If they are highly sensitive, people tend to notice more of their outer and inner environments, and process more sensory information. All of which can help make us more creative.
Some areas of creative expression are especially appropriate for emotional sensitivity, an aspect of the trait for many people.
One example was actor Heath Ledger.
Director Todd Haynes commented after his death, “Heath was a true artist, a deeply sensitive man, an explorer, gifted and wise beyond his years.” His partner for several years, actor Michelle Williams commented about his vulnerability and underlying sensitivity.
[See my related post and video: Using Your High Sensitivity Personality As an Actor.]
In her famous quote on the subject, writer Pearl Buck said, “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.”
While I appreciate her perspectives, there are parts I don’t agree with: What does “truly creative” even mean, and is she implying that only those who are highly sensitive qualify as “true” creators?
Also, she says “inhumanly sensitive” as though it were some extreme condition – but research by psychologist Elaine Aron, PhD and others indicates the trait occurs with 15 – 20 % of people.
In an edition of her newsletter Comfort Zone, Dr. Aron writes that Buck “was saying all creative people are highly sensitive. I don’t know about that, but I know ALL HSPs are creative, by definition.
“Many have squashed their creativity because of their low self-esteem; many more had it squashed for them, before they could ever know about. But we all have it, as I will explain.”
Dr. Aron notes, “One of the best ways to make life meaningful for an HSP is to use that creativity.”
[Eric Maisel, PhD, author of The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression, notes that making meaning in our lives and work are especially important for creative. See my earlier post Dealing with Depression to Access Our Creativity.]
Dr. Aron continues:
“The simplest definition of creativity is the putting together of two or more things that no one (but YOU) would think to put together.”
“That is, something creative is something original. Usually we add that it is creative if it expresses a new meaning, provides a fresh insight, or proves useful. And we usually think of something creative as planned rather than chance, a conscious act, although that is not as important, because very little is chance.
“Usually it is the result of the unconscious or ‘serendipity’ after a person has worked on it awhile.”
This “working on it a while” may be more profound for highly sensitive people.
“HSPs are all creative by definition,” Aron adds, “because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.
“If nowhere else, we do this in our dreams–HSPs have more vivid, unusual dreams. That is the product of nighttime creativity. And on a trip we are especially likely to have our creativity stimulated, if we make time for it, because we are being exposed to so much that is new.”
Aron thinks creativity is not the same as talent.
“Talent is the skill you develop, or may in part be born with, to express your creative idea more exactly the way you want it or to be able to see more ideas because you are familiar with nuances.”
[From Comfort Zone – August 2006.]
Elaine Aron is author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.
See more quotes and video: “The Highly Sensitive Person: An Interview with Elaine Aron” in article “Being Highly Sensitive and Creative” (an excerpt from my book with that title).