9 Attitudes of Highly Creative People

Creativity-1Yesterday I looked at 5 methods for being creative. Today I’d like to look at some attitudes to build into your approach if you want to be a more creative person:

1. Curiosity

I’ve written previously on the topic of curiosity because I’m convinced that it is an essential skill to build as a blogger. Learning to ask ‘why’, ‘what if’ and ‘I wonder…’ are great questions to build into your life if you want to be a more creative person.

2. Seeing Problems as Interesting and Acceptable

ChallengeOne of the problems of the Western mindset is that we often see problems or obstacles in life as unacceptable parts of life. We avoid pain or suppress it when it comes and in doing so don’t often see and feel symptoms that are there to tell us something important. Creative people see problems as a natural and normal part of life – in fact they often have a fascination with problems and are drawn to them.

3. Confronting Challenge

Many of the most creative ideas through out history have come from people facing a challenge or crisis and rather than running from it asking ‘how can I overcome this’?

4. Constructive Discontent

Creative people often have an acute awareness of what’s wrong with the world around them – however they are constructive about this awareness and won’t allow themselves to get bogged down in grumbling about it – they take their discontent and let it be a motivation to doing something constructive.

5. Optimism

OptimismCreative people generally have a deeply held belief that most (if not all) problems can be solved. No challenge is too big to be overcome and no problem cannot be solved (this doesn’t mean they’re always happy or never depressed – but they don’t generally get stumped by a challenge).

6. Suspending Judgment

The ability to hold off on judging or critiquing an idea is important in the process of creativity. Often great ideas start as crazy ones – if critique is applied too early the idea will be killed and never developed into something useful and useable. (note – this doesn’t mean there is never a time for critique or judgement in the creative process – it’s actually key – but there is a time and place for it).

7. Seeing Hurdles as leading to improvements and solutions

HurdlesThis relates to some of the above – but by ‘hurdles’ I mean problems and mistakes in the creative process itself. Sometimes it’s on the journey of developing an idea that the real magic happens and it’s often out of the little problems or mistakes that the idea is actually improved.

8. Perseverance

Creative people who actually see their ideas come to fruition have the ability to stick with their ideas and see them through – even when the going gets tough. This is what sets apart the great from the good in this whole sphere. Stick-ability is key.

9. Flexible Imagination

FlexibleI love watching a truly creative person at work when they’re ‘on fire’. They have this amazing ability to see a problem or challenge and it’s many potential solutions simultaneously and they have an intuitive knack at being able to bring previously disconnected ideas together in flashes of brilliance that seem so simple – yet which are so impossible to dream up for the average person.

Is Creativity tied to Personality Type or Can it be Learned?

As I read through this list of traits of creative people – the question that I find myself asking is whether creativity is tied to personality type or whether it can be learned.

My own uneducated answer to this question is – ‘yes’.

Some people are just creative – they don’t train themselves to think like they do and they often don’t even know that they are any different from the rest of us – it’s just who they are.

However I believe that we can all enhance our ability to be creative over time.

Tomorrow I’m going to round off this mini-series of posts on creativity by suggesting a few practical things that those of us wanting to enhance our creativity might build into our lives.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. runs on the Genesis Framework

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  1. Dave says:

    Nice post Darren. I’m especially taken with point 6 :

    6. Suspending Judgement

    The ability to hold off on judging or critiquing an idea is important in the process of creativity. Often great ideas start as crazy ones – if critique is applied too early the idea will be killed and never developed into something useful and useable

    I’ve always found creative people to be non-judgemental during the development phase, whether it be webdesign or the way you decorate your living room – they understand that to get to the final result, sometimes you have to take a path that is less obvious.

    This means that sometimes you need to learn, sometimes you need to be patient, and sometimes you need to accept that what you percive to be the final outcome may not be the same as everyone else.

