When we think about “creative people,” most of us think of a certain “type” of person: idealistic, artistic, moody, introverted. Maybe we think about cluttered desks or messy rooms, or perhaps we think all creatives are original and quirky. It’s true that when it comes to creativity and personality types, certain “types” come to mind right away.
Creativity: nature or nurture?
As a person who is fascinated both by the study of creativity and by various personality frameworks, I’m very interested in how the two fields interact. It’s true that certain personality types are typically seen as “more creative,” but that flies in the face of some of the things I believe about creativity, namely:
- Anyone and everyone can be creative
- Creativity is a muscle that you can strengthen, not a “fixed” quality
So what is true? Are certain personality types more creative than others?
Well, yes. And also…no.
It’s true that some people are naturally creative. Creativity is more automatic for them. Researchers exploring this very question have determined that a person’s style of problem-solving—an undeniable factor in creativity—is at least partially genetically determined. That means that some people are genetically predisposed to solve problems in creative ways; that type of thinking may come easier to them.
On the other hand, the same researchers acknowledge that nurture—from education to environment—can also have an impact on a person’s creative ability.
Essentially, both nature and nurture play a role in creativity, and when you don’t have both, there are downsides:
- Natural creativity, without nurturing, will cause the creativity to go to waste.
- Nurtured creativity that doesn’t come naturally may be difficult to develop.
A person with natural creative ability must work to maintain that ability. A person without that natural ability, who wishes to be more creative, can work to develop creativity. (If you’ll notice, either way…creativity takes work.)
I want to explore this within the context of popular personality frameworks, specifically the Enneagram and the Meyers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI). Let’s take a closer look at the types that are typically seen as “creative,” and those that aren’t.
Comprising nine personality types, the Enneagram focuses on each type’s core fears and core beliefs, helping people identify and understand their underlying motivations, world perspective, and emotional viewpoints.
Creative Enneagram types
The stereotypical “creative” Enneagram type is Type 4. Often called “The Individualist,” Type 4 is described as:
- “Emotionally honest, creative, and personal” (The Enneagram Institute)
- “Creative, and often present[ing] a unique persona to the people around them” (Truity.com)
- “Aesthetically sensitive and concerned with self-expression and self-revelation” (Eclectic Energies)
Of all the Enneagram numbers, Type 4s most closely fit the “creative” stereotype. Along with the above descriptors, Type 4s can be self-indulgent, moody, or temperamental. They also often feel misunderstood and “different” from other people.
Because of all these things, 4s are often labeled as the creative people of the world. Of course, there’s nuance within every personality type, and the Enneagram Type 4 is no exception. Not all Type 4s are especially creative, and Type 4s don’t have a monopoly on creativity.
While we don’t have time to go into each Enneagram type in detail (though, if you’re interested, I recommend The Enneagram Institute website or the book The Road Back to You as excellent resources), I would like to briefly touch on how creativity manifests itself even in the less stereotypical Enneagram numbers.
Other Enneagram types and creativity
Type 1: This type cares about making sure everything is done correctly, and is focused on improvement. Some Type 1s might tap into their creativity as they work to improve the world around them.
Type 2: Largely focused on helping others, Type 2s can be creative as they work to celebrate or serve others. They are also likely to appreciate the creativity of others.
Type 3: Achievement motivates Type 3s. 3s are often hardworking, goal-oriented, and focused. If creativity suits their purposes, they will work to develop it.
Type 5: This type is largely intellectual. They tend to spend a lot of time in their own minds. This could give any natural creativity a chance to really flourish and develop (if it can break out of the mind it’s in). They may also be interested in the science and process behind creativity.
Type 6: Type 6s are loyal and responsible. They are also often security-minded and even anxious. A 6’s creativity may help them imagine “worst-case scenarios” which they can then creatively prepare for.
Type 7: Often cast as the fun-loving type, 7s are sometimes described as spontaneous or scattered. A 7’s sense of adventure may also invite creativity and passion into their life.
Type 8: Because Type 8s like to control their environments, creativity isn’t usually considered a hallmark quality of theirs. That said, an 8’s desire to be independent and their willingness to fight for what they believe can inspire their creative side to shine through.
Type 9: Also often seen as a “creative” type, Type 9s are also peaceable. They don’t like to stir things up, but at their best, they can be more self-assured and willing to take creative risks.
Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
The Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, often shorted to MBTI or simply “Meyers-Briggs,” is another prominent personality framework that offers insight into a person’s inner thoughts, preferences, and strengths.
Each of the 16 types is a combination of 4 letters: either I or E, either N or S, either F or T, and either P or J.
I (Introversion) or E (Extroversion): Describes how you focus your attention and where you get your energy, either inside yourself (introversion) or outside yourself (extroversion).
N (INtuition) or S (Sensing): Describes how you take in information and how you learn, either by taking in what you can observe with your senses (sensing) or drawing connections between big picture ideas and overarching themes (intuition).
F (Feeling) or T (Thinking): Describes how you make decisions, either by thinking through them logically and objectively (thinking) or relying on your feelings and considering the emotional impact of your decisions (feeling).
P (Perceiving) or J (Judging): Describes how you organize information and your world, either with form, lists, and structure (judging), or with flexibility and spontaneity (perceiving).
Each possible combination of letters represents a different type, e.g. ISTJ or ENFP. The ways that the qualities interact with each other, and the strength with which one person prefers one quality over another, leads to a wide variety of personalities that are based on these 16 types.
(To find out which type you are, or to learn more about each of the 16 types, I recommend the site 16personalities.com.)
Creative Meyers-Briggs Types
Just like the Enneagram, there are certain Meyers-Briggs types that are traditionally “creative.”
Traditionally, N-types are the creative leaders of the MBTI world. This could be because they excel at big picture thinking and connecting ideas. They can work in the realm of the hypothetical, as opposed to the tangible world right in front of them. To a lesser extent, P-types are creative as well, as their flexibility allows them to go with the flow and build their sense of exploration.
Combining these two qualities, we could reasonably say that NP-types are the most creative of the MBTI types. This would include: INFP, INTP, ENFP, and ENTP.
INFP: Often described as open-minded, imaginative, and deeply feeling
INTP: Seen as questioners who explore and try new things
ENFP: Known for having big ideas and using their energy to fuel their creative efforts
ENTP: Often called bold, creative, and able to approach ideas from unique angles
Other Meyers-Briggs Types and creativity
Of course, NP-types aren’t the only ones who can be creative. In fact, any of the MBTI types can exhibit creativity, whether it comes to them naturally or not. Some other types that tend to fall on the creative side of the spectrum include:
ISFP: Very open to adventure and new experiences
INFJ: Have a strong sense of conviction and passion, leading them to pursue creative endeavors
INTJ: An interesting blend of creativity and rationality; this type wants to understand the world
ENFJ: Have big ideas and strong values, and use creativity to live what they believe
Clearly, any of the 8 letters can result in a creative personality. It all has a lot to do with how the individual chooses to apply creativity to their day-to-day life. If it matters enough to them, nurture can overcome nature, and creativity can become a big part of who they are.
Getting to know yourself is one of the most worthwhile endeavors there is, and learning about your personality types can go a long way in helping you uncover your desires, motivations, and perspectives. And, whether you’re a “traditionally” creative type or not, you can use what is special about your personality to foster your creativity and make it work for you.
Everyone can be creative. You can be creative. Believe it, find it, and be it.
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