The Creative Personality Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  1) I have devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work. If I had to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it's complexity. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an "individual", each of them is a "multitude".
  2) Here are some traits that are often found in creative people. These traits are integrated with each other in a dialectical manner.
  3) Creative people have a great deal of physical energy, but they are also often quiet and at rest. They can work long hours with great concentration while remaining fresh and enthusiastic all the time. This does not mean that creative people are always active. In fact, they rest often and sleep a lot. The important thing is that they know how to control their energy, which is not ruled by the calendar, the clock or an externalschedule. When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types immediately recharge their batteries. This is not a biorhythm inherited with their genes; it was learned by trial and error as a strategy for achieving their goals.
  4) Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. Another way of expressing this dialectic is the contrasting poles of wisdom andchildishness. As Howard Gardner reveals in his study of the major creative geniuses of the 20th century, a certain immaturity, both emotional and mental, can go hand in hand with deepest insights.
  5) Earlier studies on superior mental abilities show that children with very high IQs do well in life, but after a certain point, IQ does not seem to be correlated any longer with superior performance in real life. Later studies suggest that it might be difficult to do creative work with a lower IQ, but an IQ beyond 120 does not necessarily imply higher creativity.
  6) Furthermore, creative people seem able to use well two opposite ways of thinking: the convergentand the divergent. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas;flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. Yet divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and for this, we must rely on convergent thinking.
  7)
  3. Creative people alternate between imagination and a deeply-rooted sense of reality. Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present. In fact, the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we
now consider real and create a new reality.
  8)
  4. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We're usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, incurrent psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered to be the most stable personality traits that distinguishpeople from each other. Creative individuals seem to exhibit both traits at the same time.
  9)
  5. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time. These individuals stand "on the shoulders of giants". Their respect for the area in which they work makes them aware of the long line of previous contributions to it. And they're usually so focused on future projects and current challenges that past accomplishments, no matter how outstanding, are no longer very interesting to them.
  10)
  6. Creative people are both rebellious andconservative. Being only traditional leaves an area unchanged; constantly taking chances without regard to tradition rarely leads tonovelty. But the willingness to take risks is absolutely necessary. The economist George Stigler is very emphatic in this regard, "I'd say one of the most common failures of able people is a lack of nerve. They just play safe games. In innovation, you have to play a less safe game, if it's going to be interesting. It's not predictable that it'll go well."
  11)
  7. Most creative people are very passionateabout their work, yet they can be extremely objective about it as well. Without the passion, we soon lose interest in a difficult task. Yet without being objective about it, our work is not very good and lacks credibility.
  12)
  8. Creative people's openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment. Inventors have a low threshold of pain.Things bother them. A badly designed machine causes pain to an inventive engineer, just as the creative writer is hurt when reading bad prose.
  13) Being alone at the forefront of a discipline also leaves you exposed and vulnerable. Eminence invites criticism and oftenvicious attacks. When an artist has invested years in making a sculpture, or a scientist in developing a theory, it is devastating if nobody cares.
  14) Perhaps the most difficult thing for creative individuals to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness they experience when, for some reason, they cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels his or her creativity drying out.
  15) Yet when a person is working in the area of his or her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of happiness. 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. Without this trait, poets would give
up striving for perfection and would write commercial jingles; economists would work for banks where they would earn at least twice as much as they do at universities; and physicists would stop doing basic research and join industrial laboratories where the conditions are better and the expectations more predictable.
 

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