    My moto whenever anyone has critiqued (negatively) my work (normally rightly, sometimes in my view wrongly) is that ‘opinions are like ****holes, everyones got one’ and therefore not to be taken back by their thoughts but to take on board their view and apply it to whatever I’m doing, if appropriate. I do try abd ensure anyone offering criticism understands (if applicable) that they are not viewing the final result, but a transient work in progress that may differ from the end result.

  2. Das says:

    Creativity works everywhere…
    “9 Attitudes of Highly Creative People” is a good motivational post..

  3. Stuart says:

    Is that ‘Merkley???’ in the first pic? He’s awesome!

  4. Ali says:

    “However I believe that we can all enhance our ability to be creative over time.”

    I’ve experienced that and I think more out of the box now than I ever did. I’ve observed and and learned mostly all of life’s main lessons by observation, especially the ability to think creatively.

  5. By the way, Darren, you made my list of blogger salaries, only since you cheekily say that you make “5 figures” per month, I had to guesstimate your salary anywhere from $120K – $1.20 million or something per year.

  6. Robinson Go says:

    i love the related images next to your ideas. carefully thought of and they just look good.

    i believe that creativity can be nurtured. let’s say in a school environment. some schools *i can’t say the name or i’ll be subject to public ridicule* somehow ban creativity, i’ve heard from my friends that they just came from schools that made them more creative in all aspects of their life.

  7. Harry L says:

    Probably my experience in education in the U.S. is that students are generally taught not to be creative. Through high school the emphasis was always on rote memorization and regurgitation of “facts” rather than critical analysis or independent thinking.

  8. JoLynn says:

    I also love the creativity that you’ve shown my matching the relevant, eye-catching images with each point you made in your post. I am working on incorporating more creative and relevant images into my posts, as well.

    I do believe that there are those who are born creative, however everyone does have that creative, “right brain” side that they can develop. It takes a concerted effort and you still may not be as naturally creative as other people, but you can bring it out.

  9. bill says:

    Great post! A classic for many fields.

  10. bill says:

    On further thought, there’s probably a worthwhile book in this post alone.

  11. The last couple of posts on creativity have been really great, Darren. I mean, speaking on the subject of creativity alone has definitely made at least one person here feel a little more creative, right? Awesome and effective forum, man — I can’t wait for your next post.

  12. Mike says:

    Along with the attitudes of creative people must be an environment that permits, supports and even nutures creativity. After nearly 35 year in nuclear energy — an industry most would not see as nurturing creativity — I retired earlier this year. As an instructor for most of those years, I was fortunate most of the time that my management permitted and even encouraged to be creative. On annual performance reviews, my creativity was usually cited as a strength.

    Unfortunately, over time, the work environment became less and less nurturing for any kind of creative process with the addition of all sorts of new requirements and burdens that did nothing to enhance the core business of training the workers. It became more and more difficult to present the same old topics in new and different ways to make it an interesting learning experience.

    The most creative person in the world will have a hard time being creative in the wrong environment.

  13. Jen Koretsky says:

    “Is Creativity tied to Personality Type or Can it be Learned?” I’m not really sure what the answer to this question is. One thing I do know, however, is that creativity is one of the positive traits of people with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder.)

    Throughout history, adults with ADD have been artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs. I’ve never had a client or friend with ADD who wasn’t highly creative in one way or another!

  14. Marcos Clark says:


    Quisiera alguien me diferenciara entre:

    Imaginación flexible sobre la imaginación superflua.

  15. AgentSully says:

    Great analysis of creative people.

    I have a slightly off topic question. How do you get ECTO to display the link to the flickr photos you put in your post? I haven’t been able to figure this out yet.

    thank you!

  16. Darren Rowse says:

    AgentSully – I just edit it manually before posting and make the image a link to the flickr page.

  17. Ian says:

    I definitely agree that creativity can be self-taught, mainly because I am constantly teaching myself to be more creative. The first step is to suspend your fear of failure and then everything else follows (that should be on the list, by the way).

