Thursday, September 3, 2015

Creative People

A small section of my library with the works of creative people
On Sunday mornings I wake up to Krista Tippets’ NPR program On Being. It’s a wonderful program to wake up to. Every week she interviews people about interesting things. Recently, she had Rex Jung on. He’s a professor of neurology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. He’s also a distinguished Senior Adviser to the Positive Neuroscience Project based at the University of Pennsylvania, and he’s worked for years with Special Olympics.

I found the interview fascinating, although I missed a little coming downstairs and taking care of my dog and cats before I turned the downstairs kitchen radio on. So the other day, I went online and listened to it again and took down some notes. I tried to download his papers on the topic, but it was only available with a fee. Anyway, Jung’s working definition of creativity is that it is something both novel and useful. He also sees it as practical with often a common sense connection between creativity and family life, aging and purpose. Jung states creativity is different than intelligence and has more to do with how the brain networks are engaged. With intelligence ideas go quickly from the frontal lobe to the back lobe. It’s straight from A to B, while the creative mind is slower so ideas link together in different ways.

I wonder if that is why my son is always telling me to get to the point when I’m trying to tell him about something that’s happened. Maybe it has to do with my creative mind having a tendency to wander from A to Z, with a few side trips to other letters before reaching B.

Jung feels a sense of humor is a sign of creativity, too, especially when it takes a turn to the unexpected. Anyone who listens to Garrison Keillor’s  Prairie Home Companion will know what a creative genius he is.

Other things he pointed out regards the belief the left brain is logical, whereas the right brain is magical. That’s a myth and not true. Neuroscience studies show the wires that connect left and right brains works with both logical and magical thinking. Rex Jung also claims that the popularity of brainstorming doesn’t promote creativity like it’s believed to do because people conform to please others rather than come up with independent ideas. It is good for team building if not creativity. Of course, he admits writers working together for a TV series, etc., is a different story, because they have stronger wills and are more aggressive about getting their ideas across.

Although I couldn’t get Jung’s articles without paying for them, there were other articles I could download. One of them from Forbes I didn’t download when I read you’re more likely to be creative if you’re neurotic. Excuse me?????

I downloaded excerpts from Human Motivation by Robert E. Franken I found in an article titled “What is Creativity?” from California State University, Northridge. I will only add a little from several pages I downloaded. Franken wrote “In order to be creative, you need to be able to view things in new ways or from a different perspective. Among other things, you need to be able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives."  It also refers to novel products of value like the airplane.

Franken states the characteristics of the creative personality show they have a great deal of energy, but are also quiet and at rest. They tend to be smart and yet naïve. They have a combination of playfulness and discipline. They alternate between imagination and fantasy, as well as a rooted sense of reality. They tend to have tendencies of both introversion and extroversion. They’re humble and yet proud at the same time and often thought to be rebellious and independent. They are very passive about their work, yet can be extremely objective about it as well. Their sensitivity often exposes them to suffering pain, and yet also a great deal of enjoyment.

From “The Creative Personality” in Psychology Today by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyl – yes, that’s his last name.  He states of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. He calls it full-blast living. He claims creativity is a central source of meaning in our lives. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the result of creativity. It’s what makes us different from apes – our language, values, artistic expression, scientific understanding and technology – the result of individual ingenuity recognized, rewarded and transmitted through learning.  He says when we’re creative; we feel we’re living more fully than during the rest of life, like the excitement of the artist at the easel, the writer working on a story, poem or book, or any other creative endeavor one works at.

For thirty years he researched how creative people lived and worked, in order to understand the mysterious process by which they come up with new ideas and new things. One of the things is their remarkable ability to adapt to almost any situation and make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals. He said if he had to express this in one word what makes their personalities different from others is its complexity. He lists the characteristics of the creative person in much more detail than in what was listed in the article by Robert E. Franken above. Possibly Franken read and shortened and simplified what he’d learned by the author with the incredibly long last name impossible to pronounce. 
Painted during my clown phase
I have many of the characteristics of the creative person listed above. I wrote short stories and poetry as a teenager, and drew pictures as well as painting a little. When I was in my late twenties or early thirties, I took up painting. I took art lessons and attended art shows with my painting, and continued painting for years. I was a creative teacher, playful and with a sense of humor. I started writing when I started college as a nontraditional student, and it opened a whole new world for me. I still miss painting, but have no time for it anymore with all the ideas I have begging to be put down on the page. I’m a mixture of the extrovert and introvert, but enjoy my quiet time alone more than anything else.

Do you have the characteristics of a creative person, and in what ways?


  1. I have always thought of myself as excellent at generating ideas. The harder part is sifting through the plethora of ideas and winnowing out impractical ones to find the best -- that involves more intelligence and experience than creativity.

    Gloria -- having read and heard you talk about your teaching methodologies in grade school, there is no doubt you are a creative person.

    ~ Jim

  2. It's a fascinating topic, Gloria. I know that I am only content when I have some creative project on the go. I've written stories going back as long as I can remember - the brownie writer's badge was the only one I was interested in. Not surprising when the others on offer were mostly about home-making and housework! But I also love playing with fabric, again from the days I made clothes for my dolls.

