If you’re a writer or artist or scientist and you like working on your own, it could be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, independence is one of 13 traits of highly creative and productive people. On the other hand, employers will say you’re not a team player.
Frank Barron, a pioneer in the scientific study of creativity, identified the traits of the most productive scientists based on empirical research. He said the traits overlapped with the characteristics of scientists who were creative and original, the same traits shared by writers and artists.
In a typical American corporate setting, many of these traits can be construed as negative. A person who’s disciplined (trait #7) could be seen as a control freak and a micromanager. That’s bad news in any workplace. However, self-discipline is important for writers. Stephen King writes 2,000 words a day. James Patterson, who got me to read Barron’s work (more on that later), writes every day year-round.
Writers, artists, and scientists also tend to be nonconformists (trait #9). Just think of Galileo, Henry David Thoreau, Vincent Van Gogh, and Virginia Woolf. Well, the corporate world despises nonconformity.
Check out these 13 traits, and see if you identify with any of them.
- A high degree of autonomy, self-sufficiency, self-direction.
- A preference for mental manipulations involving things rather than people: a somewhat distant or detached attitude in interpersonal relations, and a preference for intellectually challenging situations rather than socially challenging ones.
- High ego strength and emotional stability.
- A liking for method, precision, exactness.
- A preference for such defense mechanisms as repression and isolation in dealing with affect and instinctual energies.
- A high degree of personal dominance but a dislike of personally toned controversy.
- A high degree of control of impulse, amounting almost to over-control: relatively little talkativeness, gregariousness, impulsiveness.
- A liking for abstract thinking, with considerable tolerance of cognitive ambiguity.
- Marked independence of judgment, rejection of group pressures toward conformity in thinking.
- Superior general intelligence.
- An early, very broad interest in intellectual activities.
- A drive toward comprehensiveness and elegance in explanation.
- A special interest in the kind of “wagering” which involves pitting oneself against uncertain circumstances in which one’s own effort can be the deciding factor.
Now that you’ve read the list, let’s go back to James Patterson. I took his online MasterClass last December. One of the books he recommended to the class was “The Act of Creation” by Arthur Koestler.
While scouring the book shelves in a public library, I came across a book about Arthur Koestler, a journalist, novelist, and bona fide intellectual who combined psychology and philosophy. The book is called “Astride the Two Cultures: Arthur Koestler at 70.” The abovementioned 13 traits came from a chapter written by Frank Barron on the subject of productivity and creativity.
Read another story about special traits:
Photo above: Monet paintings displayed in the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. (Photo by Cindy Fazzi)