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Creative People Cross Boundaries

Creative people often have personalities and inner experiences that are intense and beyond ordinary in multiple ways.

“I’ve been accused of being ‘too much’ all my life. Too loud, too fast, too smart, too multi-talented, too audacious.”

Writing and creativity coach Cynthia Morris goes on to write, “I’ve never been able to live according to that external standard of ‘just right’…It’s the job of the artist and writer to reflect what they see and feel. This expression of their art and talents must be larger than life.”

From her article Creative People Shouldn’t ‘Tone It Down’ – where I also used this photo of Sarah Bernhardt (1844 – 1923), a French stage and film actress, who has been referred to as “the most famous actress the world has ever known.” [Wikipedia]

In a post on her Creative Synthesis blog, Lisa Rivero refers to the creative research and writing of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who “studied the lives of over 90 eminent creative producers and thinkers to learn what they had in common.”

[One of his books: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.]

Rivero notes, “What he found is that the creative personality has no template. Being adaptable is key to using our creativity effectively, so we cannot expect even our own personality to be the same from one creative venture to the next.”

That is a valuable perspective. I appreciate his ideas on the complexity of the creative personality, such as being “Both extroverted and introverted, needing people and solitude equally” (read more in my post The Complexity of the Creative Personality) and Rivero includes the idea of flexibility for these traits.

It is helpful not to confine anyone – including ourselves – to a category like introversion, and to realize that complexity can also mean fluidity.

Rivero explains that Csikszentmihalyi presented “ten pairs of what we usually think of as antithetical traits that highly creative people ‘experience both with equal intensity and without inner conflict,’ pairs he referred to as ‘dimensions of complexity.’ Our temptation to label and pigeonhole others is often for reasons of our own comfort and efficiency. If we know Johnny is an extrovert, we know, or we think we know, what to expect from him and what his needs are.

“However, to encourage children to give themselves more options for how to feel, think, and act, we can refrain from typecasting them as either/or and, instead, give them permission to be both/and: Both extroverted and introverted, both playful and disciplined, both feminine and masculine.”

Read more in the informative article Be More Creative Today by Lisa Rivero.

Of course, this applies to us as adults as well. I have often been struck by how many talented actors and performers have those kinds of apparent dichotomies: extroverted and introverted, playful and disciplined, feminine and masculine, and others.

Nicole Kidman, for example, travels and speaks globally as an actor, and as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and for UNIFEM, but has said “I am very shy – really shy – I even had a stutter as a kid, which I slowly got over, but I still regress into that shyness. So I don’t like walking into a crowded restaurant by myself; I don’t like going to a party by myself.”

From my article: Nicole Kidman – a brief profile of high ability and complexity.

Shyness and introversion can overlap, and we may have both traits (even at different times, to different degrees) – but they are not the same thing. And they are not the same as the trait of high sensitivity – also part of the complex personality of many creative people.

For more, see my article Shyness, Introversion, Sensitivity – What’s the Difference?

Look for Part 2 of this post next week.


Creative People Cross Boundaries

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. (2013). Creative People Cross Boundaries. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 11 Jan 2013
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