In 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. [Read more…]