Why Create?

"Of all human activities, creativity comes closest to providing the fulfillment we all hope to get in our lives. Call it full-blast living."

We were recently reading a piece by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Psychology Today on creative people and the lives we lead. Completely fascinated by his 10 antithetical traits of creative people, we wanted to share them and comment on them.

10 Antithetical Traits of Creative People and Their Lives:

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. The important thing is that they control their energy; it's not ruled by the calendar, the dock, an external schedule. When necessary, they can focus it like a laser beam; when not, creative types immediately recharge their batteries. They consider the rhythm of activity followed by idleness or reflection very important for the success of their work. This is not a bio-rhythm inherited with their genes; it was learned by trial and error as a strategy for achieving their goals.

BSBP: Yes! This is what we love about creative people! No matter what is going on in their lives, it is part of their "process." They embrace the lows as equally as they embrace the highs. All of it is energy to be used as fuel to create. They stay positive or negative without putting more weight on a particular side of the spectrum. They embrace the entire spectrum, which initiates a chain of events, inspiring others to think about life differently. We should all take time to think about life differently every day.

2. Creative people tend to be smart yet naive at the same time. How smart they actually are is open to question. It is probably true that what psychologists call the "g factor," meaning a core of general intelligence, is high among people who make important creative contributions... People often claimed to have had only two or three good ideas in their entire career, but each idea was so generative that it kept them busy for a lifetime of testing, filling out, elaborating, and applying. Divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and this selectivity involves convergent thinking.

BSBP: We think the main word here are "thinking." Break it down as you wish, but in a world where people tend to like and consume most of the same things, we end up falling into a pattern of living, where devices think for us. You don't know how to make something? Google it. You don't know how to get somewhere? Siri can tell you. This connectivity can be a fantastic tool for fostering creativity in a community, or it can be a crutch. What we love about creative people is that they make time for thinking. They set aside energy and focus and dedicate time specifically for thinking. We can't get enough of that.

3. Creative people combine playfulness and discipline, or responsibility and irresponsibility. There is no question that a playfully light attitude is typical of creative individuals. But this playfulness doesn't go very far without its antithesis, a quality of doggedness, endurance, perseverance. Vasari wrote in 1550 that when Renaissance painter Paolo Uccello was working out the laws of visual perspective, he would walk back and forth all night, muttering to himself: "What a beautiful thing is this perspective!"

BSBP: Sometimes we fall so in love with a perspective, that it inspires us for weeks, months, years. Sometimes we have to force ourselves to let go of it, in order to discover something else, something new and grow. We wholeheartedly feel the responsibility to push ourselves to new places, new thoughts and new ideas. We actively seek them out and give adequate time for something to sink in. We enjoy seeing our creative friends "try on" new x-factors (whatever that may be), and we enjoy watching their journey as they travel through the experience.

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. The rest of society often views these new ideas as fantasies without relevance to current reality. And they are right. But the whole point of art and science is to go beyond what we now consider real and create a new reality.

BSBP: "Reality" is a difficult word, like "normal." It's huge and comes with so many assumptions. Sure, there is a common reality that we can all agree on (for example, we're not going to try to argue that gravity isn't a thing). But what we love about creative people is how they play with their own personal reality and the reality of those who witness their lives or art. It's a "What if" world, full of 360-degree thinking. That is refreshing, even if it's labeled "ridiculous" by a reviewer.

5. Creative people tend to be both extroverted and introverted. We're usually one or the other, either preferring to be in the thick of crowds or sitting on the sidelines and observing the passing show. In fact, in psychological research, extroversion and introversion are considered the most stable personality traits that differentiate people from each other and that can be reliably measured. Creative individuals, on the other hand, seem to exhibit both traits simultaneously.

BSBP: We completely agree that creative people have the control to "turn on" certain aspects of their personalities when they feel its needed. Creative people know themselves and their process so well, they know when the volume needs to be turned up or down, muted or deafening. A creative person knows when they need to push or pull or completely back away. These are personality strengths, and these traits help creative people make decisions, produce, and change communities.

6. Creative people are humble and proud at the same time. These individuals are well aware that they stand, in Newton's words, "on the shoulders of giants." Their respect for the area in which they work makes them aware of the long line of previous contributions to it, putting their own in perspective. They're also aware of the role that luck played in their own achievements.

