The Creative Personality

7149966049_9b7a43b2a9_cIn modern western society, we like to pretend we love and support creativity.  It brings us innovation and entertainment, after all.  Without highly creative people, we wouldnot have personal computers, iPhones, Facebook, or movies.  We wouldn’t have great paintings or books to read or light bulbs or cars or drugs to stamp out tuberculosis. Creativity is an absolutely necessary element of society and moving society forward.

In fact, however, as much as we like the product of creativity, we often abhor and dislike the personality traits that go along with high creatives.  In college, as a psych minor, I took a class on the psychology of creativity. The text was Guiding Creative Talent, by Ellis Paul Torrence.*** It blew my mind.

For the first few weeks, I couldn’t stop journaling about what I was learning.  I wrote and wrote and wrote—because all this time, I’d thought I was just strange, and actually I was actually simply a high creative.  By then, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but the process of becoming one still seemed completely at odds with what my family did, what the people I knew did, what ordinary people did.  The class gave me validation.

It is not easy to actually be a creative person, as most of you probably already know. We are a society that values extroversion, concrete progress, measurable results. Chances are good you are at least on the introvert side of the line.  This is a helpful trait when you are going to spend your life sitting in a room by yourself, not talking to other people for many hours every single day. It isn’t so helpful when it comes to throwing parties or being popular with teachers in elementary school.

The mental and personality traits that make it possible to be creative can also be annoying and irritating to the rest of society.  Aside from the crime of introversion, creative people are often non-conforming, haughty, brilliant, intense, restless, prickly, with a sense of destiny (see the whole list here).  Steve Jobs is not know for being a real swell guy, for example, but his legacy of elegance of form married to power of function is one of the best of his generation.

Do you see any of those traits in your personality? One of my struggles is with impatience.  I’m hostile to the phone and think texting is one of the great inventions of all time. As a teen, I was so non-conforming that my father went crazy, which only made me more rebellious.  (Creative teens are actually at high risk for derailing in any number of ways, because the drive to fit in is so strong—and we don’t fit.)

And yet, here we are. Adults now. Armed with a completely odd set of virtues and talents and quirks. Like tenacity and an ability to tolerate failure. Thomas Edison tried over 10,000 variations before he came up with the incandescent light bulb. Many of his other inventions failed completely and some ideas never bore fruit at all.  That’s Thomas Edison, who still holds the records for patents granted at 1093.  He also famously found benefits in being somewhat hard of hearing, saying that reading beat the babble of conversation. Sound familiar?

How many rejections have you tolerated? How many times have you realized a book just was never going to work and set it aside, material for the compost heap of your imagination? That’s you, being creative, engaging in that part of your nature that knows it takes a lot of failure to find success in creativity.  It’s a joyous part of the process, taking us step closer to success, to clarity, to engaging with the right stuff.

Finally, it must be said that we’re all a little weird. Or a lot weird.  Maybe all humans are, but creatives tend to have a larger than usual number of eccentricities.  On a board I’m on, we had a discussion of pens and paper, and it was hilarious to me how all of us had very specific needs. A black medium point gel pen and a yellow legal pad.  A Clairefontaine notebook with a fountain pen (and a cup of coffee with two sugars and soy creamer).  Midnight, silence, green tea and an Alphasmart. In other ways, we have our specific periods of oddness.  I know I get very weird at the end of a book—I have trouble living in both worlds and I’m highly emotional and almost raw when touching the real world. It’s not an easy time to live with me.  Luckily I, like many of us do, have found a partner who balances my eccentricities with some of his own.

Society loves our products, not our oddness, but that’s okay.  Once we’ve weathered childhood and discovered the great joy to be found in exploring our imaginations, the payoff is so huge we don’t mind. Mostly.

When did you know you were a little different from other people? Do you recognize some of the traits of creativity in yourself? What aspects of being creative are most rewarding? Most challenging?

