Creative people are full of contradictions!

I came across an article by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi that I shared on my fb page today, but in case you missed it, here it is in a nutshell, the ten contradictions he identifies in creative personalities.

  1. Creative people have loads of physical energy, but also rest often and sleep a lot. I certainly find this. At some phases in a piece of work, I may work all day and then wake after a few hours’ sleep, get up and work through the night as well while, at other times, I may sleep a sound 8 hours and catnap throughout the day.
  2. Creative people have a mix of wisdom and childishness in the way they think. This might be why I enjoy writing children’s self-help!
  3. They combine playfulness with discipline in their work.
  4. They alternate between imagination and fantasy and a very rooted sense of practical reality.
  5. They may be both extroverted and introverted, although these particular traits are normally the most stable of personality indicators.
  6. They are both humble and proud; humble out of a deep respect for their art and the sure knowledge that luck has played a great part in their contribution to it, and proud in recognition of their own work, because it is the result of great effort.
  7. They don’t fit rigid gender stereotypes, but have a kind of psychological androgyny, having the strengths of both their own gender and the other.
  8. They are both rebellious and conservative, able to take risks but also respectful of traditions.
  9. They are both passionately involved with their work and able to be objective about it.
  10. Their openness and sensitivity may mean they feel both pain and pleasure more acutely.

The article goes on to describe the pain of those times when the art isn’t flowing, and the joy of the times when it is. In my life, that would be last year and this. When I wasn’t writing last year, I felt adrift from myself. Now I’m writing again, I’ve come home.

You can read the whole article here. I personally found it very affirming, because I could so relate to it. I imagine a lot of creative people struggle, as I do, with these contradictions in themselves, and are aware of how their own inner contradictions can impact upon the people around them.

I’ve wished, for the sake of my family and friends, and for my own sake too, that I could be a less complicated person. I’ve tried to be less up and down, less inconsistent; I’ve felt, especially in my younger years, that there was something really wrong with me.

I don’t think so as much now – but it’s still nice to have it affirmed that at least some of the trickiness I navigate through life is down to the simple fact that I am a creative person.

How about you – do you relate to these 10 contradictions? Or do you recognise them in a creative friend or family member?

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10 thoughts on “Creative people are full of contradictions!”

  1. Hi Jenny, Thanks for your blog. Being a psychologist we always called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi “the flow guy” because of his difficult last name 😉

    I think your family is lucky that you are complicated. There is so much joy in carefully unwrapping a gift, and discovering another layer.

    I think in my family my husband is the most “overt” creative one, while my own creativity is much more hidden. My husband draws, thinks and makes plans. My form of creativity shows up in my own blog, in the way I always try to find a different angle about dreams. Yesterday for example I was thrilled to have found another explanation about “teeth” dreams: you could be suffering from apneu… Because one only grinds one’s teeth when you get no air. And that grinding causes you to dream about losing a tooth (not in every case of course, but it would be worth checking it out).

    Thank you and till next time 😉

    1. Hi Susanne – I’ve just discovered your blog, and I’m looking forward to following – we share interests, and also that creative approach of always being open to new angles, not sticking to a system. Thank you for commenting!

  2. Great post. These ten points describe me to perfection. Schizophrenia runs in my family and I frequently wondered in the past if it was possible to be partly Schizophrenic – I’ve felt so crazily like many people in one body. It’s much improved now because I live alone which I find suits me, and I can balance the different parts of me with solitary walks and meditation. It’s also easier to manage as you get older. I’m grateful for the ‘madness’ – it is indeed the price for living a creative life and well worth paying.

    1. It’s reassuring to hear I’m not the only writer who wonders about her own sanity, Josie. I find living alone suits my temperament too, and enables me to live much more in the flow.

  3. As an astrologer I would say most, if not all, people are contradictory it’s part of what makes us human. The challenge is in working with these conflicting traits in order to become more rounded. Also, we all need to be creative in some way for it makes us feel like we contribute and also brings us joy.

    1. I agree completely, Pat – creativity is part of our human experience, but I feel it might be a spectrum, like all psychological traits. It’s always seemed to me that astrology recognises the differences between our individual natures, within the same basic structures.

  4. I’m so filled with contradictions people thought, for years, that I was schizophrenic. All creative people possess this innate attribute. Even our relatives and closest friends can’t often figure us out, or just dismiss our behavior as insignificant – again because they can’t readily figure us out. My parents told me once several years ago that I’m “a very difficult person to get to know.” In retrospect, that’s one of the best compliments I’ve ever received!

    I’ve always hated being placed in a box and told I need to say and do A-B-C in order to be accepted fully into society. I used to try that, but kept bombing out. I finally realized my personality wouldn’t allow me to fit into other people’s perceptions of how I should be and what I should do with my own life. Their rules don’t apply to me.

    Yes, we creative types are a strange lot. But how else can we be, if we are the ones who express the true nature of the human condition? Unless we’re composing technical manuals (which I do very well in my day job) or computer code, our own personas must be able to run the gamut of human thoughts and emotions.

  5. Jenny, loved this article. It was definitely a “yes, yes and oh yes” for me. I fit all those things and my husband, who is aspergers finds me really hard to cope with because he can’t work out what to do with me. He thought at first that it was because I was a woman but then realised he has other women friends that even though he doesn’t understand them at least he doesn’t understand them the same way each time. With me he says its always different. Think i might get him to read this 🙂
    And also it helps me to feel freer and know that I’m not just being obtuse but really am a mix of contradictions.
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Yes, I’ve tried to iron out my contradictions, Diane, specially that I can be v laid back but also v stressy depending largely on what stage I’m at in a project and how much of my mind is taken up with that.

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