  18. Easterangel says:

    Great ideas straight from a creative person himself. It just goes to show that being creative takes work as well rather than just coming up with ideas.

    A very practical work and I am making this as the “Post of the Day” for my “Post Awards” blog.

  19. Grant Emsley says:

    I particularly agree with #2 (Seeing Problems as Interesting and Acceptable). I get bored far too easily if I don’t have a good problem to challenge me.

    A lot of people I know get overwhelmed over simple problems. I usually see them as a chance to learn how to do something new, especially with computer problems.

  20. merkley??? says:

    is it creative to use someone’s creative photograph without linking or giving credit or is that just douchebaggy?

    might be creative douchebaggotry, but then again, it might just be the complete abscence of creativity. perhaps even the theft of creativity.

    anyway, i’m glad you thought my photgraph represented creativity, but maybe your next article about blogging should be about linking and passing along due credit.


  21. merkley??? says:

    btw, if i seem bugged it’s because i’m naturally an asshole. it’s a gift. in reality i don’t really care.


  22. Jeffrey says:

    a wonderful post darren. though i think this entire list is dead on, i specifically resonate with trait number four. the great philosophers of antiquity all shared in this quality, and for some reason Plato jumps out in my mind specifically.

    someone once said, “…the only thing we require to be great philosophers is the faculty of wonder.”

  23. Darren Rowse says:

    merkley??? – apologies man. I had linked to it but left out a character in the code and it didn’t go live. Have remedied it. I always link back to the source of pics (when I’m seeing straight) and only used it as it was such a great shot.

  24. merkley??? says:

    ha ha — i love giving shit.

  25. JennDZ says:

    I think people can learn to be creative once they stop being a control freak. People are so afraid these days of just letting their path lead them, that they end up being unhappy and unfulfilled. Ever since I just let the wind take me where I am supposed to go, I have been filled with blessings in my life and…more creativity, because I know there is no end!

  26. It seems to me that people who are creative are also stuck in their own world. They are constantly thinking about how to get things done. Like web designers, and graphic designers are constantly challenged to be creative, and their creative mind is always thinking that, “Oh what if I put that extra line by that word”… so, what I am trying to say is, constantly thinking about your visions is also an attitude of highly creative people.

  27. renota says:

    Yes, I agree. As a creative person I’d say this article is bang on. And yes there are environments out there that suppress it, but there’s always another one around the bend that may not ;) The world is not always kind to the creative, sadly it seems to value and encourage conformity. Then someone bucks the trend and everyone looks around amazed and, sadly, gratified.
    I do agree that people seem to be born with an inclination towards creativity that childhood in general nurchers. However, a truly creative person doesn’t see rank in creativity either (#6). Heaven alone knows where the inspiration for your next idea comes from; you may end up building on someone else’s idea! So, in a way, that makes us all equals. Whether you come up w the idea or you inspire someone else to do so, you’ve still contributed to a solution that takes us a step forward. And that’s all good.
    Even if you have it you have to nurture it and grow it. But it’s fun and it keeps you happy to be alive. Life becomes one grand adventure. ;)

  28. Aaron says:

    “One of the problems of the Western mindset is that we often see problems or obstacles in life as unacceptable parts of life.”

    Exactly which cultural mindsets out there do not see problems as obstacles or unacceptable? It seems to me that if a problem isn’t an obstacle and is not unacceptable, it isn’t really a problem :)

    Perhaps you mean that you think people shy away from problems without wanting to confront them. Thats certainly true, and a good point, but is a general human condition, and not specific to Western civilization.

    Also, I disagree strongly with your #6. I am a highly creative person but also highly judgmental. Critiquing ideas at all times is very important. Creation is like walking a path in your mind, it is a continuous process, and your active critiques keep you on a path that means something.