***I highly recommend this book and its insights, especially if you’re coping with a highly creative child. It’s old, but still valid, and aside from the pleasure I found in recognizing my tribe, it was an immeasurable help to me when I found myself with a highly gifted, highly creative child who was NOT EASY to raise. Lots of used copies are available at Amazon.

 

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About Barbara O'Neal

Barbara O'Neal has written a number of highly acclaimed novels, including 2012 RITA winner, How To Bake A Perfect Life, which landed her in the Hall of Fame. Her latest novel, The All You Can Dream Buffet has just been released by Bantam Books in March. A complete backlist is available here.

Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this lovely post today, Barbara!

    I grew up in a family of nurses: Mom & Dad worked critical care and intensive care respectively; sister is in physical therapy school; grandmother and aunt were/are med techs. I was the only one in the family with an obvious drive to create and decidedly went against the family grain when it came to “career options.” My parents always wanted me to do something practical (like teach, which isn’t for everyone), but the writer in me had other plans. Now a days, I am a lot more comfortable in my writer skin… but still I’ve had episodes where I sit back and realize how strange I am compared to them. And yet… I was made the way I am, and I couldn’t imagine it being any different… even if it means I’m by myself most of the time. I’m glad I’m in good company as far as eccentrics go!

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    • says

      My sister is a nurse. She used to say, “You’re weird.” And yes, yes I am.

      I’m sure I embarrassed the heck out of her at times, but well…I didn’t actually mean to.

      Glad you found your way.

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  2. says

    Barbara-

    “…it takes a lot of failure to find success in creativity.”

    On WU there’s plenty of polite angst. The process is *hard*. (Hardest of all when the writing is over and the pitching begins.)

    To be sure, it’s a bit much to ask authors to shout, “Woo-hoo! I wrote crap today!” But it’s good to remember that it’s not all crap, maybe it’s more like panning for gold. Or training for the Olympics.

    Searching, sweating and daily practice add up to steady progress. I wish there was a measure for that. (“Hey, I’m 83.46% of the way there!”) There isn’t. But there is encouragement, and that’s why we’re here.

    Speaking of that, thanks for recommending Guiding Creative Talent. Didn’t know about it. This morning there were five used copies on Amazon at reasonable prices. Now there are four. (It’s also in a pricey new edition at http://www.powellls.com and elsewhere.)

    I’m not sure the way we fix our coffee makes us eccentric, but as a kid I always felt different. We moved a lot. I was constantly behind or ahead in school. I started learning on my own.

    In college I went to England and made up my own courses. For some (“Experimental British Cinema, 1970’s”) I had trouble finding teachers who could grade my theses. It was all weird but I learned to think for myself. Twenty books, many workshops and a busy literary agency later I’m grateful for the isolation that led me to my life.

    My wife Lisa and I, as many know, have recently been through a couple of tough years dealing with our adopted son’s trauma. We lacked understanding and support. We’re coming out of that phase now into a time that feels normal–well, normal for us.

    We’ve talked a marathon. A recurring theme has been, where are the people like us? Family is far, neighbors are young and single, and colleagues at work live frenetic New York lives.

    I said to Lisa, “You know where I feel most at home–? At writers’ conferences…and at Writer Unboxed.” This is my cafe, church basement, juice bar at the gym. Right now I’m toasting you all with a cup of coffee–strong and black, in case you were wondering.

    Thanks, Barbara.

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    • says

      I really should have checked for a new edition. Not sure why it didn’t occur to me that it was still in print, especially because it’s so amazing.

      Here is the link to the NEW edition.
      http://www.powells.com/biblio/61-9781258450809-1

      I feel that way about WU, too, Don, and writers conferences, and any time I can hunker down with my writer friends. I’m going on retreat with a group in just over a week and can’t wait to get into the discussions I know we will have.

      We are glad you’re part of our tribe, that’s for sure. Raising my cup of coffee with soy milk and real sugar. (The coffee/tea stuff was just embroidery. Because that’s just what I do. :) )

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    • says

      Don,

      “Searching, sweating and daily practice add up to steady progress. I wish there was a measure for that. (“Hey, I’m 83.46% of the way there!”) There isn’t. But there is encouragement, and that’s why we’re here.”