    I do think there's something about being interested in a lot of different things. I found it hard to narrow down my choices of what I wanted to study - and now that there are all kinds on online courses freely available I am in heaven. And writing fiction is appealing because you can be inspired by absolutely anything.

    There are always stories around about the link between creativity and mental illness of one kind or another. I find them slightly disturbing. On the one hand, it seems to trivialise the experiences of people whose lives have been blighted by severe mental illness. And on the other - surely we can not that easily be separated into the mentally well and the mentally ill - many of us have some experiences during our lives. And I really believe we are all capable of creativity too - although too often we don't get the opportunities because the daily grind gets in the way.

    Interesting post, and one that will keep me thinking!

  3. I have read that children are interested in many things but as they get older they focus on fewer and fewer things. I have thought that is true but sad.

  4. Thank you, Jim. I have that same problem sifting through ideas. Also, especially in the gardening area, I get carried away with all the ideas I have for new gardens without accepting that I'm only one person to tend all these gardens. As for your creativity, it shows up in your excellent books.

    Ann, as your Guppy critique partner for six years now, I well know how creative you are both in your writing and in the pictures you've posted to our files of the beautiful fabric hangings you've made. It's even more amazing how wonderful your work in both writing and fabrics you do when you suffer from a chronic illness.

  5. I've always been creative--putting new ideas together, generating ideas, changing plans to better suit needs--but creativity without the discipline to execute those ideas isn't valuable. Learning the skills necessary and having the time to do so is the hard part. I keep telling my kids to explore and acquire various skills now before life gets too hectic to learn new skills. I think old dogs can learn new tricks if they have the time and energy to do so. I can't understand those who have time on their hands. How is that possible?

  6. Gloria, I just described my dream garden in my book! Nothing dies, the perennials bloom in perfect sequence, the plants perfectly positioned for color flow and height. Very satisfying.

  7. I used to have a magnet on my refrigerator that read 'creative minds are seldom tidy.' That's my story, I'm sticking to it!

  8. Interesting points. I seldom analyze the process of "creating," I just do it, mostly in writing but sometimes in other venues. I guess I fear tearing apart the process would damage it.

    It's the execution of creativity, not the origins, that give me fits.

  9. I hear you, E.B. I can't ever remember having time on my hands with nothing to do. I also know creative people, who don't follow through with their ideas, and I agree with you that old dogs can learn new tricks.

    Margaret, that sounds lovely. Have you added a gardener or two to keep the weeds at bay????
    At least in a book that's not necessary.

    Kait, love it! On my desk I have a magnet that says "Einstein had a messy desk, too!" Not sure about the rest of his house, though, although he probably had someone to take care of that for him.

    KM, I never really thought too much about it, either, until I heard that talk on "On Being." You're right it's the execution that can be a problem. I have several or more poems perking in my mind that I have yet to put down.

  10. No doubt about your creativity, Gloria! Your students were very lucky to have you.
    I have several of those attributes that you listed, but I was very interested in the introvert/extrovert area. I've done the Myers-Briggs personality test and over the years I have been trending away from Introvert to Extrovert. At the same time, I feel that I'm pulled away from the quiet time I need to focus on writing, because it's definitely the Introvert in me who writes, not the Extrovert.

  11. You are definitely creative, Gloria! I would have loved being a student in your classroom.

    I don't completely agree with Rex Jung about brainstorming. When I worked in the creative department of an advertising firm, I saw useful and unique ideas come out of group brainstorming sessions. But there were rules--set a time limit for brainstorming, no judgement or criticism of ideas during that time, and have fun. People shouted out ideas while a designated person frantically wrote them down. We ate pizza, popcorn etc. It was wacky and just the setting for creative ideas to emerge. The ideas were evaluated at a later time sometimes by a different group.


  12. Shari, I love visiting with people, but when I'm most content is when I'm alone, either walking in the woods, weeding, reading or writing. I know it's harder for you to find alone time because you work with people.

    Thanks, Kara, I would have loved having you in my classroom. I think brainstorming probably does work for some people or groups, but not necessarily with others. I used it in my classroom, however looking back, I'm quite sure those kids who spoke with confidence and were more popular, probably intimidated the shyer and less sure students, who might have had good ideas, too. If a person is hesitant about speaking out against some strong willed leader, they probably won't say anything even if they have a good idea that's contrary to the loudest person spouting their ideas with seeming authority.

  13. What a great post on creativity! This is my favorite part:

    Franken states the characteristics of the creative personality show they have a great deal of energy, but are also quiet and at rest. They tend to be smart and yet naïve. They have a combination of playfulness and discipline. They alternate between imagination and fantasy, as well as a rooted sense of reality.

    It fits me to a T. Except for the energy; I could use more of that.

  14. Nancy, I think we could all use more of that. I find myself slowing down each year I age. Still, I'm far more active than most people my age, I think.

  15. Fascinating! I'm a total introverted extrovert. If that's truly a mark, I've got it!

  16. Sarah, I'm that combination, too. I think that's the best way to be, to tell the truth.