Mike Fromowitz
Oct 26, 2012

What makes creative people tick?

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people. —Leo BurnettCreative people suffer some of the worst calumnies. They never show up on time. They ...

What makes creative people tick?

Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people. —Leo Burnett

Creative people suffer some of the worst calumnies. They never show up on time. They have to be reigned in and managed. They don’t, in many cases, care about making money, either for the company, or sometimes even for themselves. They don’t like wearing suits and ties—unless it’s to an awards show. They prefer to look scruffy, and they like to wear whatever the latest fashion is. They don’t like offices with traditional furniture.  Well, I can live with all of those.  However, these are some of the most unfair and untrue myths aimed at creative people.

Creative people are wired differently.

Everyone loves what creative people do, but their personal behavior sometimes strikes others as odd. Just hire an advertising agency or a creative freelancer to confirm that there are some pretty strange creative people out there. There’s no question that creative people are wired differently.  They have different priorities too and don’t seem to care about the same things other workers care about.

Are creative people really that different from everyone else? Why do people think that creative people are maladjusted, ungrateful, selfish and unfriendly freaks?  We are adjusted just fine; perhaps not to their frequency.

We love to make ads. And win awards. We seek the recognition that comes with being creative. So what’s so bad about that?

Creative people are just as driven, if not more so, than non-creative people.  They see the world differently, and are more concerned about achieving the goal than specific ways to get there.

The creative “image”

For the most part, our industry depends on creativity and upon creative individuals, and will continue to do so forever. Society, for the most part, is spellbound by creativity in all its forms. Creative people become celebrities. John Lennon once boasted that The Beatles were more famous than Jesus Christ.

Most of us have in our mind’s eye, an image of the creative individual. He or she may be a genius, have extraordinary intelligence, is absent-minded, introverted, often volatile, and as many in our industry like to think, are so egocentric as to dismiss the attitudes and opinions of others. They can be inconsiderate, inconsistent, arrogant, and downright cantankerous. They are unpredictable, they do not follow the crowd, or behave rationally.

As a creative person, I know how difficult it is to be one. I also know how hard it can be to live with one. Creative people tend to have ever changing interests, needs and wants. Some creative people can be a bit controversial at times due to their opinionated persona. They can  perceive themselves as special but at the same time, they can be their own toughest critic.

For the most part, creative people are not like the rest of society. Many creative people don’t like to go along with the crowd. Creative people have an innate rebelliousness that leads them to dislike rules and taking orders—another aspect of the creative personality that others find difficult to cope with.

The enemy from within

A creative person's biggest enemy is himself/herself. Creativity can make you become over analytical to the extent that you overly criticize almost anything and everything. You become a perfectionist and you find it hard to be pleased no matter what. You overwork yourself thinking that it would help you cope with what's eating you inside.

Because of how creative people deal with things, often times not everybody understands what they actually want. Creative people believe that they are often times misunderstood or perceived in a negative way which is why as a defense mechanism, creative people show their shyness around other people, even avoiding them entirely.

We know how to entertain ourselves—with art, and music, and making films and ads. We are excited by the world around us and have a talent for seldom being bored. We have a knack for invention, originality, vision and finding resources that we can use to create. We’d rather make ads and music, videos and art, than read blogs about them. We’d rather visit Angkor Wat than learn about other people’s experiences of it on Tripster.

Ever wonder why most creative people have fewer friends than people who are not creative minded? I think it all has to do with time. Most creative people I know have less time to spare. Their time needs to be parceled out with care. We can not always be there for everybody. We are busy, most of the time, creating. Call it selfish if you will, but we tend to give in other ways. We care. We think. And we surely feel. It’s just that we tend to spend a great deal of our time thinking and being more imaginative.

Most of the time, creativity happens in solitude, when you are alone with your thoughts. Edward Gibbon once said: “ Solitude is the school of genius.”

With everything digital these days, I believe we have moved into a new creative age. Creativity is a most prized commodity. In this new age, the winners will surely be those creative people who can create and keep on creating.

Idris Mootee, a business strategist and innovation specialist who truly values creativity, has worked with and mentored many super talented and creative people: “I truly buy into the fact that we are heading into a “creative” economy, and these are the people who can provide organizations a competitive edge. If you can inspire, manage and empower these creatives, it is definitely a sustainable competitive advantage for any organization”.

