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Biology 202
2002 Third Paper
On Serendip

An Exploration of Creative Traits and Behaviors

Melissa Hoban

Throughout the years there has been a horrible stereotype that creative people are manic
depressive. Yes, some creative geniuses have had a variety of mental illnesses but, that is not to say that one must be mentally ill in order to be considered creative. Creativity is not the result of a mental illness and, can be found within every human being. There have been studies done showing that creativity can be taught and even enhanced. An individuals subconscious minds and the way in which, it processes information can have an effect on the way that an individual is creative. Strengthing and exercising different parts of the brain can affect creativity, as well. Also, there are different states of mind that can contribute to or hinder the creative process.

How is creativity formed? Creativity is the result of input given to the brain throughout
our lives. Input such as, visual stimulation and contact with other individuals. Anything having to do with the five senses can be considered input. After our brains receive this input it is processed and, in laymen's terms assigned to its designated area and filed way. When we sleep the input that has been filed away is brought to the surface during REM sleep. This sleep cycle is when individuals dream. The information that is brought to the surface, many times is disordered and hectic. Our brain is most creatively active during this sleep cycle. When an individual awakes they may do something creative in response to the information that their brain has processed while asleep.

Does that mean that everyone is creative? No, it does not. Many individuals in our
society have a tendency to drone their way through their lives. These individuals make everyday the same but, there is hope for them yet. Everyone has the potential to be creative. There are even things that an individual can do to enhance their creativity. For every positive there is a negative and, there are also acts and ideals that can hinder an individuals creativity.

What are some of the obstacles that one must overcome in order to be creative? There
are many and, the most common is not believing oneself to be creative. If a person believes themselves to be lacking in creativity they will not pursue creative ways of expressing themselves. Also, if an individual is too busy or involved in a problem they will not be able to find time to focus on a creative endeavor. Individuals that do not allow enough time for relaxation usually will be stressed and their minds will not be able to think creatively because it will be absorbed in the problem at hand.

There are further aspects that hinder creativity within a person that are related to
self-esteem. Examples of such issues are a "fear of criticism and lack of confidence." Self-criticism is another major issue that hinders creativity. If an individual is always telling themselves that others will not like something and that it isn't good enough that is what the result will be. Whenever they present their creative endeavor they will not present it with confidence and enthusiasm. We effect how others respond to us by our demeanor because we are a form of input to them at the time that we are in contact with them and, therefore the individual that has presented the creative work will receive a response that demonstrates a lack of enthusiasm and belief in the project. People must believe in themselves and their ideas in order for others to believe in them. After the individual has received the negative response there is a good chance that they will not pursue it or further creative endeavors of that sort.

Other actions that limit creative actions are routines and, beliefs. Routines have a
tendency to block new creative input. At the time of performing the routine a person is not being exposed to new things and ideas. Creativity is not just for when an individual is creating something. Creativity like many other things in our life is a use it or lose it trait. I realize that the latter of the two seems a bit obscure and contradictory to my earlier statements but, it is not. Having a belief that is too strong limits an individuals "response options" and the way that they receive and process information. Furthermore, an individual may 'filter out' information that is contrary to a belief that is too strong. Tendencies such as a daily routine or too strong of a belief may block an individuals creative potential.

What actions can enhance creativity? The most important action that one can take is to
avoid all aspects which hinder creativity. So, an individual should attempt to add spice to their daily routine even if it is something as simple as brushing their teeth before they take a shower, rather than after. The individual in question could even get daring and brush their teeth while in the shower. I doubt that this action will stimulate the greatest creative creation known to man but, there is only one way to find out. The best piece of advice that I have come in contact with is to "Start small and think big." Through the use of this advice one may target small aspects of their life such as brushing their teeth and taking a shower in order to begin a larger change within their lives, such as an increase in creative output.

