Creativity can be an elusive concept for most of us.
We either lack creativity ourselves, and, as a result, we cannot relate to it on an experiential level, or we have never quite learned to recognize the traits of a creative person.
On top of that, people often have preconceived stereotypical notions of a creative person’s characteristics.
At times, these stereotypical personality traits of the proverbial creative genius do manifest in real-life examples of creative people, but at other times, they can lead to generalizations that might be misleading.
To make matters worse, stereotypical creative personality traits recognize creativity to be the domain of a select few artistic professions, like singing, writing or acting et cetera.
That the creative person almost always belongs to an artistic profession, and not a scientific or academic, is simply not true.
Creative people can be found in almost every profession in the world. They are the bringers of change, the overthrowers of the status quo, and reshapers of our knowledge.
There are many personality tests out there that can help you determine whether you are a creative or an analytical type. However, I prefer to focus on some of the more apparent signs of being such a person.
This ultimate guide into the signs of a creative person will provide you with clear characteristics of a creative personality.
Before getting right into it, let’s first understand how different a creative person is from the average Joe.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
Table of Contents
- What is a Creative Person?
- How Do You Describe Being Creative?
- How Can You Identify a Creative Person?
- Traits of a Creative Person
- 1. Imaginative
- 2. Precocity
- 3. Curiosity
- 4. Deep Work
- 5. Mindfulness
- 6. Craving Isolation
- 7. You are Prone to Taking Risks
- 8. You May be More Prone to Depression or Anxiety
- 9. Character Quirks
- 10. Passionate
- 11. Polymath
- 12. Letting Your Mind Wander
- 13. You are Bad at Taking Criticism
- 14. Accept Challenges
- 15. A Creative Person is Never Satisfied
- 16. Intelligence
- 17. You are on the lookout for Inspiration
- 18. Self-Critics
- 19. Autodidactic
- 20. Embrace Failure
- 21. Adaptability
- Final Remarks
What is a Creative Person?
Usually, we think of a creative person as someone who can manipulate existing data and knowledge in ways that produces something different and unique.
That newly created thing could be an innovation or it could be something as abstract as an idea or an insight.
The one thing in general that creative people share is the ability to form associations. A creative person’s mind is adept at making or discerning associations and patterns that can be hard to arrive at for an ordinary person.
They have a knack for finding answers to tough questions. Let’s put that understanding in context with a real-life creative person example, Elon Musk.
Elon Musk has two of the most successful companies in the most intimidating and competitive spaces out there: automotive and space.
He not only challenged set industry standards by opting for different materials for his rockets than are used at NASA, but he also managed to streamline electric cars by making them more attractive.
How Do You Describe Being Creative?
It is often said that creativity cannot be forced. The reason that it eludes so many of us is that it is not something that can solely be achieved through hard work.
Everyone is creative in one or another, but some people are bestowed with exceptional levels of creativity.
When creative people are asked about how they arrived at that novel idea, they are at a loss for an interesting answer. Almost always the reply is that the answer was always in front of them, or that it was so obvious that it shocked them.
Creativity can manifest itself in different forms. Sometimes we are actively working on a project when creativity sets in, and we enter a state of flow.
At other times, it is when we are sleeping, working on something else, or just watching TV when the “Aha!” moment strikes.
There is no specific time or place that can guarantee our creative powers to kick in.
But setting specific time schedules and rituals around your work can promote the onset of creativity. Almost all writers have a specific time of the day where they sit at a particular place and start writing no matter they feel like it or not.
This lets the brain get into the habit of accessing areas of the brain related to that piece of work and therefore, it increases the probability of reaching the state of creativity.
Moreover, creativity is an iterative process and can take several years to arrive at that “aha!” moment.
There are several stages identified with the process of creativity:
Out of all the three, we think of creativity in terms of only inspiration when the other two are equally as important if not more.
The preparation and incubation phases prepare the mind for receiving the eventual inspiration that may or may not strike.
