Extracts from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity – Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention
5. Creative people seem to harbor opposite tendencies on the continuum between extroversion and introversion. Usually each of us tends to be one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show.
The stereotype of the “solitary genius” is strong and gets ample support also from our interviews.
Yet over and over again, the importance of seeing people, hearing people, exchanging ideas, and getting to know another person’s work and mind are stressed by creative individuals.
6. Creative individuals are also remarkably humble and proud at the same time.
Another way of expressing this duality is to see it as a contrast between ambition and selflessness, or competition and cooperation. It is often necessary for creative individuals to be ambitious and aggressive.
Several persons mention that in the course of their careers motivation has shifted from self-centered goals to more altruistic interests.
7. Creative individuals to a certain extent escape this rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.
8. Generally, creative people are thought to be rebellious and independent. Yet it is impossible to be creative without having first internalized a domain of culture.
So it is difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.
“This idea to create something different is not my aim, and shouldn’t be anybody’s aim. Because, first of all, if you are a designer or a playful person in any of these crafts, you have to be able to function a long life, and you can’t always try to be different. I mean different from different from different.” Eva Zeise
9. Most creative persons are very passionate about their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well. The energy generated by this conflict between attachment and detachment has been mentioned by many as being an important part of their work.
10. Finally, the openness and sensitivity of creative individuals often exposes them to suffering and pain yet also a great deal of enjoyment.
Ever since the Romantic movement gained ascendance a few centuries ago, artists have been expected to suffer in order to demonstrate the sensitivity of their souls.
It is also true that deep interest and involvement in obscure subjects often goes unrewarded, or even brings on ridicule.
These occupational hazards do come with the territory, so to speak, and it is difficult to see how a person could be creative and at the same time insensitive to them.
Perhaps the most difficult thing for a creative individual to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness experienced when, for some reason or another, he or she cannot work.
And then you’re beginning again. You hope. Sometimes the hiatus will last not overnight but for weeks, months, and years.
Yet when the person is working in the area of his or her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss. Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake.
These ten pairs of contrasting personality traits might be the most telling characteristic of creative people.
But what is important to keep in mind is that these conflicting traits—or any conflicting traits—are usually difficult to find in the same person. Yet without the second pole, new ideas will not be recognized. And without the first, they will not be developed to the point of acceptance. Therefore, the novelty that survives to change a domain is usually the work of someone who can operate at both ends of these polarities—and that is the kind of person we call ‘creative’.
Source: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity
“Try to be surprised by something every day” M. Csikszentmihalyi