    Otherwise since the number of crazy + stupid ideas far out number crazy + good ideas, you are going to waste a lot of time following crazy paths that you haven’t really thought about, and that you will realize on belated reflection are actually, in fact, quite stupid. :)

    Creativity is a complex human quality that is a combination of many other things. Some parts can’t be learned easily, like imagination, but others, like knowing lots of stuff, can be.

    You want to be more creative: read lots of books. A large part of being creative is combining concepts. If you have few concepts, you can’t hope to be creative.

  29. Thanks fpr the post, Darren

    Team spirit could be another attitudes of highly creative people


  30. Darren Rowse says:

    Aaron – you have rewritten that first point well – although I personally don’t see some problems as unacceptable at all – I’m learning to see them in a much more positive light.

    On the judgment thing – you might want to reread what I wrote – I actually wrote about ‘suspended judgment’ and finished the paragraph with a sentence saying that I wasn’t against being judgmental (I said that it was key) but having the ability to suspend judgment until the right time.

    My own creative process is to have periods of bluesky thinking followed by periods of critique/judgment and tweaking of the ideas. However I find that if I start the dreaming stage with more of a ‘judging’ frame of mind that the ideas don’t come.

  31. Miguel says:

    I actaully truly believe anything is possible, but there are limits. That’s the way I think.

  32. You know how some ad agencies and even production studios, like Pixar, constantly surround themselves with fun activities and toys for their employees? It’s just like what a fellow commentator said — creativity also depends on one’s environment. And that bit about suspending one’s fear of failure…I totally agree. You can certainly come up with the best, most creative things when you let your guard down more often.

  33. Teresa says:

    As an artist I fit under all of those except “suspending judgment.” Tell you the truth, the lack of the ability actually inhibits making it anywhere and damages my self esteem. I think that all of these really coincide with each other

  34. Mark Libucha says:

    #10 Oblivious to the laughter of others.

  35. Donna says:

    Great post. This may fall somewhere within being non-judgemental or optimistic….but for me …..creativity really flourished once I realized that:

    1) every problem had multiple solutions and it was just a matter of creating the easiest and most efficient way to overcome perceived
    obstacles and/or convincing the right people.

    in other words, there was always a way to accomplish the result
    that I ultimately wanted…it was just a puzzle to find the best route

    actually I think this falls into many of your categories and it is right on
    point. Creativity is not something that I was taught, it was something
    that I just naturally developed ..because I enjoyed puzzles, had an open
    mind and refused to accept that it could not be done. It takes time, but
    once your figure it out..everything falls into place rather quickly and at
    the end the result seems so easy and straight forward.

    Once you start using your creative juices, it becomes fun and you become more efficient at it. Its sort of self taught and addictive

  36. Anna says:

    Yes, creative people have a different mindset and see the world differently from us. “Seeing problems as interesting and acceptable” and “Seeing hurdles as leading to improvements and solutions” show that they are thankful for the problems that come along as this gives them the impetus to be creative. It is akin to being grateful for everything that life has to offer, whether it is good or bad, as you become more tolerant and it opens your mind to the good that can come out of many bad situations.

  37. tuan rumah says:

    very good post.. you can write a book on this.. and I will definitely buy!

    Travel Update on Malaysia

  38. Sherri says:

    Fantastic post! With Spring here, energy is beginning to boost, so this is a perfect time to remind ourselves to be creative and have an open-minded thought process. I particularly like the term “Constructive Discontent.” There is a fine line between that and complaining.

  39. I am particularly affected by problems are interesting, confront challenge, optimism, hurdles are improvements, and perseverance (sticktoitiveness). I have been looking for jobs for 17 months and employers have been lying about my experience. I just confronted someone about a job I had last month below my experience level and he denied responsibility. Thanks to suggestions like yours I didn’t give up. I complained directly to one of the top CEOs in the country. If he doesn’t call me back, I planted a seed about their involvement. Thanks for teaching me that attitudes are a basis for creativity. I was told that failure is a part of success. I’m almost ready to say that it is not. I was looking for a job at a top company and now I’m looking for a job at a small business. I don’t want to work for hundreds of companies because they won’t fire everybody.

