For ten days I’m writing about what it really takes to be Highly Creative and whether greater opportunities make for greater Creativity. Yesterday I wrote Searching For and Revising What Is.
Highly Creative people use their more obvious natural inclinations– their strengths, and their shadow sides– their struggles, for Creation.
In my practical medical work–of over 20 years–with nervous patients I have long been struck by the fact that besides the many individual differences in human psychology there are also typical differences. The two types especially clear to me; I have termed them the introverted and the extroverted types.
I must presume unduly upon the goodwill of the reader…it would be relatively simple to [explain my theory] if every reader knew to which category he belonged.
Ninety years later educated people– the world over, know to which Jungian type they belong. If you are the life in a party– you’re extroverted; if you hang out by the wall, well, you’re introverted. But Carl Jung believed people with mature personalities knew their natural inclinations–such as extroversion, and their shadow. Jung’s term shadow refers to the hidden, unconscious, suppressed or just less developed human traits each individual possesses. Each person’s shadow is her own cross to bear. Jung wrote,
The shadow belongs to the wholeness of the personality: the strong man must somewhere be weak, somewhere the clever man must be stupid, otherwise he is too good to be true and falls back on pose and bluff. Is it not an old truth that woman loves the weaknesses of the strong man more than his strength, and the stupidity of the clever man more than his cleverness ?
Since Creative work often requires large doses of alone-time, naturally extroverted Creators develop their shadow side– their introverted selves, to focus on their work without external interruptions. Creativity scholar Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi says,
The stereotype of the solitary genius is strong and gets ample support also from our interviews [of hundreds of Highly Creative people]. After all, one must generally be alone in order to write, paint, or do experiments in a laboratory.
As we know from studies of young talented people, teenagers who cannot stand being alone tend not to develop their skills because practicing music or studying math requires a solitude they dread.
But, because ideas do not explode upon the Universe in silence, the naturally introverted–who spend no energy learning to be alone, must call out their extroverted shadow to test and expand Creation. Ideas must– in the words of Science writer Matt Ridley, have sex with other ideas. Cskizentmihalyi says,
Over and over again, the importance of seeing people, hearing people, exchanging ideas, and getting to know another person’s work and mind are stressed by creative individuals.
Physicist John Wheeler says,
If you don’t kick things around with people, you are out of it. Nobody, I always say, can be anybody without somebody being around.
Michelangelo, naturally reserved and quiet, sat countless hours among his patrons in the Medici court. Isaac Newton–another introvert, debated hours-on-end with his Royal Society friends. Mark Twain, laughed and made others laugh. Parties started when he arrived, but he declined countless invitations so he could be alone to Create. All three used both their natural inclinations– their strengths, and their shadow sides– their struggles, for Creation.