      Have you seen Hugh Howey’s site? He has a number of bar graphs showing his progress on his various writing projects. I’m afraid my bar graphs would collapse when I realized my protagonist had to become a bit player.

      My bar graph says simply, “I’m working on it.”

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    • Tina says

      Donald Maas,
      My husband and I are older parents (both 50) with a 10 year old daughter. We have been very lucky since she has had no major traumas. I’m happy to hear that your family is recovering.
      WU is an interesting and informative community.
      I haven’t attended any of your workshops but I am thinking of signing up for the one in Oregon next April.

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      • says

        Being an older parents has advantages, don’t you find? (6am alarm for early school bus pick up isn’t one of them.) Glad you’re thinking about the Hood River workshop, Tina, hope to see you there.

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  3. says

    I always knew I was different – it was hard not to notice.

    Unfortunately, I grew up in Mexico, where social conformity is a virtue, and I was odd – tolerated because I came from a ‘good’ family.

    I was halfway through grad school in physics before the lightbulb went on – I joined Mensa and instantly found other odd people, and they were delightful. Some of them.

    I don’t mind any more – as you say, creative people are actually useful to the rest of the world, and you are what you are.

    But it’s nice to understand WHY – because otherwise you are just odd and not quite satisfactory, since at least I couldn’t do all the things other people seemed to do so easily.

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    • says

      ABE, how wonderful that you found yourself in grad school! Physics can be a highly creative pursuit, too. Scientists and writers have a lot in common. Although I suspect musicians and scientists are more alike.

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  4. Jeanne Kisacky says

    I enjoyed this post, thanks Barbara. The difference between creative/fittingin has been hitting closer to home for me lately because I’m not only dealing with my own creative idiosyncracies but my daughter’s. It seems like more and more children who don’t fit the ‘mold’ have not only been seen as different they’re being labeled or even misdiagnosed with mental illnesses. (see, e.g. http://www.salon.com/2013/09/21/thats_not_autism_its_simply_a_brainy_introverted_boy/)
    That’s scary to me. How do we nurture creativity when it’s seen as social dysfunction?

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    • says

      Jeanne, that’s horrifying–and I’m sure it happens all the time. The traditional school model tends to discourage rather than encourage creativity, and many of the outlets that used to be part of the daily model–art class, music class–have been dropped in pursuit of the all mighty test scores. I even had my children in a school for the arts and sciences and had to battle parents who were afraid of the learning models that foster creativity–eventually I lost.

      You’ll love the book. Your daughter is lucky to have you as an advocate.

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  5. says

    “Society loves our products, not our oddness…” You said it! I was a daydreamer as a kid and the perpetual “outsider.” This is a lonely place when the world worships “insiders.” But being the outsider does serve creativity, I think, because we are so different and thinking differently from the ruling majority. Great post, Barbara.

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  6. says

    I am also one of the lucky ones who has a partner who balances me and my creative craziness. He knows that when I’m talking about someone, it’s usually a character and not a “real” person. He’s always up for playing the “What if…?” game when we’re out and about. And when I interrupt him mid-conversation to grab for my notebook and pen, he waits patiently for me to get down what I need to before he continues talking. :)

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  7. says

    I started writing songs at age eight. I’ve been creative both in music and words ever since. I think creativity helps me think outside of the box and to keep a positive outlook on life. The biggest challenge is that it takes too much of my time and keeps me from being real and practical at times.

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    • says

      That is the trick, right? How to balance the creativity with practicality. One does need both to live in the real world.

      That’s where those concrete tasks like cleaning house or mowing lawns or tinkering with engines can be so helpful, grounding us in the real world.

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  8. Deb Lieberman says

    Such an interesting and thought-provoking post! I always tell my daughters that their complicated, creative minds are both a blessing and a curse . . .

    But their lives are far richer as a result–and they agree.

