Creativity defies a single definition or description; it’s a nature and a skill set that is both focused and multifaceted. Just as creativity in itself is widely varying, so too the characteristics of creativity vary between people. Yet, there are some characteristics – of the following 15 – that seem to be more predominant as relates to the creative personality.

Creative people tend to demonstrate or possess the following traits:

  • Awareness of creativity
  • Imagination
  • Daydreaming
  • Persistence
  • High energy
  • Independence
  • Risk taking
  • Open-mindedness
  • Curiosity
  • Sense of humor/playfulness
  • Attraction to complexity
  • Artistic interests and aesthetic perspectives
  • Sensitivity and intensity
  • Perception
  • Need for privacy and alone time

Let’s look at these each a bit closer, shall we?

Awareness of creativity – Creative individuals are most often thinking about possibilities and noticing creativity in their surroundings. Their inclination toward this type of thinking allows more opportunities for creative ideas to incubate, develop, and reach expression.

Imagination – Imagination is central to both the creative personality and the creative process. Creativity often involves fantasizing, daydreaming, and other imaginative forays. Imagery also plays a key role in creative thinking and conceptualizing; in fact, creativity may engage more deliberate forms of mental imagery – that is, creative individuals have been reported to have more control over their mental images

Daydreaming – Creative individuals are often thought to be zoning out or daydreaming. And, indeed, daydreaming seems to play a key role in the creative process. While engaged in this seemingly inattentive state, thoughts are surfacing and connecting in ways that may lead to “creative ahas.”

Persistence – Creative thoughts will stay just that – unless acted upon. Creative activity requires persistence. For creativity, to be realized, one must take the next step – and perhaps a leap of faith – and begin that painting, short story, or new garden design – whatever creative pursuit fuels your passion.

High energy – High energy often comes with creative pursuits. High energy dances with the passion that often comes with the creative process and fuels the persistence just discussed.

Independence – Creativity requires doing things differently and a willingness to both go against the crowd and to stand apart from more common ideas – while standing for one’s own inspirations.

Risk taking – An independent person is inherently one who takes risk – large or small. Creativity brings with it at least a modicum of risk taking, including – intellectual, social, psychological, emotional, and, yes, at times even physical risks. Think of the Wright brothers, Cesar Chavez, Marie Curie, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Open-mindedness – The ability of creative persons to be independent and to risk new ideas is at least in part due to open-mindedness. Creative individuals tend to be open-minded, willing to consider possibilities, and able to tolerate ambiguity while contemplating an idea.

Curiosity – Open-mindedness naturally leads to curiosity and questioning, and the creative impulse inclines one toward exploration and investigation. “How does this work?” “Why is it like that?” “How can we make it better?”

Sense of humor/playfulness – Humor is associated with an ability to approach problems – and life in general – in a fresh, childlike manner. Humor in the form of puns, satire, and farce engages the imagination by approaching topics with an unusual twist. (Image:John Wilhelm)

Attraction to complexity – Creativity is not a simple concept or process. Often creative enterprises bridge disciplines, styles, materials, techniques, cultures, geography, and time periods. Creative people tend to be drawn to complexity and may at times strive to make that which is simple more complex – to add interest and intrigue.

Artistic interests and aesthetic perspectives – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – a prominent psychologist who studied creative people and processes – found that people who are engaged in a creative careers and creative pursuits have personality and value differences when compared to others. For example, the more original the work of an art student, the more extreme are her standards of a personal aesthetic. Similarly, many creative scientists value a sense of aesthetics over commercial reward or recognition.

Sensitivity and intensity – I have long studied the work of Kazimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychologist and psychiatrist, who worked with and studied the development of gifted, talented, and creative youth. He discovered that these young people were far more sensitive and intense than their more typically developing age peers. Dabrowski referred to this sensitivity and intensity as overexcitabilities. These overexcitabilitites come in five forms: psychomotor, sensual, imaginational, intellectual and emotional. This capacity to be intensely stimulated and to stay stimulated provides fuel for creative pursuits.

Perception – Creative individuals seem to have heightened perception – enhanced experiencing and awareness of the five senses – perhaps seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and hearing with greater sensitivity and intensity. Further, heightened perception often brings with it a certain keen awareness of qualities and experiences that others may not share. Often, this is referred to as insight or intuition.

Need for privacy and alone time –Creativity requires alone time; time to think, ponder, imagine, explore, tinker, and let ideas incubate. We must strive to guard our private time, if we wish to create. Adults and children alike tend to be overscheduled in this day and age. But, creativity requires unstructured time – time to daydream and wonder.

So, now I am wondering how these qualities relate to you and perhaps your partners, children, friends and families. Will thinking of these qualities encourage you to explore your own creative potential further? Will you look at the qualities of your children, family, and friends from a slightly different perspective? In any event, I hope you found this month’s topic of interest, and if you’d like to know more… of course, I have some book and video recommendations.

Wishing you well – until we connect again next month. Susan

PLEASE NOTE: This post was based on writings from Raising Creative Kids by Susan Daniels, Ph.D., and Daniel B. Peters, Ph.D.. Used with permission.

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