The Creative Self
“Creativity is a birthright
available to all
but used by few.”
Catherine Courage, CINTRIX Senior V.P. of User Experience
Multiple Intelligences
(Howard Gardner)
Musical-rhythmic and harmonic
“18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently”
"It's actually hard for creative people to know
themselves because the creative self is more
complex than the non-creative self," Scott Barry
Kaufman, a psychologist at New York University
who has spent years researching creativity, told
The Huffington Post. "The things that stand out
the most are the paradoxes of the creative self
... Imaginative people have messier minds."
1) They Daydream . . .
2) They observe everything (with insatiable curiosity).
3) They work the hours that work for them.
4) They take time for solitude.
5) They turn life’s obstacles around.
6) They seek out new experiences.
Side Bar: Embracing Ambiguity
Highly creative people tend to not see things in
black and white—and instead see the complexities
of the world and are drawn to them.
7) They “fail-up.”
Video: Ira Glass on Creativity
8) They ask the big question.
9) They “people-watch.”
10) They take risks.
11) They view all of life as an opportunity for self-expression.
12) They follow their true passions
(and are intrinsically motivated).
Side Bar: Investment Theory
Postulates that particular circumstances come
together to produce highly creative outcomes.
A person becomes intensely interested in a (usually
underdeveloped) field and believes he or she can
make a breakthrough.
The person has the circumstances to devote nearly
all time and energy to that work, entirely
intrinsically motivated (not for external reward).
13) They get out of their own heads.
14) They lose track of the time.
15) They surround themselves with beauty.
Side Bar: Affect Research
Affect research indicates that a positive mood
precedes the best creative work.
Positive mood can also be a result of creative work
(sense of elation)
It can also accompany creative work.
Main message: Being in a good mood encourages
creative productivity.
16) They connect the dots.
17) They constantly shake things up.
18) They make time for mindfulness.
Do any of you have items to add?
A Darker Side of Exceptional Creativity,
according to research
Creativity is stimulated by social rejection
Linked to trauma
Linked to mental illness, particularly schizophrenia,
bipolar disorder, and depression
Linked to biological vulnerability
Exceptionally creative people tend to lack
conscientiousness, be driven, ambitious, dominant,
hostile, and impulsive.
Trauma & Creativity
Current summary of findings:
Many highly creative people have suffered from severe traumas in life.
Trauma is associated with functional alteration of the brain and affects the
expression of genes that impact brain structure. (You’ve heard the cliché that
traumatized people should “get over it,” but trauma alters the brain.) Altered stress
hormones can also be passed on to offspring, according to this research on
Holocaust survivors’ offspring and this research on how memories causing PTSD,
phobias, and anxieties can be passed on through generations.
The Honing Theory postulates that trauma has jolted the person out of a
comfortable worldview, which he or she must continually re-assess in order to have a
consistent view of the world.
Creative people are also continually evaluating a task in relationship to worldview,
and by the end of the task, worldview has changed (in major or minor ways).
Explains tolerance for ambiguity.
Trauma can be devastating, but it can also help people to grow in the areas of
interpersonal relationships, spirituality, appreciation of life, personal strength, and -most importantly for creativity -- seeing new possibilities in life.
Mental Illness & Creativity
Examples: Beethoven, Hemingway, Churchill, many others.
Most mental illness is caused by trauma, but it can be
Greater brain interconnectivity is associated with both
creativity and mental illness.
Mental illness can be debilitating (e.g., severe schizophrenia)
or it can cause higher creative production (the mania phase of
biopolar disorder).
Most afflicted group of creative people tends to be writers
(high incidents of bipolar, depression, schizophrenia, addiction,
and twice the suicide rate as average).
Personal Histories of “Exceptionally Creative” People
Supportive but rigid and non-nurturing parents
Childhood adversity or trauma
Early interest in their field
A highly supportive and skilled mentor
Often the field they chose was relatively uncharted
They devoted almost all of their time and energy into their
craft, and after about a decade had a creative breakthrough
of fame.
Their lives were marked with extreme dedication and a cycle
of hard-work and breakthroughs as a result of their
Steve Jobs: “How to Live Before You Die”
The Power of Vulnerability, Brene Brown
Listening to Shame, Brene Brown
The Bias Against Creativity

Slide 1