  40. MarkL says:

    Great information here ! I think the learnng of creativity depends on a few things. First I think each is born with an amount which may be restricted by the kinds of traing one may go through in life. Second I think if creativity is indeed lessoned the self must “un-learn” all the crap that lessoned it, and that I think takes an amount of work – I think a lot of work.

  41. Mark says:

    Student to teacher, “How do I set my mind free”? Teacher to student, “What did you learn to put your mind in a prison”?… How I feel in my life depends on the attitude I choose, I always try and look for something good, pleasing, and if not there I imagine – thanks …

  42. (extract of the note published on my blog)
    Reste deux attitudes mentionnées par D. Rowse, sur lesquelles je voudrais revenir :
    – l’optimisme : est-ce un trait de caractère ? Ou cela peut-il se développer en même temps que la créativité ? Après tout, être créatif, c’est s’autoriser l’avenir… : « Il y a forcément des solutions ! »
    – le mécontentement constructif : jusqu’ici, je parlais de « destruction créative », ces moments où l’on veut détruire, violemment de préférence, ce que l’on a peint. Le mécontentement constructif me paraît plus proche comme formulation de ce que je souhaite faire passer. Peut-être parce que cela s’accroche directement à l’émotion ressentie : le mécontentement. Un dragon de plus qu’il est intéressant d’apprendre à chevaucher ! ;-)

  43. Dear Sir,

    Your statement regarding: “the question that I find myself asking is whether creativity is tied to personality type or whether it can be learned.
    My own uneducated answer to this question is – ‘yes’”.

    You are wrong! Haven’t you learned about left and right hemispheres of the brain? The right hemisphere is the creative side and we are either born with it, or not. Most of the people are born with the left hemisphere. It would take them hard work and long time to develope the creative side of the brain through meditation. No one will dedicate the time and effort to do it, plus, it may not work. There are people who were born with the ceative side but they don’t know about it. These people can easily develope the right hemisphere of the brain.

    This is the reason why we have so many e.g. bad films. A producer, who’s the business person, obviously with the left side of the brain, makes wrong jugment because he lacks of creativity, but he gets along with the money people. He certainly knows how to handle them.

    Maybe you should study more creative people and people with left side of the brain before you make a statement that everybody can learn creativity, unless you have a reason to mislead people.


    MarieAnna Dvorak

  44. I think perseverance and optimism are definitely two of the best traits anyone can have in anything.

  45. Jenn says:

    I believe EVERYBODY is creative…. just in different ways. Of course some people don’t recognize what they do as creative, but it is an innate ability in all of us, some of us use our creative powers for the more traditional creative endeavors like art, writing, music… others use their creative powers for those endeavors not generally considered creative, such as math (imaginary numbers are pretty creative!) or engineering, programming, parenting, etc.

  46. Deborah Khan says:

    Discovered this blog through Mark at Wishful Thinking. A great post and fantastically useful blog.

    Prompted a response from me on the attitudes/qualities of creative leaders. Forced me to prepare for a piece of work I am delivering in a couple of weeks time. Blogging it felt so much better than my own dull planning notes and will hopefully shape up my work in progress.

    Thank you.

  47. Corey Julihn says:

    Absolutely! There is an aspect of creativity that we are born with. Yet I would say most of creativity can be learned.

    There are so many myths around surrounding creativity. But if you learn to look for the right things, and follow the right process you can do “creative” things. Many would argue that process does not create art or something that is creative, but fundamentally everything follows a process. We can surround that process with myths so that it is hard for others to follow, but creativity is still process centered.

  48. Moksh Juneja says:

    I think creativity… is very very situational based…

  49. I enjoyed the article on the nine characteristics of creative people – there may be more relationship between perserverance and optimism than you are revealing – but for the most part you are right on track.

    One note – I would have put optimism/perserverance as number 1 – together. Without them we are lost.


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