We may watch a movie or TV show, read a novel or listen to music, and appreciate that the authors, those identified as artists, are certainly “creative types” – but what about the producers and set designers?
Or the computer engineers at digital animation companies like Pixar?
The MacArthur Foundation has a mission to “support creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world” and acknowledges there are many kinds of creators, awarding its renowned fellowships to a wide range of people: playwrights, novelists, dancers, botanists, economists, chemists, physicians, psychologists and many others.
A number of psychologists note that many personality traits connected with ADD and ADHD are also associated with highly creative people.
This is a topic I have addressed in previous Creative Mind posts, but here are some new perspectives, inspired by a documentary by Lisa Ling who was diagnosed with ADD during the course of her research for the project.
She commented, “As a journalist, when I’m immersed in a story, then I feel like I can laser-focus. But if I’m not working, my mind goes in every direction but where it’s supposed to go. I’ve been like that since I was a kid.”
One of the themes of creativity research, and many psychologists and creativity coaches, is how crucial beliefs and attitudes are in developing our creative abilities.
Psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson talks in the audio clip below about the prevalent idea of ‘genius’ for whether someone can be creative – or even aspire to be.
She also writes about focus and creating, and that “to be a successful creative, you need to not only be a good generator, but also a good evaluator. The problem is that in practice, it’s remarkably hard to be both.
“It’s better to be a pirate than to join the navy.” Steve Jobs
According to some writers and research, some of the “big names” of creativity and innovation share personal qualities with various sorts of “misfits.”
In her Forbes magazine article, writer Erica Swallow refers to the book “The Innovator’s DNA” which lists several “disruptive innovators” including a number of creative and business leaders such as Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Meg Whitman (eBay) and Sharon Aby (Beyond Ideas).
What seems to be a setback, error or limitation, may often be valuable for encouraging more creative thinking and innovation.
Valerie Young writes about two “mistakes” that resulted in very successful products:
“Did you know, for example, that Post-It-Notes were the result of what 3M Company researchers at first thought to be a bad batch of glue?
What leads, urges, even compels so many of us to be creatively expressive?
Given that everyone is creative to some degree, why do many people choose careers in the arts, or work that actively engages their creativity?
Most of us will never be actors or other filmmakers – especially ones that are seen and acknowledged publicly – but many of those creators talk about what calls them to engage in creative work, despite the challenges.
One example: Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress on March 2, 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”
In her moving acceptance speech, she noted one source of inspiration for her portrayal of a slave: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”
She also thanked director Steve McQueen: “You charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life.”
Wilson thinks that with our “feel good” culture and the “widespread use of happy drugs, everybody’s trying to be cheerful and there are no decent dollops of melancholy and sadness. When this happens, art becomes bland, unchallenging and redundant.”
Genn notes, “Dr. Thomas Svolos of the department of Psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine thinks Wilson is right. ‘When you’re melancholy, you tend to step back and examine your life,’ he says. ‘That kind of questioning is essential for creativity.’
Maybe you kept a diary – or still do. Or use a notebook as a helpful tool for personal growth, to track thinking and inspiration.
Artists, as well as entrepreneurs and other creative people, often use storyboards, journals, mindmapping and other idea tools for developing creative projects.
As a child or teenager, we were perhaps more freely creative, but as supposed “grown-ups” we face fears and uncertainties about our talents, or the marketplace value of a particular form of expression, or what our investing in a project means – both for us, and others.
Some forms of creative work may have structures and guidelines to follow, at least during some stages, but at some point the venture is, well, creative. You need to make things up.
There can be many inner threats and challenges to all these aspects of creating.
Author Milli Thornton describes one example: a CPA who kept shutting off his dream to write.
In Part 1 of this article Eric Maisel talks about moving from an everyday mindset of “getting things right” to a creative mindset “where huge mistakes and messes are permitted and even welcomed.”
But many of us tend to be perfectionistic – which can help drive excellence, but may also support anxiety and creative constriction.
Psychologist Stephen A. Diamond notes “Were it not for perfectionism, we would be in short supply of all those myriad human activities we deem extraordinary, excellent, outstanding or great in quality.”
But in his Psych Central article “Perfectionism: Adaptation or Pathology?”, Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D. notes, “Somewhere on a continuum between normality and pathology there is a point at which the behavior results in functional impairment.” Read more in my post Too Much Perfectionism.
Coach and author Barbara Sher has a helpful perspective on this.