Traits of highly creative people

Many people believe creativity is linked to intelligence, or that creative people are born that way.


Research shows that intelligence and creativity are not related. You could be a genius and display little creativity. Or you could have fairly average intelligence yet be amazingly creative.

To a large degree, creativity is a learned behavior—a matter of your approach to things, how you act or react to new circumstances, your ability to look at things in different ways, to question, experiment, and take chances. It is said that creativity is not “what you are” as much as “what you do.”

These are some of the traits of highly creative people:

  1. Courage to try new things and risk failure. Creative people believe the risk is usually worth the reward.
  2. Intuition and logic to make decisions and produce ideas. Creative people tend to listen to their gut.
  3. They are always curious.
  4. Playful. Humour and fun is a big part of the creative act. Most creative people do not like quotas and deadlines, or goals set for them. They don’t see decisions being a matter of life and death. A relaxed brain seems to be able to produce more and better ideas.
  5. Expressive. They are willing to share. They are emotional creatures and respond better to people who appear real, honest, and open.
  6. Able to find order in confusion. They have the ability to discover hidden meaning in information.
  7. Motivated by challenges rather than by external rewards. They ask hard questions and challenge assumptions. They take what most people say with a grain of salt. You must like the creative process. If you’re in it just for the money, you’re not going to be a fountain of new ideas.
  8. Able to make connections between old ideas to produce new insights.
  9. They are never satisfied.
  10. Highly competitive and like to compete with others based on results.  If you’re afraid of being wrong and making mistakes, your creativity suffers.
  11. Risk takers. Creative minds are open minded. They thrive on taking risks. They have less fear than the average person of making mistakes, or of social disapproval. Picasso has said "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it". Venturing into the unknown to see and learn the possibilities is what creative people thrive on. In a study conducted by the University of Bonn, out of 20,000 people surveyed, the ones who enjoyed taking risks were more content and happy with their lives.
  12. Have a strong ego yet they will admit when they're wrong or in trouble, and to analyze and learn from their errors.
  13. They are optimistic. Most creative people believe that everything can and will continue to get better. Making life more comfortable, efficient, and exciting. Creative minds are constantly following market trends trying to see what direction it will take. By doing this it puts you ahead of the creative game.
  14. Are easily bored. A short attention span isn’t always a good thing, but it often indicates that the creative persons intention to move on from one concept to the next one.
  15. Don’t like rules. Rules are made to be broken. They are created for creative people by other people, generally to control a process; the creative person needs freedom in order to work.
  16. Are independent. Stepping off the beaten path does not scare them. Children actually do this very well until they are eventually trained to follow the crowd and go along with the established rules.
  17. They are quick to recognize an idea, and that the first idea is not the whole idea, but simply the starting point.
  18. They put themselves in environments where creativity is encouraged. Creative people gravitate to situations where creativity is not only encouraged but expected of them. By surrounding themselves with others engaged in creative work, they immerse themselves in the latest ideas and developments in their field – and some of that creativity rubs off.

Being creative is hard work, the opposite of what most people think it is. It requires conviction, self-indulgence, meditation, a casual mindfulness, and total engagement.

Are you left brain or right brain?

There is a fascinating test on the Herald Sun’s website to help you figure out whether you think with the left or right side of your brain..

Check out at:  http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/right-brain-v-left-brain/story-e6frf7jo-1111114603615.

The site also gives you a list of right- versus left-side brain functions:


uses logic

detail oriented

facts rule

words and language

present and past

math and science

can comprehend



order/pattern perception

knows object name

reality based

forms strategies




uses feeling

“big picture” oriented

imagination rules

symbols and images

present and future

philosophy & religion

can “get it” (i.e. meaning)



spatial perception

knows object function

fantasy based

presents possibilities


risk taking

This list above shows that creating and editing are processes that happen in different parts of the brain. Creativity and imagination springs from the right side of the brain. Editing or analysing happens in the left side.

Sigmund Freud considered the imagination escapist and infantile. I don’t believe he would have enjoyed a life without art, books, theatre, music and advertising.

Mike Fromowitz



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