The world is full of creative people who make it so much more colorful and interesting. No matter what field they’re in, creatives are highly valued.
However, they’re also often misunderstood.
What exactly is it about creative people that leads to so many misconceptions or misunderstandings?
The truth is, creativity is a complex and multi-faceted trait that can manifest in many ways.
In this article, I’ll break it all down and show you the traits of creative individuals that are so easy to take the wrong way.
1) Non-conformity and unconventional thinking
I’m starting with a trait you’ve probably noticed with creative people: they’re non-conformists.
This is precisely why they stand out from the crowd.
Creative individuals often think outside the box and challenge conventional ideas, whether it’s in art, fashion, or solutions to everyday problems. They’re not afraid to go against the norm and try something new.
However, this is also why they’re often misconstrued as rebellious or stubborn. For example, a writer who refuses to follow the traditional rules of grammar may be seen as ignorant or arrogant by others.
Because they are non-conformists, creative people have this unique ability and a vivid imagination to experiment and try new things.
They enjoy exploring different methods and techniques to achieve their desired outcome.
The downside of this? They can be misunderstood as being uncommitted or unreliable.
I have an artist friend who has experienced this. As someone who enjoys exploring different media, she has been criticized for not having a singular or recognizable style – a brand, so to speak.
Her answer to all this criticism? She’s more interested in learning and exploring than in cementing a brand. After all, she is a creative, so her priority is to create to her heart’s content, no matter what other people say.
What’s the natural consequence of thinking outside the box? A willingness to take risks!
See, because they aren’t bound by the do’s and dont’s of society, creative people are willing to take bold steps to get what they want or fulfill their vision.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t sit well with more conventional types who might judge them as foolish, impulsive, or reckless.
Think about Walt Disney – he was once seen as reckless for taking a risky gamble on feature animation. In fact, the film he wanted to push – Snow White – was even called “Disney’s Folly.”
But guess what? It was a gamble that paid off and led to a new age in cinema!
This leads me to my next point…
See how all of the above traits combine to give creative people a vision?
Here’s the thing: when a creative person starts on a project, they can imagine what they want to create and can work towards that goal.
They might not have a specific, detailed picture in mind, but they do have one that serves as a goalpost – the big picture.
How do onlookers take this? Well, most of them might scoff and say, “That’s unrealistic,” or “You’re not being practical!”
In the eyes of the uninitiated, having a vision might even equate to having delusions of grandeur.
What drives creatives’ need to experiment and seek their own paths? A thirst for knowledge.
For creative people, everything they embark on comes from a desire to explore something.
The famous essayist Joan Didion said something that aptly illustrates this –
“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see, and what it means.”
I can say that’s perfectly true for me, too!
However, because of this tendency to probe and ask questions, creative people may be seen as rude, intrusive, or insensitive.
Of course, it’s a misconception – many people just don’t understand that creative individuals really just have this intense desire to know everything.
6) Independent thinking
Now here’s a fascinating thought about creativity: according to Elevate Simply director Brett Simpson, creativity is the intersection of observation and independence.
That’s why creative people are traditionally thought of as independent thinkers.
As they pursue their curiosities and make observations, they apply independent thinking to those observations to come up with an innovation.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
But sometimes, this independent streak can be mistaken as stubbornness or inflexibility.
For example, a fashion designer who refuses to change their design because they want to maintain their independence may be seen as not being open to feedback or criticism.
What’s another way to tell if one has a creative soul? When they say they are deeply moved by art, music, or nature.
As a writer, I often find myself in tears after reading an eloquent poem or when watching a beautiful film.
Unfortunately, this has also earned me the moniker “crybaby” among my friends and family.
But you see, the highly sensitive side of creative people is what helps them create meaningful work.
Yes, others might make fun of them for being overly emotional or unstable (or odd and strange).
But this sensitivity is essential to creativity – it allows people to find meaning and metaphor in the little things, all of which translates to beautiful and dramatic art.
Talking about the sensitive and emotional nature of creative people leads me to my next point: they are incredibly intense.
