Think, for a moment, about the most creative person you know. I'll do the same.

I'm picturing one of my childhood friends whose bedroom wall as we were growing up was a messy collage of pictures, a true explosion of color without much to it in the way of rhyme or reason. As an adult, she's the one with the bright pink hair and a moving arsenal of jangly, metallic jewelry you can hear coming from a mile away. She floats through life untroubled, for better or worse, by the constraints of the average work-a-day world. Naturally, she's a gifted poet and songwriter. She's always late, never has her act together, and is, in general, a hot mess.

Sound about right, give or take some pink hair dye?

There's a reason we associate creativity with a certain amount of lovable mayhem. And it's actually  kind of a great reason, according to Scientific American. There has been plenty of effort on the part of the scientific community to figure out exactly what's up with creative people's personalities, and sure enough, there are some pretty solid findings. Here's the highlight reel.

Creative people are up for anything, man.

Researchers tie openness to new experiences--or plasticity, as they say at fancy psychology dinner parties--to the natural curiosity that leads to exploration, high energy, and inspiration. Being open and flexible is one of the cornerstones of creativity. And sure enough, based on my own observational research, being extremely open and flexible can also be symptoms of ... oh, right, being a hot mess.

They're usually the black sheep.

Truth be told, some of our creative friends are so far out they're not even part of the sheep family anymore. Ever the nonconformists, creative types have proved to be more impulsive, unpredictable, contrary, and actually a little crazy in how much they don't care what you think (but don't call them jerks; science calls them  divergent). Does that  sound like any radical visionaries you admire?  Jobs? Musk? Anyone?

The creative process involves about a million moving parts. 

Yeah, I might be prone to hyperbole, but you get the idea. There's an ongoing brainstorming phase, during which many, many ideas are thrown out there into the world, many of them fanciful, most of them ridiculous, hardly any of them viable. Chaos. It's really no wonder my friend can never find her keys.

In that chaos, there's something resembling ... organization? What?

Weirdly, there really is. As all these ideas are flowing, there's a selection process--a bullshit detector, if you will--that sifts out the really good, serviceable ones and sets the ball rolling toward action. If you're lucky, that is. All of that depends on which  stage of creativity you happen to be in. Not everyone gets there. It's the ultimate goal.

And if any of that sounds messy and contradictory? Welcome to the hot mess. It's exactly as advertised.

Published on: Feb 10, 2016
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