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  9. says

    “Ah.” That’s what I say when I click over to the blog and see your profile icon at the top of the page. I know I’m going to be encouraged, excited to dig into my own work, and often moved when I see a Barbara O’Neal post on deck.

    I knew I had an unusual grasp of history at a young age. I’m the youngest of four, and my eldest sister is ten years my senior. When I was in grade school, my bedroom was in our remodeled basement. All of my siblings’ text books were stored on shelves my dad built-in downstairs. From the time I was about 10 to 16, I often spent the better part of each night awake reading. And whenever I was between novels, I dug into those old text books – most of them written at high school or college level. My parents, bless them, sort of gave up on trying to get me to turn off the light and go to sleep (it had to have been wearying by #4).

    I particularly loved the history textbooks (science, too, but hardly a glance at the math textbooks). The side problem was that I was bored in my actual classes. But I found a few great teachers who fostered my state of unbalanced advancement and eccentricity. Thank God for them! I realize I’m a writer now because of the indulgences of my parents and those few teachers who went the extra mile to keep my mind engaged through my troublesome teen years.

    I agree with Don, that this group of friends and colleagues met through WU offers so much comfort and camaraderie. Raising my (also black) coffee in salute as well (no preference on the paper, but I prefer pencil–specifically a Dixon Ticonderoga #2, thank you very much)!

    Thanks for making me say “Ah” every month, Barbara!

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    • says

      Vaughn, I love seeing that glimpse of you as a boy, reading and reading and reading. Sounds like you were a classic gifted high creative. You were lucky to have the parents you did….and here you are, a writer!

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  10. says

    This was such an inspiring post. It brought back teenage memories of sobbing inconsolably on my bed because I couldn’t figure out how to make the simple kinds of conversation everyone else made while my mother cautiously inquired, “Are you sure you’re not taking drugs, honey?”

    There’s a price we pay for creativity. It felt intolerably high in adolescence, but now, I feel like it’s the thing that makes me feel alive and fills me with inexplicable joy.

    I should probably read that book. :)

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    • says

      Oh, Johanna, that touched me so deeply! “Are you sure you’re not taking drugs, honey?”

      Happy you made it to this side and you are now filled with joy over your gift. Yes, you might really enjoy that book.

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  11. says

    Interesting. What is also interesting, however, is that people can modify their behavior, to a certain degree, to fulfill societal expectations. If they want to. It’s hard work, but it’s doable, and probably necessary in this day and age when personality may be important in selling books. My post today asks about what the author’s responsibility is regarding social media. If she hates it and doesn’t use it, does it hurt her book sales? If she uses it only one way, does it help? Or is the only effective way to use it two ways? Might be a thorny issue for many shy, haughty, prickly types.

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    • says

      We can modify our personalities, but I’d ask: at what cost? While I would agree that life is easier if we find ways to interact with others and play nice at business dinners and such things, maybe the creativity is a completely different thing from the marketing and the business. The creativity is a more delicate creature, and therefore requires protection. If some writers feel that all the social media demands are damaging to the work they might produce, I say they can walk away. I’d rather see great books than great tweets. If you can do both, go for it, but not everyone can. We are not machines to be programmed.

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  12. Denise Willson says

    At a parent-teacher meeting, my grade ten teacher once told my mother, “Your daughter marches to her own drummer.” My mother’s response, “All she wants to do is dance.”

    My mother told me this story later, years later. At the time, what she actually said was that my teacher thought I was perfect.

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth

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  13. says

    Amazing post, Barbara. I knew I was different as a child and felt like an outsider looking in, which is why I turned to books and writing. But as a teen I did fit in and my creativity began being rewarded so being different felt good.

    I do think the hardest part of being creative for me is living with myself and trying to stay in the present moment (when not writing) and controlling the drive I have to solve problems or change things – fiction and in real life – and living in two worlds at the same time. Restless, impatient, but also an extrovert who loves speaking and book club visits. Yoga, walking and meditation help me get out of my head, which I call a squirrel circus. Now I’m going to go into my cave and write for a bit.

