A few days ago, I came across this blog post by Matthew Schuler, which quotes a passage from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People that discusses one often-encountered disposition of “creative people” that can make them seem a little nuts – i.e., the tendency to simultaneously exhibit contradictory traits.
Read the examples he gives, if you get a chance, and see how many of them apply to you. Do you consider yourself a creative type, and do you identify with this prognosis? Or are you not particularly imaginative, but still find yourself nodding along? I’m curious as to what degree of this vacillating temperament can indeed be associated with creativity versus general human caprice.
Either way, I can certainly relate to a propensity for considering, if not accepting, two opposing extremes. It stems from an understanding that absolutes are virtually non-existent on the broad scale. One way of thinking, one side of an issue, one solution for every problem, is never going to be 100% right. Rules and customs, whether imposed by self or society, are comforting because they are pre-defined paths to follow, a relief to the burden of having to think, but the complexity and variability of the circumstances we apply them to frequently call for something more dynamic. Perhaps, then, it is the creativity in us that is not afraid to step outside of those guidelines when we need to, to embrace the call for further contemplation, and tailor our responses to the situation at hand rather than expecting it to conform to a preconceived, oversimplified view of the world.
But, on the other hand, maybe there is a certain amount of craziness involved with being creative. As (the coincidentally similarly named) Cristian Mihai pointed out on Are Writers Crazy? last week, one version of insanity (repeatedly doing the same thing while expecting different results) is not altogether different from the notion of perseverance, and what do we do as artists and thinkers but continuously put our work and ideas out there in the hope that one of those times, we’ll be recognized for it? (>^-‘)>
If we always think within the lines, new ideas would never be introduced much less accepted. Off-the-wall ideas may not be right all the time but they encourage thought.