How Can You Identify a Creative Person?
So how can we identify a creative person? Almost all creative people display some characteristics that point towards their creativity.
According to neuroscience expert on creativity Nancy C. Andreasen, people who can make several unique associations between words, images, ideas, are known to be highly creative people.
Moreover, the following signs will also help in identifying a creative personality.
Traits of a Creative Person
There are many signs of creativity in a person.
People exhibit different signs of creativity and a creative person doesn’t need to display all of these signs, but this list can serve as a guide to recognizing creativity in ourselves and others.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein
Imagination is almost considered synonymous with creativity.
The creative artist type is usually considered the most imaginative. The ability to visualize vivid images and conjure up scenes out of thin air is regarded as being highly imaginative.
Though it is considered to be an essential element of the artist’s life, imagination is as important for an inventor or innovator.
A Man of Genius by Cesare Lombroso is one of the earliest works that attempt to describe a creative genius.
Rather presciently, the book ascribes precocity (early, often premature, development of physical or mental functions and characteristics) as one of the leading creative person characteristics.
In recent research, it has been found that children who are younger than their peers in the same grade are highly likely to be more intelligent and creative than the rest.
Creative people follow their curiosity.
Their insatiable thirst for exploration leads them to unchartered territories and that’s why they fascinate us with their insights and a new way of thinking.
4. Deep Work
Deep work is a concept that has been associated with the author Cal Newport.
Deep work is the ability to stay at your work for longer periods without getting distracted by technology.
This is important because deep work lets you spend more time with your ideas and letting them marinate in your head.
A cursory examination reveals only the obvious and superfluous details. It is a brilliant setting stage for creativity.
Mindfulness is the ability to monitor your thoughts, feelings, and mood at all times.
Mindfulness can increase our awareness of perceptive thoughts and, as a result, it can lead to recognition of creativity in ourselves.
Observational skills, empathy, thought monitoring et cetera are all great ways to enhance our creativity.
6. Craving Isolation
You don’t necessarily have to be an introvert to crave some isolation time. A creative person seeks some alone time to spend with his ideas.
Combined with deep work, isolation provides a fertile ground for generating ideas.
Think of all the writers, artists, and innovators, they have spent considerable amounts of time alone, honing in on novel ideas and insights, refining their works, and allowing themselves to create worlds that they alone can access.
7. You are Prone to Taking Risks
A creative person is not risk-averse. They will venture wherever their muse takes them.
Now, that might mean that they are at loggerheads with the authority more often than is necessary because a creative personality is a non-conformist by nature.
Risks are where there is more reward and they are not shy of exploring their imagination to its full extent.
8. You May be More Prone to Depression or Anxiety
In research that spanned decades, Nancy C. Andreasen identified a correlation between mental disorders, like Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, and depression, and the ability to produce amazing works of art and science.
She also went on to hypothesize that creativity and mental disorders run in the family.
Numerous researches and real-life creative person examples reveal that there is some truth to the ‘mad genius’ oxymoron.
9. Character Quirks
Speaking of mental and social disorders, a creative personality is prone to having what is known as character quirks.
Steve Jobs, one of the most famous creative person examples from modern times, was at times regarded as cold, socially distant, and overall a quirky personality.
Some of these character quirks can be accommodating, while at other times they can be a cause of concern for friends and family.
A creative person rarely pursues something for its extrinsic rewards. Money and fame do not register as worthy pursuits.
As mentioned before, they are often eccentric and willing to stay out of the limelight as much as possible.
They are extremely passionate about the things they pursue. The thrill of reaching insights, coming up with innovations, the process of finding different angles, is what sustains their motivation.
Their passion can be at times more harmful to their health.
Nikola Tesla regularly sacrificed his sleep (according to some accounts he slept only 2 hours a day) for spending time at his lab.
Creativity is mostly about your ability to form often impossible associations that can lead to some startling discoveries and ideas.
Your range and depth of knowledge, therefore, are a limiting factor to your creativity.