    Hey, I love know when I come back out you’ll all be here for me.

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    • says

      Malena, yoga, walking, and reading are good for me, too. I call that circus my four year old, who is constantly, constantly asking questions about absolutely everything.

      Julia Cameron urges us to be in the moment, and not create drama. Sounds like you’ve found ways to do that.

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  14. Kathleen says

    I loved every word of this post! I never really thought of myself as a “creative” person, I just thought I was lucky to have found a passion. A passion for writing Childrens Books. But the eye opening reality came when reading this post. There is more to me than meets the eye, I am different, I am special. Thank you for that. :D

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  15. says

    I have distinct memories of my mother telling my older sister to stop calling me weird. Mom wanted me to be me and not feel strange about it. I have always appreciated my parents’ unconditional support and encouragement, whether I spent a month straight alone in my room reading and never invited a friend over or went to Girls’ State to learn how to lead and govern others. My parents were never interested in bucking social norms (they were squares in the 1960s, not hippies) but they were always supportive of my creativity. So I grew up believing creativity and conservatism were not at odds (and I still believe that). I like to think of it as a more subtle, subversive creativity. It runs into far less opposition than some other types of creativity, which is helpful. :)

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  16. says

    Thanks for directing readers to this book, Barbara. I relate to many of the characteristics in your list – particularly self-starter, curious, likes complexity and aware of others. I dislike disorder in the sense that it is noisy and driven, but I also respect it in the sense that it signifies change or transition to something new. In this, I am open to possibility and interested in what might come forth out of chaos. After all, isn’t fiction all about allowing chaos to come about so that a new equilibrium can emerge?

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    • says

      Exactly, Leanne. Not every creative will have every characteristic. I’m not a fan of disorder, either, but as I look around my desk right this second, I think I have a fairly high toleration.

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  17. says

    “The mental and personality traits that make it possible to be creative can also be annoying and irritating to the rest of society. Aside from the crime of introversion, creative people are often non-conforming, haughty, brilliant, intense, restless, prickly, with a sense of destiny.”

    Yep, I fit pretty much all of that, though I’m not haughty enough to consider myself brilliant. Growing up in a town that did not (in general) value or understand the creative mindset was a terrible challenge. It wasn’t until I was in college that I accepted that just because I lack the ability to comfortably mingle in a crowded room of strangers didn’t mean I had nothing of value to say.

    I’m now raising two highly-gifted, creative daughters. One does not care a whit that she doesn’t fit in with her “normal” peers. The other wants to fit in, but just can’t do it without sacrificing who she is. I’m grateful now that I grew up misunderstood by everyone other than my parents, who are also creative. I know firsthand what my daughters’ challenges will be and be in a position to make sure they get the support they need.

    Thank you for the book recommendation. I’ll check that out now!

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    • says

      Haughty is one those characteristics that is hard to pin down. I used to see it in my son who just dismissed people in ways that were rather harsh. I often had to explain to him that people weren’t not understanding him on purpose–they just didn’t understand what he was talking about. I’m sure you know what I mean.

      That son, like you, finally found his place in college–actually law school, where finally everyone around him had the same crazy brain.

      Glad you made your way here, Kim.

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  18. says

    I’ve heard of creatives being described as “people without skin”. I didn’t have a buffer to filter out all the emotions coming in or going out. Over time, I think I’ve manufactured a synthetic one so I can function.

    Now that I’m connected to the writing community and have a book contract, I’m meeting people like me and I’m working with people who are used to people like me. I’m easy to work with, but they give me the slack in the reins I need to do my thing, and the guidance I need to get where I want to go!

    It’s truly a joy to be a creative if you survive the early years!

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  19. Tom Witkowski says

    Like other here, I was going to share the story of my own personal weirdness and how I came to grips with it, but then I decided that would be too conformist.

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  20. says

    As I child I was always searching for kindred spirits. Everytime a new kid join my class, I’d haul them off to some corner of the schoolyard and “interview” them. Most, sadly, came up lacking.

