100 Things Challenge (#4): The Overlap of Personality and Creativity
We broke into groups with anyone else who had the same result we did. (Only one other person scored as an INFJ, not surprisingly, since we are apparently the rarest type!*) We were given a handout describing what our result meant. Reading this was like reading a description of myself down to very specific, uncanny details.
* Bobby has the exact same type as me except that he is an ENFJ--extroverted where I am introverted.
Some of those uncanny details:
- "Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities." *shifty look at imaginary friends*
- "They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done ..." *shifty look at ToME policy documents*
- "They are usually right, and they usually know it." (My mom once told me that my dad and I both thought we were always right and couldn't figure out why the rest of the world was so stupid.)
- "... we may see some signs of disarray in an otherwise orderly tendency, such as a consistently messy desk." *shifty look at consistently messy desk*
- "INFJs are concerned for people's feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone."
- "... they trust their own instincts above all else. This may result in an INFJ stubborness and tendency to ignore other people's opinions. They believe that they're right." (Yeah. Working on this ...)
- "INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don't often take time to revel in their accomplishments."
- "They have strong value systems, and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right."
- "In the workplace, the INFJ usually shows up in areas where they can be creative and somewhat independent. They have a natural affinity for art, and many excel in the sciences, where they make use of their intuition. INFJs can also be found in service-oriented professions." (This explains the "sideways brain." Also the desire to work in a Level-5 school.)
- "An INFJ who has gone the route of becoming meticulous about details may be highly critical of other individuals who are not." (I kinda sound like an asshat by this point. Privately, in high-stakes situations [i.e., work, not fandom], I can be critical to the point of nastiness of others--just ask Bobby, who hears about it! I am diplomatic about it to everyone else. Very outside my usual peace-love-and-understanding personality ... or so I thought!)
- "Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement."
Of course life isn't easy! Apparently, everyone else is so fucking stupid! ;)
I did disagree in two places:
- "They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress."
This was certainly true once, but I've worked hard and sometimes painfully to cowboy up, and I think I handle conflict pretty well now; I would not be in the line of work I'm in if I could not. But this is something I had to train myself to do, and I do get ill/depressed/bite my fingers till they're bloody when I'm stressed. That I don't see myself unlearning.
- "They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks."
Not true at all, but again, this is something I work with a lot.
In a nutshell, I'm a creative person, prone to being very imaginative and thinking of things in symbolic/abstract/imaginative terms. I'm extremely sensitive to the feelings of others. I'm very critical of others too, but even more so of myself. I am my own worst critic. I am an idealist and live my life according to those ideals.
And I have a messy desk. :)
Keirsey results can tell you things about your social, professional, and personal lives. As uncanny as it was to read what could have been a character study of myself, my next thought was to wonder what it told me about my creative life. If there is a correlation between the kinds of work one is good at and one's Kiersey score, then is there a correlation between one's personality and the kind of creative work one produces?
It seems pretty definite that there's a correlation between personality and creativity. I did a cursory search of PsycInfo and turned up several thousand abstracts on how personality affects one's ability to be creative in various domains (artistic, scientific, social, etc.). Obviously, I didn't look through all of the abstracts; I read a couple dozen and, while I found lots of research correlating different personality traits with a tendency toward creativity, I didn't find anything looking at how different personality types might influence the kind of creativity a person engages in. I'm not talking broad distinctions like artistic versus scientific creativity; that research exists. I'm talking the very granular, i.e., this personality type develops character well, this type structures plots well, this type best wields potent imagery. Assessments exist that measure at least some of these dimensions--the Torrance Tests of Creativity were used in a lot of the studies I reviewed, and they capture information on imagery, storytelling, and humor--but I didn't find any studies looking at whether certain personality traits tend to correlate with, say, an ability to paint a picture in words. Also, some of the dimensions of written creativity--character jumps out at me, of course--aren't measured at all, at least in the assessments I looked at.
Yet it seems to me there would be a connection between the two. I look at my personality score, and the kind of writing I'm best at makes sense. I'm often told that I'm a good character writer; that the people I create for my stories seem real and behave in believable ways. And INFJs have a supposed knack for "intuiting" people, for knowing things about people without necessarily being able to say how. That's certainly true for me; in fact, I was attracted to studying psychology as a way to explain what I observed of human nature. It gave me a vocabulary for talking about what I observed of human behavior. It makes sense to me that this could translate into my writing as well as a kind of reverse engineering of human behavior: beginning with the reason for behavior and drawing out the behaviors themselves from that. Like my latest Silmfic, "Leaves before the Wind," I began with the idea of Maedhros's instability due to a profound sense of failure, grief for Fingon, and guilt over both (to simplify greatly). As I wrote the story, all of his behaviors tied back into that in some way. That seemed to click with people.
Then there's the "liv[ing] in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities." I dislike the accusation that authors place "hidden" or "secret" meanings in literary works; these meanings are there for discovery but require a bit of deeper digging. I do intentionally create layers of meaning in my stories. I like to think the stories remain enjoyable just at the literary level. It is a fun mental exercise for me, though, to create those deeper meanings, and I know many of my readers pick up on them as well.
So it seems, for me anyway, my personality predicts the kind of writing I'm best at. Is this true in general, though? This is where my flist can help me. First of all, take the Keirsey assessment. It takes about 10 minutes to complete. Next, read about your personality type, either on the Keirsey site or here. Is your description accurate? If it is, do you see connections between it and your strengths as a writer or artist?
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!