I guess it makes sense – since they’ve got a heightened sensitivity to their surroundings, their sensory experiences are intensified as well.
On top of that, they are often highly passionate and dedicated to their work, too. They can spend long hours working on a project and may become completely absorbed in it.
However, this trait can be misunderstood as obsession or neglect of other responsibilities. For example, a musician who practices for hours may be seen as neglecting their family or friends.
Are creative people daydreamers? You bet!
Daydreaming is one of the ways to boost creativity and the ability to problem-solve.
But that vacant stare?
It looks like a lack of focus and discipline instead of the useful activity it actually is!
People associate daydreaming with laziness; they don’t know that it’s a time when ideas “incubate” in our minds and eventually lead us to creative thought.
10) Need to be alone
Yep, I’ve often been called a “loner/antisocial/introvert” and all that. I’ve even been called rude.
This often happens when I’m deep in the middle of working on something, and I don’t want anyone to bother me.
I admit it – when I’m in the zone and typing away at my computer or staring off into space, pen in hand…I snap at anyone who dares interrupt me.
So, I get it when they say I’m rude.
But here’s the thing – solitude is necessary for creativity to flourish.
Creatives cherish their alone time because it’s when they block out all the noise of the outside world that their best ideas come forward.
That said, it doesn’t mean that creative people are antisocial.
Remember when I said that creative people are highly sensitive? That trait enables them to be empathetic and to understand the feelings and perspectives of others.
This ability comes in useful for creating art that resonates with a wide audience.
However, this trait can be misunderstood as being too sensitive or emotionally manipulative.
For instance, a playwright who writes a play about a controversial topic may be seen as trying to manipulate the audience’s emotions.
It’s no secret that creative people are fiercely fussy and have an obsessive attention to detail.
They want their work to be flawless and may spend a lot of time perfecting it.
This reminds me of a story about the painter Claude Monet. He once defaced his paintings because he felt they weren’t good enough, never mind if they’d already earned praise from art critics.
There are many other examples of famous creatives who were notorious for being perfectionists.
While they are indeed brilliant, though, their perfectionism could drive people mad and see them as being overly critical or unrealistic.
This is something creative people in heaps – the ability to find solutions to problems using whatever tools or resources they have available.
They can create something out of nothing and find creative ways to use everyday objects.
I, for one, find this amazing – I love viewing art that’s made of recycled materials.
But not everyone shares this perspective.
Sadly, some people see this as being cheap or unprofessional. They fail to see the brilliance of innovation and insight that comes with being resourceful.
Here’s another misconception I’ve often come across: creative people who use art or their platform to inspire others are preachy or unrealistic.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve read, “So-and-so should just stick to acting, why do they have to talk about politics?”
Statements like this make me sad because I think that creative people have a natural talent (and a convenient vehicle) for empowering others when they want to. Why should they be denied that privilege?
Think about it: If a musician, for example, sings about social justice, people would say, “I don’t like his songs, they’re too political/not entertaining enough.”
Isn’t that sad?
Lastly, here’s one thing that always stands out to me when I read about the creative process: much of creativity comes from an intuitive place.
Sure, creative people could make plans for a project, but ultimately, the final product is a result of decisions based on both logical thinking and gut feeling.
You see, the creative process involves both the conscious and unconscious processes of thinking.
That’s why if you ask an artist, for example, how their painting came about, they probably couldn’t give you a definite answer.
Most likely, they did their work following and trusting their instincts, which made it deeply personal and authentic.
Unfortunately, this trait can be misunderstood as being unreliable, unclear, or not based on facts.
People like having clear explanations for things, and when they don’t get it, they jump to quick assumptions that the artist didn’t really know what they were doing.
Obviously, being a creative person is very rewarding, but it does have its downsides, the foremost of which is being misunderstood often.
Strangely, while these traits can be misinterpreted, they are also the key to the success of creative individuals.
So, there’s no getting around it – if you’ve got a creative person in your life, they need your support, not your judgment.
Hopefully, this list has shown you how to begin seeing them and their quirks in a different light. And who knows, their creativity just might rub off on you!