creative people to be vulnerable to some degree of anxiety.
“It is also good every so often to go away and relax a little for when you come back to your work your judgment will be better, since to remain constantly at work causes you to deceive yourself.” Leonardo da Vinci
Of course, everyone can benefit from getting rest and relaxation, but one of the common personality traits for many, if not most, creative people is high sensitivity – which may require that we get even more rest and renewal.
That may be a reason that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi noted in his list of ten traits of the creative personality, “Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they’re also often quiet and at rest.”
He found that many creative people he studied and interviewed worked “long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm.
As a child, when Einstein was introduced to his newborn sister, he supposedly asked, “Where are the wheels?”
It may not be the best example of divergent thinking, but it is so fun I’m using it anyway.
Divergent thinking is one of the defining qualities of creativity and creative people. It refers to ‘diverging’ from the known or accepted, to access new ideas.
One form of it appears in creativity tests, which, for example, ask you to come up with as many solutions as possible to open-ended problems such as: “How many uses can you think of for a shoe?”
“I think I’m a weird combination of deeply introverted and very daring. I can feel both those things working.”
Characteristics of creative people noted by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, based on his research, include this:
“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.”
He adds, “In fact, in current psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.”
“I still have pretty much the same fears I had as a kid. I’m not sure I’d want to give them up; a lot of these insecurities fuel the movies I make.” Steven Spielberg
There can be many flavors of anxiety related to creating – thinking about a project, worrying whether a description of a character in your novel has the right tone, self-doubts about your acting scene that felt wrong – and on and on.
And being successful and accomplished does not magically relieve anyone of fear and anxiety.
Psychologist Robert Maurer, PhD, has worked with many writers and other creative people, and thinks fear may be indispensable for creative expression.
Schizotypy, a milder version of schizophrenia, can enhance creative expression for some people.
Some research studies have found that artists and schizophrenics scored equally high on “unusual cognition.”
So how “unusual” can our imagination get to still be “sane” yet creative?
In his article “The Creative Personality…” psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes that creative people “alternate between imagination and fantasy, and a rooted sense of reality.”
“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” Dr. Seuss
“It takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” Gertrude Stein
Paradox is a defining quality of many personality characteristics of creative people, according to psychologist and creativity researcher Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
In his article The Creative Personality, he includes these perspectives :
Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility.
There is no question that 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.
In my earlier post Highly Sensitive and Creative: Latent Inhibition, I referred to a study which found that the nervous system of creative people appears to be more open to stimuli from the surrounding environment.
One of the authors, Harvard psychologist Shelley Carson, commented that her research “indicates that low levels of latent inhibition and exceptional flexibility in thought predispose people to mental illness under some conditions and to creative accomplishments under others.”
[You can also hear my podcast interview with Dr. Carson.]
In his new post Why Daydreamers Are More Creative, cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD covers a number of fascinating topics relating to the creative mind, and he explains, “Latent inhibition is a filtering mechanism that we share with other animals…[and] involves the ability to consider something as relevant even if it was previously tagged as irrelevant.