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5 Traits of Highly Creative People
Reach your highest potential in manifesting your most creative life.
Being a creative person means having the desire, and the ability, to create something new and original. It may be beautiful or challenging, useful or ornamental, but it came from your mind, and you manifest it into being. Some people seem to be born with the ability to become prolific creators - others may have to study and work hard at it. The one thing both of these folks have in common is a passion for their work.
In studying creativity, and creative people, I have discovered common threads that run through the fabric of their lives. These are modes of thought, and meaningful actions, that almost every creative person engages in, in the pursuit of their quest to bring their imagined ideas to fruition in the real world.
Of all the qualities inherent in creative people there are 5 basic traits that stand out as essential to having the mindset required to accomplish your artistic goals.
1. A Powerful Imagination
Central to these characteristics is imagination. Most people, if you ask them, will tell you that they believe they have a pretty good imagination. If that's true, then why aren't they more creative people?
One reason is that not all imagination is created equal. I have had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing some people in the financial industry - hedge fund managers, corporate money guys and the like - who don't have a single molecule of artistic imagination. But they do have a "creative" imagination nonetheless - it's just completely left-brained in its orientation - and is driven by facts, logic, words, numbers and sequentiality, such as clock-time. They can imagine strategies and plans, and can imagine acquiring bigger and better things than the next guy. Of the dozens of these cats that I've interviewed not one of them played a musical instrument, or even knew anyone who did, and were even actively opposed to both art and music as being "frivolous" and unnecessary.
The average person, like most of the rest of us, has a much higher degree of right-brain thinking involved in their mental processes and can generate at least some artistic imagination when needed, and is often balanced by their ability to think logically as well.
Then there are those folks who have dedicated at least some part of their lives to creative endeavours, who have the ability to generate, and hold, strong, clear mental images for long enough to accomplish their artistic goals.
That is the trait to be learned from these people - well-defined, durable mental images of whatever the final result is that you are seeking to create.
Anyone, artist or otherwise, can learn to improve the quality of their imagination. It's not hard, but it does require some consistent effort over time. A powerful imagination must be cultivated and nurtured into becoming the primary tool in your creative arsenal. This means feeding your imagination really nutritious things such as books on topics you are interested in, even if you don't know anything about the subject, real-world adventure and experiences that will inform your mind on many new and interesting people, places and things, and of course, guided visualisations and meditations, which serve to enhance the details of your inner world.
Using guided visualisation and meditation techniques is the same as practising the fundamentals of musical scales on your instrument or the fundamentals of specific techniques in sports. It's the thing that will give your mind the clarity of detail, sharpness of focus, and sustain of the images and ideas, that is required for conceiving a comprehensive mental picture that will drive your creative process.
2. A Curiosity for Learning
The next characteristic intrinsic to highly creative people is often referred to as Curiosity, but I think that is too simplistic a way to look at it. Underlying curiosity is the innate, deep-seated drive to learn and understand. Curiosity, and openness to new experience, are the keys to learning and artistic excellence.
Learning and study are, in and of themselves, vital to a successful life. Education fills your mind and imagination with detailed information on a broad range of subjects making you a more well rounded person, and artist, and points you in potentially unfamiliar directions in which to discover novel and unique ideas. It's from this pool of data and information that you begin to build the larger structure of your knowledge base leading to insight, and mastery of your craft.
The benefit to you, as an artist, is clear - you gain increased self-confidence, self-awareness, and self-understanding, it will improve your cognitive abilities, and enhance your communications skills, all of which will measurably increase the quality, and quantity, of your artistic achievements.
I think that of all of these qualities, improved communication skills are paramount. Art, whether fine art, dance or musical performance is, at its core, communicating something to an audience. To more perfectly communicate your ideas, and understanding of your world, of the world in general, depends in large part on your ability to be able to describe it. If you can't describe it, you don't really understand it, and how, then, can you communicate it to others? And your artistic work will reflect this. I would make the observation that artistic offerings often only reach a level of mediocre-at-best simply because the artist is struggling to communicate their ideas with more clarity.
So, make learning, studying and being curious about things, your guiding principle in fuelling the fires of your creativity.
3. A Motivation to be Diligent
When examining the lives of highly creative people, the one thing that really stands out as being self-evident is their drive-and-desire to create, combined with a well thought out creative process. They work persistently, often tirelessly, until they have achieved their vision. They are motivated by many different things that are idiosyncratic to each one of their personalities, but often it boils down to some similar incentives - money, fame or social attention, the freedom that often emerges from the artistic lifestyle, or maybe it's just the drive to create new and interesting things.
Whatever the force behind their need to create is, it manifests as a highly motivated diligence, and conscientiousness.
One thing that surprised me, right from the start, about highly creative people was the lifestyle choices that they consciously made to improve, and enhance, their ability to stay motivated. When I was young, I thought that artists were just flakey outsiders that probably smoked too much pot and were generally very thin, due to the whole starving-artist-effect. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover how wrong I was. Every artist I know, or have interviewed, is incredibly intelligent, and takes great care to both eat right, and exercise, and they, as a class of people, use drugs and alcohol far less than the media would have you believe.
Any motivation coach worth their salt will tell you that you need a lot of bio-energy to have meaningful, sustained work output. To achieve that you need regular, light exercise and proper nutrition. I don't think I need to go into how to exercise. We all know that the basics of walking, cycling and general motion activities are incredibly beneficial, and you can, and should do them with out me telling you.
