the look of creativity

Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the madness with which you should be cleansed? Behold, I show you the Superman. He is this lightning, he is this madness.

Friedrich Nietzsche (from Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

Here’s another interesting thread from Psychology Today (a magazine I’ve been surprised to find myself reading with increasing frequency).

In a post titled, “What Do Creative People Look Like?” psychologist and resident blogger Mark Batey writes about the intellectual and personality markers that often define highly creative people — traits such as divergent thinking, curiousity, extroversion vs. introversion, and comfort with disagreement. Then he moves on to tackle motivation. Batey writes:

“There are two major strands to thinking about motivation and creativity. The first concerns general motivation. Creative people tend to be highly driven, hard working, persistent and possessive of a ‘never say die’ attitude. Coming up with new ideas that challenge existing paradigms is never an easy task. Armed with indefatigability — the creator ploughs a lonely, but steady furrow.

The second strand involves motivational orientation. In simple terms, we find that creative people have a tendency towards intrinsic motivation. That is, they are driven from within — by a sense of challenge, curiosity, desire to explore and to meet internal expectations. However, the picture is not so clear cut… Extrinsic motives (external facing motives like – respect, reward, remuneration, etc.,) can also be high priorities for creative people. The challenge lies in balancing the desire to listen to internal drives whilst maintaining enough external focus to see how the creative idea, process or product will be welcomed (or not!) by the outside world.”

Sounds true to me. I like Batey’s assessment of general motivation, which fights a cartoonish, Hollywood image of the artist struck with sudden genius, eschewing sleep and sustenance to channel overnight genius. That happens, clearly, and it’s a pretty fantastic high. But creativity is a daily business that can sometimes feel like drudgery, and, when it does, that doesn’t mean the outcome will be any less innovative.

I also appreciate the grey fabric of internal motivation. Is it inauthentic to feel driven by creative excitement AND a solid paycheck? Does it have to be a lonely path littered with empty bottles? Obviously not. Batey’s post highlights the slippery median between creativity and commerce. It acknowledges that feeding an internal fire can co-exist with paying the mortgage, and that it’s human to consider intangibles like respect and reward. Creativity is never a simple beast. Like all of us, it’s complicated, murky, and fascinating — especially when fully engaged.

posted 4 Mar 10 in: art, media. This post currently has one response.

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Very interesting piece from Psychology Today (I don’t often read that–would be interested in hearing more). Creativity comes in so many forms in so many different walks of life. Although I see myself as creative, I lost the artistic ability I had as a child. I think it creaps up in different ways throughout life.


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