The new book on creativity and Myers-Briggs personality typing, Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive, has been out a little over a week, and I’ve already heard from some creatives who have found it of great value. I posted a review and summary of the book on its publication debut last week. Today I feature a Q & A with co-author David B. Goldstein, who offers his insights on how he came to write the book and why those interested in their own creative processes should read the book.
Q: A lot of people write and talk about the “creative process” as if it’s a singular path, but your book demonstrates there are multiple ways to be creative. What led you to explore the role of Myers-Briggs type in the creative process?
David: Yes Patrick, often people talk as if there is one creative process. In fact, some people know the process that has worked for them and with the best intensions go about teaching their creative process to others. The trouble comes when their singular path that they teach isn’t the right path for us. It’s as if they are giving us directions to get home but their instructions lead us to their house, not to ours. Unfortunately the misconception starts in grade school when teachers tell us what color crayon to use for the sky in our drawings or how they think a story should be written. Directions that don’t match with our creative vision are frustrating enough for many of us to lose confidence and give up entirely on our creative journey.
My aha moment came while taking a continuing education watercolor class. We were asked to answer a questionnaire designed to help us to determine our personal style and just a few days earlier, I had been to a MBTI seminar given by my coauthor Otto Kroeger. I personally knew the other artists in the class and immediately saw the connection between the personal style of their art and their personality. My connections that day transformed the way I thought about my process and I saw many applications of how it could help others.
Q: What did you learn about your own creative process while researching and writing this book?
As many of us get an idea of what we think it means to be a “real” artist, writer, or performer, for some reason, I used to believe that to be a true artist, it was necessary to be able to quickly paint an accurate portrait of a model. While I practiced this to prove to myself that I could make a decent likeness, it was never something I was passionate about and not where my best art ever came from. Now that I understand my personality type and my creative style, I realize that making a realistic portrait is exactly opposite of my preferred creative style.
While some creativity is inspired by engaging with people and their surroundings like a live model, my best work comes from having alone time and reflecting, sometimes having a composition in the back of my mind for months before starting to paint. While some people revel in the immediate details, I’ve realized that I prefer to make abstract connections whether I’m painting, writing, or creating business opportunities as I’m more concerned with big themes. Some creative types are in tuned with their personal feelings and create through an “authentic” outpouring of emotion, I on the other hand through understanding my personality have confidence in recognizing that I have strong sense of place — and enjoy painting how it feels, not how I feel.
Perhaps most importantly, through understanding my personality type, I’ve reaffirmed that I like to plan and accept that creativity for some of us can be planned. I plan most aspects of my paintings, draft outlines for my writing, and make business plans. As my best work comes through planning a structure, I’ve also learned to leave a little room for new opportunities that may present themselves. It takes courage to do something new and unique and understanding my own creative type gave me confidence to be myself. Knowing what works for me has been tremendously helpful but my way isn’t what I want to show you. Through my work and my book, I’m aiming to help others find their way.
Q: We know creatives resist being put in boxes. What would you say to someone who felt having an MBTI categorization would be limiting, rather than empowering?
This is a misconception that I’m sure is on peoples mind’s since MBTI is a form of categorizing, however, nobody puts us in a box — we affirm our type for ourselves. When we are looking at a system, it’s helpful to use names to understand what we are looking at. Type uses names that tell something about who we are and what we prefer — without preventing us from doing anything. We all use our non-preferences, just as we can all throw a baseball with our non-dominate hand — but it probably doesn’t feel as natural and won’t be our best pitch. Knowing more about our preferences is liberating and it helps us to identify our passions.
Some people wonder how there can there be only 16 types of people and of course there are infinitely more. There is tremendous latitude and endless variations in people of each type based partially on our interests and experiences. This is just one slice that provides some useful things we have in common. For example we found that the painter Pablo Picasso and cartoonist Charles Schulz share the same personality type. What do they have in common? While the basic way they gathered information and made decisions was the same, the style they produced was vastly different. Knowing our type allows us to self-manage — to communicate better and to grow and doesn’t confine us.
Q: One thing I liked when reading about my type was that it not only told me what I was good at, thus boosting my ego, but it also highlighted the challenges I often face. How can knowing your MBTI creative process help you maximize your creativity?
Some people consider their creative process a mystery and as they don’t know why something works or doesn’t —their process become filled with superstitions. They follow rituals, writing on a certain desk, in the morning after a storm, with roses in the vase — whatever had once worked gets repeated. Maybe this is ok for some people but it’s not optimal. Instead, to maximize our creativity — the more we know about our process, the more we could repeat what works for us.
For example, if you’re a writer and know you prefer to make an outline – don’t be swayed by those insisting it’s too constraining. What’s good for them may not be right for you. Knowing your personality type helps you know your process.
To maximize our creativity we also need balance and this can be achieved by using both our preferences as strengths and by looking to our non-preferences to alert us to our blind spots. Just like while driving forward, a glance in our rearview mirror when we are changing lanes helps to keeps us safe — but it only takes a glance. In fact staring back for too long becomes a hazard for us. Knowing the right mix helps us to achieve balance – and balance does not have to be equal. If you happen to like to make an outline, leave a little room for spontaneity.
Personality type is about knowing what we prefer — and this helps us to be engaged and to pursue our passions. Acting creatively takes courage and when we know ourselves we gain the confidence to be ourselves.
Q: What do you plan to do next?
After seven years, Creative You is finished and even with a major publisher – It’s mostly up to me to use my creativity to spread the ideas. My co-author Otto Kroeger having the experience of several bestselling books explained that what we are doing isn’t “giving all the answers” but providing a foundation to start a dialog. In fact, what I’ll be doing this year is shining a light onto a dark corner of the basement of creativity to start a discussion about the stones we see down there and how they support the whole house.
I’m most interested in helping both individuals and organizations find their own ways of being more creative and I’m leaving the window opened for opportunities to collaborate with others. So this year I’ll be planting a 1000 seeds and seeing which ones will grow. If you want to join me, bring a watering can.
Many thanks to David for his time, and congratulations on a great book!