STEPHEN THOMPSON: How to be creative – without reading the book!



For three decades, Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied creative people to see how they live and work. His “Creativity: The Work and Lives of 91 Eminent People” highlights nine contradictory traits creative people often share. Want to be creative without reading his book?

Be flexible. Non-creative people pigeon-hole themselves by thinking and doing things in a set way. By entertaining contradictory thoughts at the same time, you’ll approach problems from many angles, seemingly thinking and acting as if you had multiple personalities.

Be introverted and extroverted. Non-creative people tend toward one extreme or the other, but highly creative people balance both simultaneously.

Balance ego with humility. Most creative people display a strong streak of creative pride, yet are genuinely humble.

Be both smart and naive. This will quickly generate a lot of unusual ideas. Engage your multiple personalities to see those ideas from many perspectives, then be smart enough to choose the best one.

Combine work and play. Mihaly says, “Despite the carefree air that many creative people affect, most of them work late into the night and persist when less driven individuals would not.” But be careful. Mixing maniacal perseverance with playfulness, when taken to an extreme, can damage family ties and other responsibilities.

Pace yourself. Temper your long hours of concentration and physical work with periods of quiet and rest. Be comfortable with both, or your creativity will burn out.

Walk in reality and fantasy. Easily slip between the worlds of your imagination and the world of reality. Be hyperaware of reality so you can see ways to improve it. Leap into different worlds and make them real.

Be your own best critic. Let yourself be passionate about what you create, but remain extremely objective as well. Be able to admit when something you’ve made isn’t as good as it needs to be.

Be rebellious and conservative. Master your culture, your art, and your work so thoroughly that you know exactly where to break the rules. Be simultaneously traditional and radical. Sometimes apparent contradictions are actually harmony in disguise.

“Perhaps the most important quality, the one that is most consistently present in all creative individuals, is the ability to enjoy the process of creation for its own sake,” Mihaly says. Otherwise physicists would stop doing basic research to join industrial laboratories where work is more predictable; economists would work for banks and earn twice their university salaries; and poets would stop striving for perfection and start writing commercial jingles.

Live in beauty!

Stephen Thompson, has been creating beautiful, tasteful, coordinated interiors since 1975. For questions, comments, or consultations text (662) 231-5519 or contact Designer Connection, P.O. Box 361, Tupelo, MS 38802 or

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