But eating is a different matter. It's a subject that could fill a library all by itself. Getting proper nutrients to the cells of your body is essential to a thriving life, and abundant creativity.
Getting proper nutrition often means modifying your menu to include some foods you might not be eating enough of, like fatty fish and other nutrient dense things such as nuts, seeds, lentils, and a broader spectrum of vegetables, and eating much less from the categories of manufactured, processed, and factory foods, including limiting your intake of highly processed oils, starches, and sugars.
Small changes in your daily menu will immediately lead to more successful outcomes. You'll feel better, sleep better, and your mind will be clearer, and more powerful, so that when you create you will have the energy to deploy your full diligence, motivating you to produce the best work you are capable of.
4. Emotional Courage
I have covered the idea of artistic courage in the face of your detractors in another video, so now I'd like to expand on the topic of courage a little bit and include the concept of having the courage to be original, and authentic.
The courage to be truly original is a steep hill to climb, and can seem like a Herculean task. To step outside the norms is to potentially invite not only indifference from others, but it can illicit self-doubt within the artist.
Underlying any endeavour, artistic or otherwise, if it is to emanate from your personal authenticity, is a psychological trait called Neuroticism. This is simply the measure of how much you can tolerate negative emotions. This trait is directly related to your ability to develop diligence, and remain motivated to continue on with your artistic task, free from self-doubt and fear.
The reason I think that understanding this is of paramount importance, is that it is the single biggest roadblock standing in the path of creativity. Highly creative artists score very low on the psychological Trait Neuroticism Scale. It's the very factor that relates to whether on not they will have the mental, and emotional, energy to rise to the challenge.
And that challenge is always, when referring to artistic creativity, the ability for the artist to feel safe enough within their internal artistic landscape to dare to imagine things that are truly new and unique, to break new ground, innovate, blaze their own trail into cutting-edge territory, to set new trends, be avant-garde or even revolutionary in their vision - these things can only be accomplished if your mind is free from fear, and self-doubt.
How you accomplish this is far beyond the scope of this episode, but having suffered from all of this in my youth, I can tell you first hand that it's not impossible, my friend. For me, it meant finding someone who could help me navigate those troubled waters, and guide me on my journey towards my goal of being the person, and artist, that I knew I could be.
If you suffer from feelings of inferiority, shame, sensitivity to criticism, or other feelings or sadness, fearfulness, or depression that does not mean you cannot be a great creator. Many exceptional artists, and musicians, have battled these demons and emerged victorious, producing some of the world's greatest art, and music. Were they tortured artist? Indeed they were, but they found within themselves the strength to carry on and accomplish what they saw as their life's purpose. And if you steadfastly remain diligent, and motivated to finding Your life's purpose, you can too.
5. A Flexible Mindset
All of these traits, and tactics, have led to one inescapable idea, one that is the navigator of every highly creative persons voyage of creativity. That trait is lateral thinking.
Lateral thinking is a flexibility of mind that steers the artist into new territory, should they be brave enough to travel down that road to wherever it leads.
By definition, lateral thinking is the ability to move beyond linear ideas, and develop ways of understanding the world from different, parallel or tangential perspectives, so as to see problems in a fresh light, allowing you to imagine new, more creative, solutions. It is the key to developing high-level problem solving skills and, let's face it, much of what goes on behind the scenes, in artistic development and creation, is just a series of small problems and challenges to be solved successfully so that you can accomplish a task.
This capacity for mental flexibility makes no assumptions about outcomes - it just focuses on the target, and designs a plan to get there and, because it requires less assumptions, it allows the artist to explore new approaches that others may not have considered. This is what is meant by thinking outside the box, or colouring outside the lines. It means doing things in a way unique to your own personal style, and understanding.
Some of the ways you can develop mental flexibility skills is to do simple things to make your brain think differently than it usually does. Try altering your daily routine, or your artistic work flow. Take breaks at different times and do new, and different, things to refresh yourself. Any new thing you do, whether it's sitting somewhere different when you read or relax, or something more task-oriented such as using your alternate hand when eating, brushing, or doing other simple tasks, will build, and strengthen, novel neural pathways, leading to broader perspectives.
You might also try out new experiences. Go to a climbing wall, do some cross country cycling, or even just something simple like driving to a another town and having lunch with someone, somewhere you've never been. I'm sure you can think of your own list of things, but the bottom line is that every new experience you have will enhance your ability to see things from new, more informed, perspectives.
Or you might try reading a book about something you strongly disagree with, and get more insight into other peoples' points of view. This can be helpful when meeting new people. Meeting and conversing with new and different people with ideas that are, perhaps, very different than what you are used to hearing and talking about is a great way to expand your ability to see alternative points of view, and will aid in developing the skills needed to find alternative routes to achieving your own results with a more enhanced mental flexibility.
Being able to imagine possibilities that are off the beaten path requires a courageous attitude towards life, and your art, but it offers you an unprecedented freedom to create that pays off in originality, and innovation.
So, those are the five areas I believe are the heart-and-soul of the highly creative individual: imagination, curiosity, diligence, courage, and flexibility.
By carefully considering how you can apply these concepts to your life, and to your artistic works, you will, without a doubt, become the highly creative person that you have always desired to be.
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