    I am still searching …

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  21. says

    I spent twenty years as an advertising creative director riding herd on teams of writers, art directors and producers. There’s no question that creative people are different and I spent a tremendous amount of energy defending and protecting them from unappreciative account people, management types and clients, trying to give them space and freedom to let their imaginations run wild.

    Now as a writer, I’m riding herd on myself and it’s the same challenge, just a narrower scope. I’m grateful that I can create and work hard to give my imagination the space and time it needs to be really productive. What a marvelous curse to be creative, I’d be miserable any other way.

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    • says

      Tony, I too spent a lot of years as an advertising creative director, and my experience was much the same, including being a wall between my creatives and the account guys and brand managers. I’ve had several creatives let me know that they had no idea how much I had shielded them from until after I moved on. We’re a tribe, and one I’m glad to be a member of (a tribe that can shamelessly end a sentence with a preposition).

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  22. says

    I’m not convinced I am naturally “creative” in the sense the word is normally used. As a kid I excelled in mathematics as well as writing. In college I majored in Film Studies, and even published some of my writing. Then in about my mid-twenties I lost the creative impetus altogether and became an accountant. It was only a couple of years ago that I began to feel like being creative again. So who knows? Maybe some of us don’t fall neatly into one or the other category.

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    • says

      You almost completely detail my life! That is so bizarre. I enjoyed science but was also good in writing in high school, was a drama major initially, stopped out of school, was in a couple of bands while I worked in business and then went back to college to get a social work degree. I didn’t do anything creative for about 10 years, and then decided I craved creativity and started writing. I am always surprised when people say I’m creative because I also have a foot planted in that logical, scientific based world. I never thought I could be both!

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  23. says

    You asked: When did you know you were different?
    Well, I’m dyslexic and grew up in a rural community. So, needless to say, it didn’t take long to discover that truth.
    Dyslexics are driven to create. And once I hit middle school I was encouraged by devoted Language Arts teachers who overlooked misspells and rewarded my creativity.
    The world is full of odd people. Embrace your difference it will give you strength.

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  24. says

    Barbara,

    Your brilliant posts conform only to each other.

    Those who innovate do so by seeing both what has been done and what hasn’t, and the platform for that is having at least one foot outside the pale. Enter creatives. Writing beautifully about the view that conforms is acknowledged as boring by all except those desperate to conform (who are probably creatives with no support.)

    I read here that many creatives were supported by parents. In contrast, the greatest gift my family gave my 5 year-old self was to label me “mental” by which they meant mentally ill. (I didn’t conform and my longing for attention came out in ways they were not prepared for.) Fortunately, I learned quickly that I could often see things they couldn’t–no, I wasn’t hearing voices. This launched a fearless (call it haughty) journey to see what life really was outside the norm. It has involved a lot of uphill sledding, but the view from the heights is lovely and my work now is to bring it to the narratives. . . like all you other “normal” creatives.

    Cheers.

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    • says

      Tom, I’m glad you found a way through and now have lots of material to work with.

      It does make me sad when creatives are labeled mentally ill. Sorry that happened to you.

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      • says

        Thanks, Barbara,

        For your kind reply. I may not have stated it clearly. This was not a clinical diagnosis, but a fumbling family dynamic. In my case the label mental was blessedly liberating and I was very young to figure it out, just by doing what creatives do, which is to look. I saw that “normal” was really unhappy and hurtful. My cards dealt me a back-asswards way of securing permission to proceed on another course. The different drummer one.

        That said, nothing surpasses the journey of a creative more than at least moderate support from one’s family. Most very successful artists have been supported from their youth. If the muse is music or drama, having musician or actor parents is huge, because the chops can be played together, taught in real time. Writers writing together, not so much.

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  25. says

    I thoroughly enjoyed your post and the comments. Discovering your tribe is such a thrill. I was an odd child, with a terrible stutter, morbid thoughts, strange (to others) interests, and I became aware of it when I was about six or seven. I grew up in India, and a girl is supposed to conform. I did the best I could to avoid getting into trouble, but thank heavens, our thoughts belong to us! And so it does not bother me one bit, the oddness in my children. They are their own people … I like that in our home, we can nurture creativity. And thank goodness for my husband, who is a rock!