More regimented ways of enhancing creativity include but, are not limited to: focusing on
a problem for approximately one half hour before going to bed. The individual should not let the issue come with them to bed. They should stop pondering it whenever they lay down. When the individual wakes in the morning they should rise one half hour before usual and, sit in a quiet space with a notepad and pen documenting all thoughts that enter their mind. The individual should not be critical of their thoughts or even try to sort them out at this point, only document them. The morning seems to be the best time for creative thinking because as human beings we are fresh and, our minds are not cluttered with the trials and tribulations of the day. Also studies have shown that an individual's brain works at a faster rate in the morning, after a good nights sleep, than in the evening. Another, activity that enhances creativity is to write the word happiness in the middle of a sheet of paper and draw lines extending outward from it. At the end of each of these lines an individual should place what happiness means to them. This exercise will stimulate creativity because human beings have an associative memory. This means that one idea may stimulate many others that are in some way related to it. Individuals may continue this exercise with the use of other words and use pictures rather than words as associations to it. A website that may be useful to individuals interested in further exploration of actions stimulating creativity is This website offers 52 weekly activities to enhance creativity. The one that I found to be the most compelling is number 44, "Artists and your Art"(Black). In this exercise an individual is asked to find a book that has many pictures on their favorite artist. The individual is asked to flip through the book at first only to enjoy the photos. Then, the individual is asked to mark the pictures that they enjoy the most and, narrow them down to three. The individual is asked to make the assumption that the artist was trying to give them clues about the current challenges and problems through these works. they are then asked to write down what comes to mind; such as s the color, shapes and images that are in the art. Lastly the individual is asked to write down what they discovered through the relation of their problems to the art work. I have recommended it to several people all of whom have felt that it was beneficial to them. The most beneficial thing that an individual can do to enhance their creativity is to take care of themselves. The most known ways of taking care of the human body is a healthy diet consisting of all of the five food groups, exercise, and the proper amount of sleep.

What behaviors are associated with creative individuals and why? There are many
stereotypes associated with creative individuals that are incorrect. The first that I would like to address is that of mental illness. The reason that this association is made is because all creative individuals have a unique perspective on life and fascinating lifestyles. The reason that creative individuals have such interesting lives is, as I have stated previously, because creativity is not just used within creative works but, in everyday life. One such example is that of Salvador Dali. Dali throughout his life was fascinated death and, had a insatiable craving for sex, money and, fame. These indeed are abnormal behaviors but, then again what is normal. Dali's cravings for sex, money, and, fame are likely related to the feeling experienced when endorphins are released. Endorphins are released when in a state of inspiration. Dali most likely enjoyed the his feelings of inspiration so much that subconsciously he sought out further instant gratification through sex, money and, fame. Many other artists behaviors can be related to this desire for instant gratification found at a time of inspiration. Manic Depressive disorder is also, associated with creativity. I agree with Jamison in her statement that most creative individuals are not emotionally unstable, and emotionally unstable individuals are not necessarily creative.

Traits associated with creative behavior that are more likely are: independence,
self-confidence, enthusiasm, spontaneity, curiosity, idealism, and a wide variety of interests. Furthermore many creative people are risk-takers, enjoy adventure, are high in energy, have a variety of interests and, are somewhat childlike in their playful nature, as described by Robert Alan Black, Ph.D. Creative people have a "carefully and clearly defined set of goals" (Nightingale).

What makes someone that is creative a creative genius? In the development of my
research I found a very interesting and proven test to see if a person is a genius. This test lists 20 characteristics and asks you to evaluate yourself using a scale of 0 to 5. The larger the number that you receive the more apt to being a genius you are. The twenty characteristics that he lists are "Vision, Desire, Faith, Commitment, Planning, Persistence, Learning from mistakes, Subject Knowledge, Mental Literacy, Imagination, Positive Attitude, Auto-Suggestion, Intuition, Mastermind Group (Real), Mastermind Group (Internal), Truth/Honesty, Facing Fears/Courage, Creativity/Flexibility, Love of the Task, Energy (Physical/Sensual/Sexual)." These are indeed a good list of traits to posses and may make an individual apt to do a better job on an assignment but, I have always felt that ambiguous tests such as this tell us only things that we already know about ourselves. This test is a good basis for self-improvement and in my opinion should be regarded as nothing more. There are other more regimented tests available. Some of these tests test for creativity.

