Is there a link between sensitivity and creativity?

Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person, says that “almost all HSPs have an artistic side they enjoy expressing … or they deeply appreciate some form of art.” She also says that, “almost all studies of the personalities of prominent artists insist that sensitivity is central.”

Todd Henry, author of The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, notes, “It’s not a rule by any means, but many creatively gifted people tend to display a natural tendency toward introversion. Perhaps the isolated nature of a lot of creative work is what calls many of us to our chosen profession to begin with. We love to get lost in the process of moving big conceptual rocks…”

(To be clear, while not all introverts are sensitives, all sensitives are introverts in the classic sense of the word “introversion”: meaning that we recharge our energy by having time alone.)

I think there’s a link between creativity and sensitivity due to the deep, rich, and imaginative inner life sensitives experience. While our vivid imaginations can run amok from time to time, it’s a powerful tool for venturing into new creative territory.

Similarly, our tendency to empathy gives us a great resource when it comes to exploring the emotional depths, which can also be a boon when it comes to creative expression.

Just the other day on Twitter, I joked about my screenwriting:

The challenges of sensitivity and creativity

I notice that the challenging aspect of both being sensitive and creative comes primarily on the audience side of things.

And ironically, I can’t tell you how frequently I analyze hands for creative, sensitive types who have “Spotlight” in their hands — it’s astonishing. So much so that I’m seriously considering doing a one-time class on “Sensitives in the Spotlight.”

(“Spotlight” is a shortened version of the expression, “Creative Expression in the Spotlight” for someone with a Right Ring Finger life purpose, and for the term, “Fame and Fortune in the Arts” for someone with an Apollo Star gift marking.)

As Elaine Aron puts it, “The difficulty, I believe, is that normally we artists work alone, refining our craft and our subtle creative vision. But withdrawl of any kind increases sensitivity — that is part of why one withdraws. So we are extra sensitive when the time comes to show our work, perform it, explain it, sell it, read reviews of it, and accept rejection or acclaim.”

Some of my private clients and I recently did some work on this topic of “being seen” and discovered the importance of being willing to fully receive acclaim and trying not to block the massive flow of energy that comes with attention from an audience, but rather allowing it to flow through us and around us.

I was also recently reminded through my screenwriting class of the power and importance of intelligent, quality feedback to help us to improve our work.

As Artists in the Spotlight, we must be engaged in the exchange of our artistic expression for applause, approval, and appreciation from our audience. It is exhilarating, and while it may appear to be purely ego-driven, it is a necessary part of the equation for artistic fulfillment, at least from a life purpose perspective.

So yes, Virginia, I do see a link between sensitivity and creativity, and I think it brings challenges all of its own.

Your Turn

What does this inspire or raise for you? Let me know on the blog.

 

 Jenna

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Comments

  1. I have trouble accepting the idea I just must be an introvert if I’m sensitive. I am the latter (well, you have to take my word for it ;-), but the former…? I do chafe without time alone, but I also recharge by being with people. In fact, I work better surrounded by people (community effect, of course). Maybe it’s just the phrasing or the fact that right now, I have way too much time alone, and so my attention (and frustration at creative difficulties) is focused on missing people. Perhaps those two elements just have to be balanced.

    • Rita, Yes, about 15 to 20% of the sensitive population is extroverted, which in my understanding means that sensitive extroverts need BOTH time alone and time with others to recharge, unlike extroverts who are not highly sensitive and who don’t need time alone to recharge. That’s why I consider ALL sensitives to have a tie to introversion regardless of their social orientation (which is how introversion and extroversion have typically come to be understood.)

      Regardless of whether you are an extroverted or an introverted sensitive, though, there is such a thing as “too much” time alone. ALL sensitives need to get out in the world and connect with real people doing real things in order to feel balanced, connected, and creatively inspired. While I LOVE my very introverted lifestyle that allows me lots of connection and community online too via Twitter, my Writer’s Circle and my screenwriting class, for instance, I also love time in the coffee shops and talking to other parents at preschool drop off time for face to face social connections.

      Thanks for writing, Rita.

  2. Thanks for this post, Jenna. I agree with you there is a “link between creativity and sensitivity due to the deep, rich, and imaginative inner life sensitives experience.” Elaine Aron thinks “Highly sensitive people are all creative by definition” and that it is “because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.”
    From my post Being Highly Sensitive and Creative
    http://highlysensitive.org/487/being-highly-sensitive-and-creative/

    • Beautiful quotes from Elaine, Douglas, thank you so much. You have such fabulous websites for sensitives and creatives and a wealth of information to share. Thank you for commenting!

  3. Hi Jenna,
    I do hope you create that workshop! That sounds great! I’d love to hear more, because as you mentioned, I am one of those “sensitives in the spotlight” that you did a reading for! Please make it happen :)
    Jen

    • Thanks, Jen! I will certainly keep you in mind for the class. If there is enough interest, I will look at doing it sooner rather than later. :)

  4. The Apollo Star comment caught my attention! I am taking that leap (finally) into the arts and I found a perfect little asterisk at the base of my right ring finger after reading your article… who knows??? :) Thank you.