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  26. says

    Awesome! Actually this reminds me of a similar experience I had in MY psych class in college (I minored in psych). There was an info box–a little aside, with a nugget of information, not part of the main narrative of the textbook–spotlighting “eccentric” people. A lot of the items you listed exactly mirror the “eccentric” list:

    * Nonconforming
    * Creative
    * Strongly curious
    * Idealistic
    * Happily obsessed with a hobby (often more than one)
    * Aware from early childhood of being different from others
    * Intelligent
    * Opinionated and outspoken
    * Noncompetitive
    * Unusual eating or living habits
    * Not interested in the opinions or company of others
    * Mischievous sense of humor
    * Single
    * Eldest or only child
    * Bad speller

    As you might imagine, I saw myself in that list; the text said the first five are the most important, and that eccentric people probably have at least ten of the characteristics. I have all of them except “Bad speller” (being a good speller is tied into my obsessions, after all), and I don’t really think I’m “uninterested” in the opinions or company of others so much as I don’t take those opinions as requirements for how I should live my life.

    I love seeing acknowledgment that high creatives, and eccentrics, don’t have to be thought of as pathologically flawed or unsuited for society. We’re essential!

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    • says

      Julie, my partner is an eccentric. He is extremely competitive, largely because his “hobby” (obsession) is with certain strange sports. :) I found all his oddnesses so endearing–and I don’t think he was all that used to such a reaction. :)

      High five to you!

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  27. Carmel says

    Wonderful post. And it obviously touched on a subject we’ve all dealt with. It was so good to read the comments and get to know everyone a little better here on WU.

    I had one foot in and one foot out of mainstream for a lot of years. Now I know for sure that, while other people want to see things and buy things and go to ballgames and parties, all I really want to do is create. Some form, most any form, of creating.

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  28. says

    Wonderful post, as always, Barbara! For me, being an introvert as a kid resulted in spending a lot of time reading novels, playing my guitar and writing songs–activities, I now realize, that were excellent foundations for being a writer. That, and being comfortable with necessary solitude.

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  29. says

    A wonderful, thoughtful post, Barbara.

    Like so many others who have written here, I felt off kilter growing up. It wasn’t until I walked into Vermont College of Fine Arts that I looked around and thought: Ah, so here you all are. Finding the tribe has made all the difference to me. And it’s wonderful to find more of you here.

    Oh, and I just rushed to Amazon and snapped up Guiding Creative Talent. Thanks so much for the lead, Barbara.

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  30. says

    An excellent post, which I’ve just shared with my facebook friends.
    I have always been surrounded by creatives – my dad was an inventor, my husband writes non-fiction and our son is just starting a career in motion graphics. So creative people are the norm for me. It comes as a real shock to meet people who find us strange.

    The hardest thing for them to understand is that my husband and I like being away from each other, to recharge the batteries and be creative. They think that something is wrong with the marriage. There isn’t – we’re just two introverted creatives.

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    • says

      How lucky you are to have found each other and provided such a creative environment for your son!

      It is funny to me when partners DON’T want to spend some time traveling apart. We do that, too.

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  31. says

    Kindergarten was when I realized I wasn’t like other people. Looking back on it, there isn’t any specific thing that told me. There was a boy who picked on me, but I don’t remember that particularly upsetting me. I just knew I didn’t quite fit in. And it went down hill from there. :)

    Close family relationships gave me an “us” instead of a me, though. We are all weird, and it’s all right (although I struggled a lot in high school). I knew my husband was right for me because he fit right into my family. And we celebrate (both of our) creativity, but in regards to my uniqueness we say my “me-ness.” And the nicest thing he said to me was the other day when he said “Well, that’s what makes you – you. And I love it.” I wish that for all creatives.

