Creative People Are Complex – 10 Contradictory Traits in Creative People
posted on 3rd Sep 2018 by Lorna Ryan McKeon
Dublin born Aoife Dooley blew me away in her 10-minute ‘tazz-like’ explosion onto the big stage for Offset earlier this year. OMG what a character! Bigger than life and oozing charm, wit and honesty, she glowed on the stage. And at only 28 what a career she’s carved for herself… Illustrator, Author, Comedian, Graphic Designer, Creator of @YourOneNikita… unbelievable! And now she, half-jokingly, adds “Master of Disguise” to her repertoire.
Only weeks after I’d seen her at Offset, a flurry of news and interviews informed us that I’d only met the tip of the iceberg. Aoife was diagnosed with Autism – as she puts it “I suppose it was a bit of a shock but then, at the same time, I wasn’t surprised either.” What surprised me as I listened to her were the paradoxes. To all outward appearances, Aoife is outgoing, fun-loving, upbeat and engaging, but her recent interviews reveal that growing up she felt she didn’t fit in, lonely and misunderstood. She says her autism diagnosis has helped her to make sense of her differences – and the condition has given her a unique take on life that inspires her work. @aoife_dooley
Photo cred: Aoife Dooley
This got me thinking of the many paradoxical traits in ‘Creative People’. Author and Professor of Psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has devoted 30 years of research to how creative people live and work. In his book Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People, he says if he was to express in one word what makes their personalities different from others, it’s complexity. He says “they show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an individual, each of them is a multitude.”
TEN TRAITS OFTEN CONTRADICTORY IN NATURE, THAT ARE FREQUENTLY PRESENT IN CREATIVE PEOPLE AS OUTLINED BY MIHALY.…
1. CREATIVE PEOPLE HAVE A GREAT DEAL OF PHYSICAL ENERGY, BUT THEY’RE ALSO OFTEN QUIET AND AT REST.
They work long hours, with great concentration, while projecting an aura of freshness and enthusiasm.
2. CREATIVE PEOPLE TEND TO BE SMART YET NAIVE AT THE SAME TIME.
“It involves fluency, or 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.
3. CREATIVE PEOPLE COMBINE PLAYFULNESS AND DISCIPLINE, OR RESPONSIBILITY AND IRRESPONSIBILITY.
But this playfulness doesn’t go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, and perseverance.
4. CREATIVE PEOPLE ALTERNATE BETWEEN IMAGINATION AND FANTASY, AND A ROOTED SENSE OF REALITY.
Great art and great science involve a leap of imagination into a world that is different from the present.
5. CREATIVE PEOPLE TEND TO BE BOTH EXTROVERTED AND INTROVERTED.
We’re usually one or the other. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.
6. CREATIVE PEOPLE ARE HUMBLE AND PROUD AT THE SAME TIME.
It is remarkable to meet a famous person who you expect to be arrogant or supercilious, only to encounter self-deprecation and shyness instead.
7. CREATIVE PEOPLE, TO AN EXTENT, ESCAPE RIGID GENDER ROLE STEREOTYPING.
When tests of masculinity and femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers.
8. CREATIVE PEOPLE ARE BOTH REBELLIOUS AND CONSERVATIVE.
It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. So it’s difficult to see how a person can be creative without being both traditional and conservative and at the same time rebellious and iconoclastic.
9. MOST CREATIVE PEOPLE ARE VERY PASSIONATE ABOUT 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.
10. CREATIVE PEOPLE’S OPENNESS AND SENSITIVITY OFTEN EXPOSES THEM TO SUFFERING AND PAIN, YET ALSO TO A GREAT DEAL OF ENJOYMENT.
“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.”
Paradoxical or not, what I have learned most is that there is no formula for individual creation. As Mihay says, “creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.” So, more than anything else, what it takes to be creative is resourcefulness and the courage not to give up.
Lorna Ryan McKeon, Senior Brand Designer
Lorna brings a flair for intellectual instinctual design with her! A remarkable sense of colour and intuitive eye for balance and space make her a natural designer, and her exquisite concepts serve to bolster and enrich the brands she works with. Many of our clients at Neworld, including Adare Manor, Clontarf Castle and Castleknock Hotel, have benefited from her attention and genuine love of what she does.