Many of them are given to children in elementary school. I personally have never taken
one of these because of my mothers influence and never will. The closest thing to this that I have experienced are the SATs. The reasoning behind my choice to not take these tests is that these tests do nothing good for an individual, and the results are many times quite questionable. First of all if a person scores low especially at a young age they are apt to believe that they are not intelligent. The effect of such a belief will likely, hinder an individuals work drive as well as belief in themselves and their actions. Therefore this individual may not meet their potential or, challenge themselves. The opposite diagnosis from one of these tests is negative as well. If the
individual finds that they are an assumed genius they most likely will not realize that this is merely the potential of being a genius. These individuals will have a similar effect except it will be for different reasons. The reasoning that this individual may experience is that since they are a genius they do not need to try.

I chose to do send a survey via e-mail to 50 of my friends as another form of research.
the survey that was sent is as follows.

As a research document this survey may be filed as an attachment to my final paper and,
displayed on under student web papers. All of your names will be left anonymous. Thank you, Melissa Hoban.
1. What do you feel is your best creative outlet?
2. Where do you feel that you are best able to work creatively?
3. Do you have a favorite creative work of someone other than yourself?
4. If so what is it and why?
5. Do you have a favorite creative work that you have created?
6. If so give a brief description (if it is a writing or something that is easily attached please do so) and, what about it appeals to you?
7. I personally find dance and poetry to be my creative outlets and when creating a piece
sometimes have a feeling of inspiration that through my research has been labeled by many as a spiritualized or dream-like state. Have you experience something similar? and if so would you describe the feeling with the same terms? if not how would you describe it?
8. In my research I have found that many people believe that there are multiple ways of
enhancing creativity. The most commonly known are journals, healthy diet, exercise, new
experiences every day, and relaxation but, there are also many more that are quite specific. Have you ever heard of this idea? How familiar are you with it? Have you ever used any of the tactics listed or otherwise and if so which ones?
9. Following is a list of twenty characteristics devised by Tony Buzan. Please rate yourself by assigning a score of 0 to 5 for each of the qualities.
Vision Desire
Faith Commitment
Planning Persistence
Learning from mistakes Subject Knowledge
Mental Literacy Imagination

My finding were that there are a variety of creative interests that I had not even considered, such as, political writings, embroidery and, doing ones hair. Most of the individuals surveyed felt that they worked best in the morning and by themselves with no distractions. I had not heard of the majority of creative work done by artists other than themselves. Two examples of the artists that I am unfamiliar with and plan to do research on, for my own enjoyment, are the works of Liselotte Erikson and, Frank Zappa. Most of the individuals did not have a favorite creative work of their own. Three-quarters of the surveys said that they had felt the feeling of inspiration
and, had a million different ways to describe it. About 1/10 those surveyed were familiar with the idea that there are things that a person can do in order to enhance their creativity but, those that were not familiar with this idea admitted to having practiced most of the examples given. I have chosen to disregard the last question because many people opted not to answer it and, even many of those that did felt very questionable about its results.



1)Creativity Challenge Formula,

2)Creativity Web,

3) Treisman, A. Features and objects in visual processing. November, 1986.

4) Freeman, W.J. The physiology of perception. February, 1992.

5) Ewert, J.-P. The neural basis of visually guided behavior. March, 1974.

6) Routenberg, A. The reward system of the brain. November, 1978.

7) A.R. Damasio, Descartes' Error, 1994

8) D.C. Dennet, Consciousness Explained, 1991

9) K.R. Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperment, 1996

10) V.S. Ramachandran and S. Blakeslee, Phantoms in the Brain: Proving the Mysteries of the Human Mind, 1998

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