Creativity and Mental Illness…

August 22, 2014

2014-07-26_16-11-39This is a second post on the article from the Atlantic Magazine on the creative brain. Click here to see the article. The process of creativity has always fascinated me. Just what makes some people more creative than others? It is something they are born with or do they learn it through life’s experiences?

I don’t often state it often but my IQ has been tested to be into the top 2%. That would surprise many of my teachers who I’m sure just thought of me as lazy as I was going through school. Sometimes I just didn’t have much interest in what they were teaching. I was too busy learning other things on my own. Should a higher IQ enable me to be more creative than most? I think it should but sometimes I become very frustrated that I am just never as creative as I would like to be.

Here are some final words from the article that I can personally relate to:

Creative people tend to be very persistent, even when confronted with skepticism or rejection. Asked what it takes to be a successful scientist, one replied:

Perseverance … In order to have that freedom to find things out, you have to have perseverance … The grant doesn’t get funded, and the next day you get up, and you put the next foot in front, and you keep putting your foot in front … I still take things personally….

Do creative people simply have more ideas, and therefore differ from average people only in a quantitative way, or are they also qualitatively different? One subject, a neuroscientist and an inventor, addressed this question in an interesting way, conceptualizing the matter in terms of kites and strings:

In the R&D business, we kind of lump people into two categories: inventors and engineers. The inventor is the kite kind of person. They have a zillion ideas and they come up with great first prototypes. But generally an inventor … is not a tidy person. He sees the big picture and … [is] constantly lashing something together that doesn’t really work. And then the engineers are the strings, the craftsmen [who pick out a good idea] and make it really practical. So, one is about a good idea, the other is about … making it practical.

Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill. And some people, like John Nash, are both.

 Sticking to an idea even if it may not be popular is something that I often do.  I call myself a contrarian and that means that I often look at what people are doing and ask myself if the alternative might be better? I am also a pragmatist so I stubbornly look for what works the best instead of just settling for “that is the way it has always been done”. In some ways I think that is why I consider this blog as somewhat unique.

Being that I spent my thirty occupational years as an engineer I can thoroughly understand the difference between and engineer and an inventor. But I kind of thing it is a melding of the two that makes for success in that field.