Anthony’s Storr’s book is called The Dynamics of Creation. It crystallises much I can relate to in defining the personality of a creative. He discusses emotional make-up, attitudes to relationship and social life, commitment and non-commitment, reluctance to perform and be productive, form versus content, the resolution of opposites, and more.
Here are some of Storr’s insights:
• Independence is a notable characteristic of creative people. It is not however a simple trait as it is composed of both strength and weakness, aggression and fear. Such division between opposites might be deep alongside an exceptional awareness of the fact.
• Creative artists are likely to find less gifted colleagues tedious and be less in need of social groups but nevertheless sensitive to what others think especially of their work. They may also only have a tenuous sense of their own identity, the work representing the search for that very thing.
• Avoidance of contamination by the opinions of others is important and might be an indication of ego strength. Other measures of strength of ego are dominance, self-acceptance, responsibility, self-control, tolerance, intellectual efficiency, all of which surprisingly, creatives score high on.
• Another characteristic is the ability to tolerate tension and anxiety and though there will be a desire for relief, it is remarkable how this desire can be postponed until they have arrived at a more satisfying synthesis. Such capacity for handling dissonance allows for creative types to see problems that others don’t and not to deny their existence as others might. A problem may be addressed and solved by this ability to tolerate discomfort.
• This high tolerance of anxiety exists along with a firm grasp of reality. Truly creative people are competent executants. If they were not they would not produce anything.
• High intelligence is invaluable for creative endeavours particularly for presentation.
• The drive to create springs mostly from internal discomforts.
• Exceptionally strong emotions are usually attendant sometimes with a correspondingly strong capacity for containing them. Talks of Freud: He could love and hate passionately but these emotions were hardly ever displayed to outsiders.
• Form without emotional content is sterile; emotion without formal containment is mere self-expression.
• Quotes Galton (19thC): Three gifts, all inherited, as prerequisites for great achievement - ability, zeal and a capacity for hard work.
• Form is the part of creativity most firmly associated with consciousness, judgement, control and other ego attributes.
written 1997 after reading a book about the
psychological make-up of creative people
commentary • 19.02.97