  5. Jenna, this post was right on the money. I know that I am an HSP, but sometimes it is easy to forget that when I get overloaded. On Monday of this week, I started delving back into the information about how to take care of myself as an HSP, and then your article came along. I really love time alone and I find it hard to reconcile that with my day job which involves teaching, networking, and counseling – all people heavy and all very draining. I know that ultimately I want to be a writer, but I must work in the meantime to pay the bills. However, it is extremely difficult to find occupations where you are not required to have heavy social interaction with others. This is the big dilemma that I have been facing lately. I want to have enough energy to focus on my writing outside of work, and I would prefer to have a job where I don’t have to use up so much of my mental energy. Any suggestions you might have would help. Also, I think you should definitely offer the class about “Sensitives in the Spotlight” because I feel like I am always on in some form or fashion in my life, and I know that promoting my writing in the future will require me to be in the spotlight as well. i would be interested in taking this course.

    • Cindy, glad to hear you are remembering to take care of yourself as an HSP. While you could certainly look for a better support job that truly supports your writing (this is something I often work with my clients on), I think it might also be worth looking at ways to restructure how you are organizing your time relative to your job.

      For instance, if you are coming home exhausted, the odds are high that you aren’t using your evening time wisely in an attempt to recover. I’d have to hear more from you to be sure, but in my experience, I found myself doing a lot of things that seemed like “down time” but that were actually not supporting me, like watching TV or staying up late web surfing or answering email.

      Once I changed up my schedule to get up early to write and put that first, I found myself having a LOT more energy for other things. I think this was due in part to me going to bed early so I COULD get up earlier to write, and therefore not using energy on those faux relaxing things. I still do all those things, but I do them in a more conscious way now, which is a lot more fun. :)

      I’m definitely giving thought to the course!

  6. Hi Jenna,

    Was I a spotlight person? Don’t recall off the top of my head.

    I’d say I used to be an introvert or a reluctant introvert. Then I taught myself how to be more of a middlevert, which I like the best. I go intro and extro depending on the social situation I’m in. A lot of my introvertness were lies I told myself. It can feel very imprisoning to be an introvert, at least for me I always felt stuck on the sidelines.

    I wonder how many extroverts on stage are real extroverts? I know a lot of actors/actresses describe themselves as shy.

    G.

    • Giulietta, I don’t remember off the top of my head either, but I wouldn’t be surprised. You can check your the life purpose summary notes I sent you to be sure. :)

      It does help those of us who are true introverts to learn some extroverted skills so it’s easier to get along in this more extroverted world. It’s actually pretty interesting how an introvert’s brain and energy system actually works differently than an extrovert’s, so it’s not necessarily just what we are telling ourselves.

      Many people think I am extrovert but that is definitely not the case. I’m a true introvert, but that does not mean that I am not social, friendly, outgoing, and like to be around other people. I do. And neither am I shy or reclusive. I am someone who likes to spend a lot of her time alone engaged in solitary pursuits, delights most in meaningful 1:1 connections, and get energetically tired out when in a crowd of people for a lengthy period of time.

      I suspect that is true for many actors who appear to be extroverted but may actually be introverts.

  7. Jenna,
    I have never come across a creative person that is not sensitive & I was told many times that I am a very sensitive & creative person myself. As I hear you making that connection makes it more clearer to me that it has to be that way. A creative person has to have
    a great sense to feel & see what is about to come in the field that they have the calling. As a fashion designer I needed that when I travel to see how colors & style comes across each season. By looking at all the colours that are coming I was able to form a design that
    will complement each color I pick from one another & form the design I am trying to make. Every style that we put together
    has a coordinating colour that tells a story. It continued to play in history as I look back on all the fashion history. Fabric itself goes
    many yrs. back are way ahead because the reflection of light in colours effect the style that comes to ones mind. Event in our life also dictates the style comes out of colours as blending of hue & strength of it dictates how we can splice the pattern to create the design we are trying to project. All this process have emotional connection not just to our personal life but also to what is happening around us & in our world. The Universe works in one big harmony. It applies to the creation of Music because the reflection of our emotion is what makes our music in harmony to how we feel. Colours has a powerfull effect on all of us . In the event of total darkness we feel helpless because of the absence of colours around us. The presence of colour gives life to all living
    things . You may ask what does blind people do in the absence of colour in their life. The answear I got from one was in spite of the blindness that we think they cannot see, there are rays of light that they feel & see the difference between night & day. Try to close your eyes at night outside & compare to do same thing during day time. The rays of colours are just like light that we see the hue & density from each other.

  8. Thanks for this. This is just what I needed.

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