Have you ever channelled all your energy toward finishing a certain artwork or composition?
Have you felt that pulsating frustration of not being able to perfectly capture a thought or a vision?
And when you finally do, you feel this sense of transcendence — like you have personified the phoenix metaphor cliché — while marvelling at the magnificence of your creation with utter disbelief that something so beautiful could come from you.
That, my friend, is the wonderful feeling of flow shared by most of the world’s creatives.
Everything around you, from the heart-wrenching spoken poetry and that catchy jingle you can’t seem to shake off to that hip campaign ad and those elaborate graffiti-painted walls, is the product of abounding creativity.
Have you ever thought about the artists behind these wonderful works?
How were they able to come up with such excellent ideas and the inhuman abilities to turn them into reality?
What do they do differently compared to most people?
What does it take to be creative like them?
Creativity is more about discipline and attitude than it is about talent. Though it could be something you’re born with, a special gift from the gods, it’s how the talent is honed, wielded, and developed that unleashes its true potential.
So you could begin with a mustard seed of potential and grow it into a fruit-bearing tree with determination, focus, and persistence.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve already tapped into your inner Picasso or unleashed the full extent of your Steven Spielberg, you can start by emulating certain characteristics that one creative shares with the other.
Each person has a different creative process that would be impossible to copy and come up with the same artistic results. After all, the idea isn’t to be a second-rate imitation of anyone but to follow in the footsteps of those we’ve come to admire and find our individual footing along the way.
I’ve compiled a list of seven traits that most, if not all, creatives share. These traits would be the best place to start in harnessing your creative prowess.
1. Creative people have an “associative” orientation.
The connection of creativity to our brain’s processes has been the object of study many times over. It was discovered that when you conceptualize original ideas, there is an increase in activity in the brain’s “associative” region.
Interestingly, this is also the area that works during the times when we are not concentrating. In fact, it also works when we are in a state similar to daydreaming! Guess this proves that daydreaming is not a waste of time, huh?
Another study has backed this up and published revolutionary results of how mind wandering can generate benefits such as creativity, goal-driven thoughts, and improvising.
If you think that this seems like a big job for one region of the brain, don’t worry. The associative region doesn’t work alone. While it dishes out new and excellent ideas, the administrative control area evaluates them to see if they are practical or applicable. These two brain processes make creative people incredibly imaginative and playful.
2. They notice everything.
Creative people are keen observers. They take in every opportunity or situation they see and twist it into something cool, dramatic, and original.
For example, most writers share the habit of going on spontaneous walks in search for inspiration or powerful stimuli for their next bestseller. This has been the answer to so many questions of how something grand was incepted: “I went for a walk.”
It’s not so much about looking as it is about seeing.
Sometimes, people obsess so much about the search that they fail to stop and actually see, perceive, take in and understand, interpret, and speculate. You don’t need to see something different, but you need to start seeing things differently and from a new perspective.
Creative people catch details that most people miss because they observe using all their senses.
They are also more focused on little things that may not catch the attention of other people. Anything can inspire them to create something. Because of this, they can explore ideas and endless possibilities.
Observing and gathering information and input from others is also a passion in itself.
Creative people love learning new things and hearing about other people’s observations as well. They value opinions, thoughts, and emotions and use all of these combined as the perfect ingredients for their upcoming masterpiece.
Being naturally curious and inquisitive, our creative friends don’t hold back when it comes to asking questions. They also tend to be interested in many things that are not related to one another.
Their varied hobbies, interests, and tastes complete the package.
3. They get motivation from within.
They follow their passion and do what they love to do. They are motivated by their feelings and their desires and not by external factors such as salary or awards. This is called intrinsic motivation.
They feel the need to perform well and meet their goals, and they do so with zeal. They love the idea of a challenge, and the possibility of risks gives them the constant and necessary energy boosts to fuel the function of their talents.
4. Creative people are okay with being different.
Wouldn’t it be boring if everyone you knew acted the same way and liked the same things? Creative people’s goals do not involve fitting in, following trends, and being part of the cool crowd.
Being risk takers, they are not afraid to be different. They are rebellious in their tastes and dislike the boundaries of norms. Their worlds are too colourful to contain.
Creative people make their own rules.
They are erratic and unpredictable in the most splendid ways. They do not like in black and white but exist in their own realm of technicolor.
Their need for originality pushes them to continue thinking of things that are yet to exist. That’s where the detachment from reality comes from.
When everyone’s into it, it’s overrated. They seek the unique and make it theirs.
5. Creative people reach for their goals.
When they are in the zone, creatives become fully absorbed and saturated in the moment, enabling them to become completely unaffected by any distraction.
This so-called “flow” requires a meeting point between what the person can do and what the actual activity is. They need their creative space and uphold its sacredness at all times.
Their art is a personification of who they are, whether it be in poem, painting, or song form. They spend a lot of time thinking and creating what best expresses their feelings or ideas.
That is the ambition of highly creative people: to express themselves in the best possible way and make their mark in the world.
They feel the need to influence others and attract attention to their work. They want the world to see what they have created because it is a product of self-expression, a shout out to the world that doesn’t seem to fully understand them.
6. The most creative ones are flexible and adaptable.
They are fast thinkers and can think of solutions to difficult problems. They can likewise see different sides of a situation and can come up with ways to emerge on top.
Further, they’re suckers for challenges because these allow them to max out their creativity. Because rules do not bind them, creative people quickly adapt to changes and new situations.
7. They are more emotional.
Creatives tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves. They feel everything deeply, from the skies to the waves, and notice every smile and tear. This makes them extremely sensitive and highly vulnerable.
This trait has led the world to tag behaviour such as mood swings as something innate to artists given their erratic nature and unpredictable preferences.
Personalities differ, but most creatives will don the skin of introverts as a need. Too much stimuli impedes their mental processes and they retreat to disconnect with the world in order to dive into their own.
But creatives aren’t all introverts by nature, with many loving the spotlight and being the centre of attention. They love for their uniqueness and individuality to be celebrated by the world and accepted for it.
To someone less practiced in creativity, donning a creative’s shoes would seem like madness, and it probably is — in the most beautiful and surreal of ways.
Each person has his own creative side. For most, this might be unrealized or suppressed in favour of other things. As I said at the beginning, being creative and harnessing your talents’ full potential is more dependent on your choices than your capabilities.
Dip into this side of you from time to time. Let yourself go and start seeing yourself as you could be and not merely as you are.
Who you are capable of becoming and what you are capable of creating might actually surprise you.