How creative are you? What are your creative habits? What exactly constitutes “creative thinking”? Some of the most creative people in history had different and unconventional habits. But they all contributed to human development in their own unique way.
Most people prefer a clean, tidy space to work in but research suggests you should get comfortable with disorder if you want to be more creative. Now, that’s strange. You are most likely to generate creative ideas at a time when you least expect it.
A 2013 study published in the Psychological Science journal found that a messy environment increases creative thinking. The study’s “messy room” also made participants more drawn to new things. The same study found that an orderly environment led participants to be drawn to “classic” items and to choose healthier snacks than those in the messy environment.
John Cleese makes a great analogy, saying that creativity is like a tortoise: It pokes its head out nervously to ensure the environment is safe before it fully emerges. Creative thinking won’t happen when you’re nervous, stressed, or busy.
In a publication on Elite Daily, Dan Scotti notes,” All our lives, we’ve been told to “be organized.” Organization has always been pegged as a direct key to success.
Whether at home, school or in your bunk at camp, organization is something that has been instilled in everyone pretty much from birth. On the other hand, being messy has been equally condemned and made to be a quick path to failure. And, honestly, no rebuttal could say otherwise.
He writes,”Creative thinking, in its purest form, is thinking outside the lines of “conventional” reasoning. When considering this, it should be no huge shock that messy rooms containing possessions misplaced from their “conventional” locations would promote creativity.
Consider this from Albert Einstein, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”
Obviously, Einstein’s desk looked like a spiteful ex-girlfriend had a mission to destroy his workspace, and executed it rather successfully. Yet, there’s no denying Einstein’s creativity.
Einstein wasn’t alone. Mark Twain, too, had a cluttered desk. Perhaps even more cluttered than that of Albert Einstein. Mark Twain was one of the most imaginative minds of his generation.”
In the scientific America, Scott Barry Kaufman says “Over the years, scientists have attempted to capture the personality of creative people. But it hasn’t been easy putting them under the microscope. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has interviewed creative people across various fields points out, creative people “show tendencies of thought and action that in most people are segregated. They contain contradictory extremes; instead of being an “individual,” each of them is a “multitude.”
So how can we possibly bring order to the messy minds of creators? A new paper offers some hope. Psychologists Guillaume Furst, Paolo Ghisletta and Todd Lubart present an integrative model of creativity and personality that is deeply grounded in past research on the personality of creative people.
Bringing together lots of different research threads over the years, they identified three “super-factors” of personality that predict creativity: Plasticity, Divergence, and Convergence.
The super-factors of personality (according to Scott Barry Kaufman)
“Plasticity consists of the personality traits openness to experience, extraversion, high energy, and inspiration.* The common factor here is high drive for exploration, and those high in this super-factor of personality tend to have a lot of dopamine– “the neuromodulator of exploration“– coursing through their brains. Prior research has shown a strong link between Plasticity and creativity, especially in the arts.”
“Divergence consists of non-conformity, impulsivity, low agreeableness, and low conscientiousness. People high in divergence may seem like jerks, but they are often just very independent thinkers. This super-factor is close to Hans Eysenck’s concept of “Psychoticism“. Throughout his life, Eysenck argued that these non-conforming characteristics were important contributors to high creative achievements.”
“Finally, Convergence consists of high conscientiousness, precision, persistence, and critical sense. While not typically included in discussions of creativity, these characteristics are also important contributors to the creative process.
The researchers found that Convergence was strongly related to Plasticity. In other words, those who were open to new experiences, inspired, energetic, and exploratory tended to also have high levels of persistence and precision. The common factor here is most likely high energy. Perspiration and inspiration feed off each other, leading to even higher energy levels.
Nevertheless, these three super factors were at least partially distinct. For instance, those with high openness to experience and inspiration weren’t necessarily rebellious, impulsive, critical, or motivated to achieve.
So what does this mean to you? The right state of mind and tools (some unusual) can trigger the perfect creative ideas you need. And finding a healthy medium between your usual mess and that urgency to clean, is optimal. Ultimately, the onus is on your to go out and experiment for yourself and find out what works best for you and build a routine around it.