Read this list of eighteen traits of highly creative personalities in the Huffington Post and you’ll find no surprises: Creative people daydream, observe, make their own hours, enjoy solitude, make use of obstacles, seek new experiences, and ask big questions. They like to people watch, take risks, express themselves, follow their passion, and get out of their own heads by taking on other’s perspectives. They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression. And, of course, as we all know, they lose track of time (and other things. When I was a girl, my mom used to tell me I’d forget my head if it wasn’t attached. It infuriated me because it was true).
Defining the so-called creative person is complex and paradoxical, and it goes beyond stereotypes. It’s deeper than the right-brain, left-brain theory. Science doesn’t have the full picture of how the imaginative mind works, but it involves a number of cognitive processes, neural pathways and emotions.
I think creativity is somehow obvious on the outside, too, but I’m not sure how this works. The other day I went into Twin Sight Optical to look for new eyeglasses, and the owner said to me, after helping me for about 5 minutes, “You’re an artist, aren’t you?” How did he know? Was it the asymmetrical haircut? My Marimekko tennies? The scarf I sewed from my deceased son’s favorite t-shirts? I also recall talking to a new neighbor years ago, who said, “Oh, yes, you’re an artist. I can tell by your necklace.” This confused me. It was just a beaded necklace.
Apparently, from reading the comments after the Post’s article, some people object to the definition of the creative mind. One person, a poet, wrote that creativity is something “anyone can hone and practice and thereby master.” And “Who would want to identify themselves as uncreative, really?” she asks. “Creativity is not a personality type. Creativity is something anyone can hone and practice and master. It takes time, effort, tears, self-doubt, and the ability to learn from others, and some people may have been raised in households that have fostered creativity more than others, but it just seems silly to draw this distinction. Anyone can be creative. It’s not a gift. Just a learned skill.”
It’s true that the list of traits in the article makes creativity sound lofty or admirable, but my husband would be fine if you called him uncreative. In fact, he wouldn’t want to have the same mindset as I do. I think he’d drive himself crazy. He’s a happy realist.
Realists may employ creative problem solving in their workplace, but that isn’t the same as having a creative personality. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t or don’t follow their passions, or that they have no passion. My engineer husband seeks new experiences and makes use of obstacles. He asks plenty of big questions, but they are not the same questions that I ask. He’s observant, and likes to people watch, too but what goes on in his head is different from what takes place in mine. His daydreams are not like mine. He likes routine, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have spirit. He definitely connects the dots. He’s able to see the big picture when I get bogged down.
A creative personality is no picnic. My husband can focus all day long whereas I can’t turn my creativity on at will, which can create a problem in school or the workplace. He stores facts and details about the world that amaze me. He actually remembers the stuff he learned in grade school. I had a difficult time in school. I was a daydreamer. I got good grades, but I had to work really hard to get them. Yet, I can remember long stretches of imaginative play from my childhood. I used to lay on the floor of the living room and imagine it was upside down, so we walked on the ceiling. I imagined it flooded with water so we could swim from room to room, diving over the doorway arches.
Yes, there are definite differences in the mindset of the creative person vs. a realist, none of which are better or worse. Just different. We need both in this world.