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Developing Creativity: Embrace Chaos

“I thrive making order out of chaos.”

Painter Amadea Bailey continues in her thoughtful Artist Statement, “I love taking the irrational world of my emotions, hopes, fears, dreams, desires and idiosyncrasies and sculpting and re-arranging them in myriad ways until order is found.

“And paradoxically in this process my mind becomes still. I open myself up to something much bigger than myself.”

From my post Painter Amadea Bailey: making order out of chaos.

In our interview – The Psychology of Creativity: redeeming our inner demons – psychologist Stephen Diamond commented that creativity “can be understood to some degree as the subjective struggle to give form, structure and constructive expression to inner and outer  chaos and conflict.”

Of course, there are different sorts and levels of chaos, but even ADD/ADHD may have its benefits, as David Neeleman, former CEO of Jet Blue Airways (who revealed in 2000 he had been diagnosed with the disorder) noted: “In the midst of all the chaos in your mind, and all of the disorganization, and all the trouble getting started, and procrastination, your brain just thinks a little bit differently. And you can come up with things.”

The idea of the benefit of chaos is also advanced by author Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers, The Story of Success).

In a response to a question about his video “Creative Types: Embrace Chaos” (on the Big Think site), he comments, “Anyone who is in a creative space…you have to reverse the normal human tendency, which is to edit.  Creative people…their brains are messy. Their imaginations are messy.

“Why, because they don’t want to throw anything out…they believe on some level that there is always something of interest or value in whatever they encounter.

“They know enough about how mysterious and serendipitous and unpredictable the creative process is that they realize that it’s dangerous to kind of make too hasty a judgment about the value of anything that they come across…

“Embracing of messiness and understanding its contribution to the creative process is something that writers and creative types, artists, whatever have got to cultivate, have to learn to be comfortable with. Because it goes against a lot of our kind of instincts and training as kind of educated people.”

Creativity and innovation consultant Linda Naiman comments in her Creativity at Work site post “Malcolm Gladwell on why creative types need to embrace chaos” about the video and the topic: “In my experience as a creativity educator, fear of chaos presents one of the biggest barriers to becoming more creative in the workplace. Non-creative types especially need to embrace chaos, and not run away from it. Chaos is part of the creative process, and you miss out on  if you avoid it.

“To make the most of chaos, look for patterns, and connections between disparate data to formulate innovative ideas.”

Naiman is co-author of Orchestrating Collaboration at Work: Using Music, Improv, Storytelling, and Other Arts to Improve Teamwork.

She also includes in her post one of my favorite quotes: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Developing Creativity: Embrace Chaos

Douglas Eby

Douglas EbyDouglas Eby, MA/Psychology, is a writer and researcher on psychology and personal development related to creativity; creator of the , and author of books including [link to book site with excerpts.]
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APA Reference
Eby, D. (2011). Developing Creativity: Embrace Chaos. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Feb 2011
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