Saturday, 24 May 2014

Are creative people really crazy? by Tomisin Ajiboye

People have been asking my opinion on this article and the research behind it. So here it is.

Are creative people crazy?

Are creative people ‘crazy’? Is creativity ‘madness’? Or do they mean that we had all better watch out, because if you’re one of those creative types, you’re probably going to go crazy, if you really want to come up with crazy ideas or concepts.

It is a known fact that creative people make more use of their mental raw materials and practice less intellectual regulations but does that make us crazy? I was once introduced to my audience as a “crazy man” just to depict creativity. I did not feel bad about it even though it did not sound pleasant to my ear.

Then, I thought to really find out myself why anyone would think creative people as crazy. I realized that the characteristics of highly creative people are, I believe, the result of two specific behaviors of such people. These characteristics are common among average people and cannot comprehend how one person could have such beautiful thinking, so they refer to them as being “crazy”. Let's look at those behaviors and how they affect broader behavior.

Behavior One: Make More Use of Their Mental Raw Material:-
It seems that when highly creative people try to solve a problem or achieve a goal, particularly when the goal is related to their area of creative strength, they use much more of their brains than do ordinary people or, indeed, than even themselves when they are not focused on a creative task. I asked participants in one of my trainings to draw a cat just to control their thinking but I found out more about ordinary and creative mind. Most of them just thought about the physical appearance of a cat and replicate it as best they could with pen and paper. The creative mind, on the other hand, will think in much more depth. She'll think not only about the cat, but the placement of the cat; what the cat is doing; the lighting; the kind of lines to use and much more. She may decide to humanize the cat and give it emotions. Perhaps she'll decide to draw a sexy cat with a human body wearing an evening gown. Maybe she'll simply draw a blur representing a cat in motion.

a.      a.   They Think Before They Act
It takes time to run through all that raw material in the brain. This is why creative people tend to think before they act. They play with the issue in their minds for a time, looking at a range of possibilities before choosing a direction. I see this when I work with creative people. When you give an average person a creative challenge, she tends immediately to try and come up with ideas. But because her mind is too focused on the issues of the challenge, her ideas are limited in scope as well. They are conventional, obvious ideas. The highly creative person, on the other hand, tends to turn the problem around in her head. She asks questions, thinks about it in various scenarios and brings seemingly unrelated information into her problem solving.

b.      Curiosity Is Creative Play
Highly creative people are often cited as being very curious. This fits with the way their brains work. Rather than simply collect information, their brains play with it. One person might see a horse standing in a field and think it is a magnificent looking animal. Another more curiously creative person might wonder what the horse thinks about all day in the field. She might wonder how the horse can cope for long hours of inactivity without a book to read. Or she might notice that the horse tends to hang out by the fence that borders another field where another horse resides. The creative person might wonder how two animals that do not have spoken or written language might bond and what kinds of friendships horses might have.

c.       Spontaneous Ideas
It is by often asking these questions, wondering and being curious that creative people come up with spontaneous ideas. For instance, it is by asking what use could be made of not-very-sticky glue that some people discovered Post-Its. Pablo Picasso wondered how he could depict three-dimensional reality, as viewed from different perspectives, and came up with surrealism.

Behavior Two: Less Intellectual Regulation-
For many people, it is safer to be conventional and incremental in your creativity than it is to be unconventional and radical in your creativity due to the fact that they are scared to be laughed at or reprimanded for coming up with such stupid ideas. But highly creative people are different. Their brains are programmed to worry less about fitting in with conventions and staying within norms. It is not that highly creative people are not afraid of ridicule or criticism (indeed, many artists are highly sensitive). Rather, it never occurs to them that others might ridicule their ideas.
a.       Creative People Are Logical
This is a common fallacy about creative people that they are not logical, that they are driven purely by feeling and emotion. I do not believe this is true. Rather, creative people are not handicapped by a need to conform to social norms. They are not compelled to be a part of popular culture. Rather, they are driven by a logic that suits their needs and is logical to them. That logic may be based in part on emotions and feelings. But it is a form of logic nevertheless. All people need to make decisions and decisions are based on some kind of logic. The creative mind is no exception. If anything, by not feeling compelled to fit the demands of popular culture, the creative mind needs to be even more logical than the average person.

b.      Creative People Are Introverts, Extroverts, Collaborators, Independent, Big, Small, Fat, Skinny...
I have seen some bloggers claim that creative people are introverts; others that creative people are extroverts. I have heard that creative work better in groups and that they work better individually. However, I have never seen these assumptions supported in any way. The truth is, creativity seems to have little to do with how well one functions socially, one's weight (though I would assume that being in good health would help the brain function better) or other personal characteristics. The truth is, creative people come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors and personalities (everyone can be creative). What truly distinguishes them from others is that they use more of their brains to generate ideas -- which provide them with more raw materials for building unique ideas -- and less of their brains to regulate the development and sharing of those unusual ideas.

What Do You Think?
What do you think? Is this a fair portrayal of the characteristics of creative people? If not, why not? Have I missed anything? I'd love for you to share your thoughts! 

@tomisinajiboye on Twitter


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