From a personality perspective, creativity is most strongly and consistently linked with Myers-Briggs Intuition (N). And while all Intuitives have creative potential, not all exhibit a pronounced drive or need to be creative.
On the Enneagram, Fours and Fives are most apt to self-identify as creatives. Fours are quintessential artists and individualists, while Fives lean toward scientific, technological, or philosophical types of creative work. For Intuitives identifying as other Enneagram types, creativity is usually of lower priority or has yet to emerge as a conscious intention.
What connects creativity and Intuition is a propensity for abstract reflection, including self-reflection. Indeed, for many Intuitives creative development and the “search for self” are inextricably linked. Little fascinates them more than trying to get to the root of who they are. Curious what life can tell them about their personality and values, they’re always “checking in with themselves,” surveying their subjective responses to different experiences. And when something strikes them as particularly interesting or important, they feel inspired to harness and perpetuate that energy by way of intensive reflection or creative engagement.
Not only can self-reflection kindle creative inspiration, but creative work can also serve as a path to self-discovery for Intuitives. According to Don Riso, “In the creative moment, they not only produce something beautiful, but discover who they are.” Writer Joan Didion echoes this sentiment: “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.” This casts doubts on the common assumption that knowledge or self-knowledge must precede, rather than emerge from, creative expression.
What Intuitives Want: Creativity, Discovery & Knowledge
In his essay, “Expertise, Competence and Creative Ability,” Dean Keith Simonton explores the question of whether Einstein was more of an expert—i.e., one who had mastered a field of knowledge—or a creator. He makes a compelling case that Einstein wasn’t the expert he’s often imagined to be, as he was “not fully proficient or fluent in those areas of physics wherein he should have been the world’s greatest expert.” Indeed, there’s a good chance Einstein would have agreed with Simonton’s observation. In his famous quip, “imagination is more important than knowledge,” Einstein revealed his preference for creative thought over static knowledge. This squares with Simonton’s view that:
Unlike experts who strive to master everything known so far, creators wish to venture into the unknown, to ask new questions rather than learn old answers.
So perhaps the real throughline between creativity and Intuitives’ quest for self-understanding is the allure and act of discovery. There’s a sense in which knowledge feels stale or stagnant, like an old puddle of water. The process of discovery, by contrast, feels more vibrant and alive.
Many Intuitives, whether they realize it or not, have a love-hate relationship with knowledge and certainty. In Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky writes:
Man has always been afraid of this mathematical certainty… He traverses oceans, sacrifices his life in the quest, but to succeed—really to find it—he dreads. He feels that when he has found it there will be nothing for him to look for.
To be clear, it’s not that knowledge has no value or utility for Intuitives. Knowing their penchant for discovery, for instance, is incredibly useful. This knowledge can be used to guide their career decisions, avoid self-delusions, etc. In many respects, knowledge functions as a sort of short-cut in life. It keeps us from having to “reinvent the wheel” or “learn lessons the hard way.”
But when knowledge is Intuitives’ primary goal, its obtainment can kill their inspiration suggests Dostoevsky. Similarly, writer Colin Wilson once remarked about having to learn how to avoid deflating his intuitions with too much analysis. Excessive analysis, in Wilson’s view, is a surefire way to damn-up the stream of creative flow.
It’s therefore paradoxical that knowledge is what helps Intuitives steer clear of these creativity killers. So an all-out assault on knowledge is clearly unwarranted. Not only are creative types compelled by the prospect of knowledge and self-knowledge, but knowledge allows them to be more effective at whatever their aiming to do.
Challenges of the Creative Life
When Intuitives reach an endpoint in discovery, such as finishing a creative or investigative project, they often feel a bit down and aimless, as their flame of purpose and inspiration has been extinguished. They must then set their sights on figuring out their next step, on finding a new source of inspiration and exploration. And this too is an act of discovery. More often than not, this includes looking inward in order to revisit who they are and to see what is currently beckoning or resonating with them. If this proves successful, Intuitives will be off and running, thrilled to have unearthed a brand new undertaking.
Unfortunately, even dreams and ideas with great promise can peter out, like a thoroughbred that keeps losing ground and eventually finds itself at the back of the pack. This can be deeply frustrating for Intuitives who are hungry to taste, once again, the delight of discovery and creative investment.
In part, this petering out stems from the fickleness of inspiration itself, which can seem to have a mind of its own. But Intuitives can’t help but wonder if they couldn’t do a better job of selecting their projects, of knowing in advance what’s going to stick and what isn’t. Or maybe the problem is with their own psychology? Perhaps developing more grit or tenacity could help them overcome creative roadblocks.
It’s also easy for Intuitives to assume that successful creators have a near perfect track record, with little in the way of flops or failures. According to Simonton, this is rarely the case:
The career of a typical creator consists of a chaotic sequence of hits and misses, successes and failures. A universally acclaimed masterpiece might be followed immediately by a widely criticized or ignored attempt… The creators who boast the most successes must also admit the most failures.
This is certainly worth keeping in mind if you’re a creative type. It’s neither realistic nor psychologically helpful to expect a steady diet of success. While this may seem discouraging to our resident perfectionists, I suspect that for most creators, the opposite is true. It’s strangely reassuring to hear that, even for the most gifted creators, success can be hit or miss. Persistent effort, including the ability to risk and tolerate failure, thus becomes a critical attribute.
Like the discovery process itself, throwing our hat into the creative ring requires a willingness to confront the unknown. Outcomes—presumed success or failure—are just as unforeseeable as the insights birthed in discovery. So given Intuitives’ thirst for the unknown, taking creative risks should be in their wheelhouse, or at least something they embrace as part of their growth process.
To learn more about self-discovery and harnessing your creativity in accordance with your personality type, be sure to explore our online course, Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP:
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