The more well-read and well acquainted with diverse subjects you are, the better potential you will have to make impossible connections.
12. Letting Your Mind Wander
An important stage in any creative process is the incubation phase.
During incubation, the creative person lets the idea take the reins of the ship and guides the mind to uncharted unknowns. J.K. Rowling came up with the plot of Harry Potter while she was on a train ride.
She let her mind wander with the idea throughout the whole journey. And the rest, as we know it, is history.
Mindfulness and mind-wandering may seem to be opposites at first, but they work in tandem in a creative person’s mind.
Mindfulness is an excellent tool to discern your thoughts, recognizing which are worth pursuing, while mind wandering lets us roam the made-up world of our ideas.
13. You are Bad at Taking Criticism
Many creative types have little to no tolerance for criticism even if it’s positive.
This is sometimes equated to having a sensitive disposition of the artist.
14. Accept Challenges
If we constantly live inside the cocoon of our comfort zone, we would never push our boundaries enough and will never arrive at our truest potential.
A creative person thrives on challenging norms, established ideas, and they see opportunities where ordinary people only see obstacles.
15. A Creative Person is Never Satisfied
Creative types are rarely satisfied with their creations.
They are on a never-ending quest of perfectionism that recedes further the nearer they think they get to it.
Their minds are never at rest, exploring new ideas, angles, and scenarios can constantly take up their mind space.
Intelligence and creativity are sometimes thought to be synonymous.
But that is another product of our stereotypical thinking of creativity.
The Threshold Theory of Intelligence and Creativity suggests that above a certain level of IQ (120), the effect of intelligence on creativity becomes negligent and irrelevant.
That being said, a score of IQ 120 falls within the gifted range and will be out of the grasp of non-creative types.
17. You are on the lookout for Inspiration
Creative people are always looking for inspiration which can come from within in the form of a thought, epiphany, or an insight, or from the outside in the form of an event, a person or place et cetera.
Joan Didion, the renowned American author, on extolling the virtues of keeping a notebook on yourself at all times as a recorder of events and the feelings associated with them.
Apart from notebooks and journals, people take out their cameras and snap scenes or people they feel are inspiring.
Criticism is a tricky subject around creative people. They hate it as much as they might need it. It’s better to develop yourself into your critic.
A sensitive disposition may be a creative person’s personality trait, but that doesn’t excuse creative people from developing their work by identifying the kinks themselves.
This way a creative person will also be able to self-actualize, be more aware, and develop an acute sense of introspective insights; all fine skills to develop for realizing your creative potential.
How do people like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg become such icons of creative success despite dropping out of college?
The reason is that they believe in self-tutoring.
The creative person is often interested in self-learning as education institutions tend to teach around hard and fast rules, leaving little room for imagination and creativity.
The autodidactic individuals are also highly curious about things as well as more passionate.
20. Embrace Failure
Failure is a crucial part of success. A creative person does not shy away from failures.
A creative person views failure as education.
Consider that Elon Musk, after spending billions and billions on his Starship prototype at SpaceX, failed six times before he could succeed.
Embracing failure is a valuable creative personality trait.
The last entry on this list of signs of a creative person is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
We live in a world that is constantly in a state of flux.
Creative people can read events better than most people, propose amends to offset or take advantage of changed circumstances, and generally, thrive because of their power to accept and adapt to change.
In conclusion, creativity can seem hard to recognize not only in others but sometimes even in ourselves.
Due to a lack of understanding of creativity, we can miss out on its potential to improve our lives.
These signs can help us identify the obscure and hidden talents of a creative person.
Sikandar is opinionated on a diverse set of topics that include, but are not limited to, Productivity, Health, Fitness, Motivation, and Career. He is in love with the written word and writes mainly to help others on their self-actualizing journeys. A journalist by education, getting to the bottom of things is his modus operandi. Often, he finds himself moonlighting as a life coach to his family, friends, and colleagues. He can be reached at his LinkedIn for collaboration.