Creativity is a fascinating and important subject for anyone to study. Understanding how people tap into their creative powers and why some are better than others is quite interesting. Nancy C. Andreasen is a very qualified person to address this topic. In addition to a PhD in English literature, she later switched careers and earned an MD with a residency in psychiatry. In the current edition of The Atlantic, Andreasen writes on “Secrets of the Creative Brain” (July/August 2014, pp. 62–75). In exploring the link between mental illness and creativity, Andreasen considers the importance of personality as a possible factor in predisposing a creative person to mental illness:
“One possible contributory factor is a personality style shared by many of my creative subjects. These subjects are adventuresome and exploratory. They take risks. Particularly in science, the best work tends to occur in new frontiers. . . . They have to confront doubt and rejection. And yet they have to persist in spite of that, because they believe strongly in the value of what they do. This can lead to psychic pain, which may manifest itself as depression or anxiety. . . . Persisting in the face of doubt or rejection, for artists or for scientists, can be a lonely path—one that may also partially explain why some of these people experience mental illness.” (p. 74)
This aligns with the idea that even though you might have a genetic tendency to some type of mental illness, the onset and development of that illness can be based strongly on how you tend to handle life in general. Some people may acquire the mental illness to a full degree, some to a lesser degree, and others never even experience the onset of the mental illness. In the nature/nurture dichotomy, we cannot underestimate nurture’s power. That is what gives us hope, even as creative people.
Understanding then, these statistical linkages with creativity, it seems to me that creative people must be intentional and self-aware about all aspects of how they exercise their creativity. This can include being introspective, reflective, and focused. Simultaneously, they should seek periodic consultations with friends, confidants, colleagues, and others to receive feedback. This approach can help to counter blind spots and to gain a more balanced perspective on how they are doing.
On a broader level of personal and professional growth, our personalities are so important in the level of progress we achieve. I believe we can predispose ourselves to enhanced or diminished personal and professional growth commensurate with the attitude we bring to the situation. I do think that it works the very same way with creativity.