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  32. Lisa Threadgill says

    I can relate quite well to this post. :) Until I was about twelve, I thought everybody heard people talking to them in their heads, telling their stories. Around that age, I learned different, and also that it was perhaps not the wisest thing to talk about said voices. In my schooling, I skipped ahead in grades and was put into a special program for what were considered “mentally gifted minors”. Not in math, that’s for certain! I excelled at the creative stuff, especially writing. I am by nature on the introverted side, and this has sometimes made things difficult. And I definitely have my little quirks and rituals. Now, I think of myself as old enough to let my freak flag fly.

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  33. says

    Odd child, teen? Oh, yeah. Adult, too. I once divorced a man because I refused to quit writing and be “normal.” No contest.

    I’ve learned over the years to fit in graciously with the rest of humanity. The trick is to do that without losing my true self.

    I’ve recommended Dr. Eric Maisel here before. He’s a writer and therapist with many helpful books for artists and writers struggling with the gift of creativity. He points out that part of our problem is that we don’t settle for easy answers, and insist on telling the truth. How unusual can you get?

    Thanks, Barbara, for great topic.

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  34. says

    I always felt it, and was never at peace with it, until I realized my son had inherited much of my personality. Seeing it in him, of course, made it beautiful. I wouldn’t want to be any other way now, because I sure wouldn’t want him any other way.

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  35. says

    Interesting list of traits! “Regresses occasionally”? Um…how about “on a daily basis”?

    I see my son on that list. He’s in his last year of high school and looking at careers; I’m so curious to see where he’ll land, because while he might have the traits, he hasn’t yet channeled them into a specific outlet. I expect the next few years will be an illuminating time for us all. Hopefully we’ll be an encouraging influence for him!

    I’ve always felt odd, but then I was born with a weird heart, which was impossible to conceal from neighbors, classmates, etc. Essentially, I had a choice to embrace the differences or be controlled by them. To that end, you say “defies conventions in health” is one quality of a creative? I was in medicine but never truly part of that world. Neat stuff, Barbara.

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  36. Laura says

    I’ve always known I was different, and in that awkward self-conscious period of youth all I wanted was to be accepted, then in junior year I wised up and thought, “why should I cloy for the approval of people I don’t even like?”. Ever since then I’ve owned my creative loner lifestyle and have been much happier.
    Nowadays I never realize how weird I really am, seeing as I move in a very small circle of people who enjoy my eccentricities, still it’s always eye-opening and amusing when I go to parties and realize, “Wow, I might just be a freak… Yay!”

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  37. says

    I didn’t realize other people didn’t have conversations in their heads till I went to college and found real friends who explained that not everyone was “creative” like me. lol.

    Great post! It’s not an easy road, but one we’re all on together.

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  38. says

    As others have said, I’ve always felt “different,” but never though of myself as creative until I worked in advertising. As it turned out, I was consistently regarded as one of the most creative people at the ad agency. It was total fun to work every day with a bunch of other “creatives.” I, too, am an introvert and was once terminally shy. But having to make presentations in my profession took care of that. Thanks for the list–it’s like a typewritten mirror.

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  39. says

    As a teenager, my non-conformist streak got smothered into conformity by the expectations of the people around me. Yes, they saw potential in me but for completely different things. They thought I’d be a doctor or a lawyer or some variation on the theme. It has taken me all this time to finally realize that I have a dream for myself and it’s OK to pursue it. It is not the easiest path but honestly, I haven’t felt more alive since I decided to seriously go after my dream.

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  40. Ali says

    I have known for quite a while I was different than the other people I grew up around and being around a large amount of people I get anxiety. I feel for everyone growing up with personalities like ours especially in this day and age where social media overrun society and social activities as a whole.
    And I’m glad I am not the only one with the weird needs when it comes to writing. I have to have a certain bpm music Playlist or a few select moviedo but only with headphones and in the middle of the night. Also I can’t have two different color pens on a single page or even in a chapter and have to be black and less than a 1.0 (I prefer .5 gel or some kind of dark ink).

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