BSBP: Growing up, our dance teacher would say: "If you're going to be a dancer, if you're really going to be a dancer, then you have to be willing to accept the responsibility right now." We were young. But we clearly remember nodding and mentally accepting responsibility for life, right then, in that moment. Signed, sealed, delivered: our contract to always work hard, to always do it right, to always stay hunger for more. But our hard work was also pushed along by amazing artists, teachers and opportunities that came our way. We feel lucky for that, and we know we wouldn't be who we are today without all of those people.

7. Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/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. This tendency toward androgyny is sometimes understood in purely sexual terms, and therefore it gets confused with homosexuality. But psychological androgyny is a much wider concept referring to a person's ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.

BSBP: Growing up, we lived in a girly pink world. And then one day, blue became our favorite color. This is a simplistic example, but we have witnessed certain traits (which should be viewed as, quite simply, strengths) be put down because they were being exhibited by the "wrong" vehicle. What we love about our creative friends is that they don't allow that to stop them from creating strong identities and producing excellent work. Sometimes they ignore it, sometimes they parade it. Regardless, they are above it.

8. Creative people are both rebellious and conservative. It is impossible to be creative without having first internalized an area of culture. Being only traditional leaves an area unchanged; constantly taking chances without regard to what has been valued in the past rarely leads to novelty that is accepted as an improvement.

BSBP: We are always impressed by artists' ability to command attention. They know what they are doing (even if you think they don't). Perhaps you hated their work, that's fine. But it made you think. It made you stop thinking about what you were previously thinking and think a new think. They knew that. Artists know the world they function in. They feel the temperature, they sense the change. They know which way the water is flowing, and they know how that will play into their work. I love that about artists! So aware!

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. Here is how the historian Natalie Davis puts it: "I think it is very important to find a way to be detached from what you write, so that you can't be so identified with your work that you can't accept criticism and response."

BSBP: Creating work is definitely a love-hate process. Artists are always fighting that immersion-but-distance lifestyle. We want to be there in our work (absorbing the details), while at the same time being distanced from the work to see it as a whole. It's a tough, exhausting process but that is all part of accepting the responsibility to be an artist.

10. Creative people's openness and sensitivity often exposes them to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment.

BSBP: Yes, yes, yes. Sometimes, dance hurts me, and sometimes we dance because we're hurt. Either way, we dance. We always feel this energy inside calling us to find a local dance class, or to learn more about it, or to seek out amazing teachers. Even when we've had a horrible day, and everything went wrong, we are still dancing. And that is a beautiful life.


Artist: Alessandro Gottardo

So what if you don't naturally feel like a "creative person?" Maybe a teacher once said, "Oh well it's OK. You just aren't an artsy person. You're logical, like me." {Which, by the way, we don't agree with. We think everyone is creative, they just have to nurture that trait within themselves}

How can you adopt the qualities above and try on a creative life or welcome your own creativity into your daily life?

MAKE TIME - Find time in your life that you feel like is "just wasted" and designate that time to think.

WRITE DOWN THOUGHTS - Write down thoughts of your own and thoughts of people who inspire you. Start with quotes from books, music, movies. Write it all down so that it may come back into your life to inspire you later. Write down your own thoughts, because - hey guess what? - they count!

READ - Read books, articles, poems, random this, random that. Keep seeking out things that make you wonder.

ATTEND PERFORMANCES & EVENTS - You know you see the marketing for that dance show, or this gallery opening or a book club. GO! Be involved. You don't have to be "part of the club" to go. They are open to everyone, and everyone is welcome. Just GO, even if you have to make yourself the first time. You won't regret it.

ASK QUESTIONS - Don't be afraid to find everyone and everything in your life interesting. Invite a co-worker to lunch just to hear their life story. Ask someone how they did something, or what they think on a subject. What do you have to lose?

TAKE A CLASS - Many artists offer local classes. Find one. Take it. See what that does for your life.

Once you make room in your life for creativity, you will find yourself being more and more creative, and seeking out more and more of it! Because really... who doesn't want to live a full-blast life?!

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