Saturday, 21 July 2012

What makes you creative? Part II

We’ve all heard certain people being described as having “the personality of a goldfish.”  I personally never used that phrase, but I frequently find myself thinking that of course person X is an IT-wiz!  Or I knew person Y was a musician!  They just have the personality to go with it!  So, do writers have the personality to go with their profession? 

Psychologists have used the Five Factor Model of personality, which broadly classifies human personality into five dimensions, or factors, to investigate the relationship between personality and creativity.  Each factor comprises a range of behaviours that are plotted on a scale.

‘Openness to experience’ is one of the big five factors, with curious/inventive individuals on one end of this spectrum and consistent/cautious people on the other end.  Then we have ‘Conscientiousness’ (efficient/organised vs. easy-going/careless), ‘Extraversion’ (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved), ‘Agreeableness’ (friendly/compassionate vs. cold/unkind), and finally, ‘Neuroticism’ (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident).

‘Openness to experience’ has a strong positive correlation with creativity.  With increasing appreciation for art, adventure, variety of experiences, emotion, curiosity and unusual ideas, levels of creativity also increases.  This applies to authors.  They draw on their own emotions, experiences and fantasies when writing, and the more interesting activities they participate in, the more content they have to include in their stories.  Scenes they write are richer, for they have first-hand knowledge of how it feels to sky-dive, how the fields below look during a hot air balloon ride.  Just being open to fantasy, daydreaming about the most romantic first encounter with the love of your life, can give your writing that magical feel, even if you actually met your husband in the most mundane of settings.

If you’re lower down the ‘Extraversion’ continuum, you will be high on the ‘Introversion’ scale.  Reserved and more interested in what’s going on inside your head, you will generally prefer solitary activities such as reading, writing and playing computer games.  When I’m writing, I will go to great lengths to close myself off from the world.  I need that solitude, peace and quiet, to be alone with my characters. 

But writers cannot afford to be such introverts.  Once the book is written, we have to busy ourselves with the outside world in order to determine the best routes forward.  Find the right editor to edit it, the most suitable beta readers for their feedback, the literary agent, the publisher. 

If you’re self-publishing, you cannot be shy and rely on readers to come to you, stumble upon your book while you sit at your laptop, staring at the page views chart on your dashboard.  You need to get out there, do everything and anything you can to spread the word about your writing.  Treat it like a problem, find as many solutions as possible and follow through.  Be creative.

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