Why are some people more creative than others? A blog post by Rachel Oates

Why Are Some People More Creative Than Others?

In one of my previous blog posts I wrote about whether creativity was more of a personality trait or a process. The next logical question is to ask why some people are viewed as being more creative than others? Do they have stronger creative traits? Do they just have a different way of looking at things; different thinking processes perhaps?

A number of studies have attempted to identify which traits are consistently found in the most creative individuals across all disciplines. While each individual will be unique, certain personality traits and processes have been identified as more likely to provoke creative output.

Passion + Effort = Creativity

One of the key authors in the field of creativity is Csikszentmihalyi. In his 1996 book Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention, he identifies a number of reasons why some people are more creative than others. At the core of his thinking is the idea that to be truly creative takes passion, a lasting interest and investing a considerable amount of time and effort to really produce anything of value. He sums this up nicely with the claim that what truly makes creative people stand out from others it that they ‘all love what they do’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996, p.107).

This was supported by Charyton who suggested that to be highly creative requires ‘discipline, persistence, and hard work’ (2015, p.181). This, arguably, would not be possible without intrinsic motivation stemming from a true passion.

Creativity is nothing without passion and a motivation to work hard and create something. Acrylic abstract painting by Rachel Oates

Becoming an Expert

Another trait which sets some creatives apart from others is their skill set. Tharp is a very successful choreographer. In her 2006 book, she argues that regardless of your domain, all creative people ‘build their creativity on the solid foundation of [underlying] skills’ (Tharp, 2006, p.163). That is, before you can attempt to create something new, you’ve got to master the fundamentals first.

Along with others, such as Nickerson (1999) and Kaufman (2009), Tharp suggests that the most successful creatives are the ones who combine passion and skill in just the right amount. They can’t get stuck in old ways but need to know enough to be able to add value.

What About Intelligence?

Some academics theorise that there could be a link between intelligence and creativity. Early research from Arieth (1976) found that there was a correlation between these traits, but only up to a point.

His suggestion, which was later supported by Kandler et al (2016), argued that while there was a correlation between low IQ and low creativity, once a person’s IQ was moderately high it no longer increased creativity at the same rate. In fact, Newton (2015) found that above an IQ of 120 other factors such as motivation and openness to new ideas became more important than intelligence. High intelligence alone could even be a hindrance to creativity at these levels.

A Quick Conclusion…

So there’s a lot stuff out there written about what makes someone creative but the major factors seem to be:

  • Skills and Knowledge in a certain area
  • Passion and motivation
  • Intelligence – but only up to an IQ of around 120

I think the key thing to take away from this is that being naturally creative isn’t enough. Creativity is something you need to use, encourage in others and yourself, and to practice and build on. The most creative people are the one who nurture their creativity.

Van Gogh was super creative but that would have got him no where without passion motivation and skills. Van Gogh's Starry Night photographed by Rachel Oates

Take someone like Van Gogh, who is one of my favourite artists; he was so creative in the way he captured his surrounding in his paintings. He had this new, creative way of seeing the world like no one else did. But if he didn’t have the passion and motivation to work on his painting skills, his work probably wouldn’t have been half as great as it was. He’d have still had a pretty awesome perspective but no way to share it with the world.

What do you think makes someone creative? Let me know down in the comments!


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