How many times have we heard someone say, “I’m just not the creative type,” or worse, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body”? Unfortunately, in our Western workaday world, we have come to assume that creativity pertains to a limited scope of human endeavors—things like painting, composing, and acting—and that only a limited number of us have the acumen for such tasks. There is no doubt that identifying skill in these areas helps; finding an “A” for Artistic in your Holland Code, for example, can indicate a desire to create art forms, as well as unconventional ways of thinking and working.
However, I just don’t buy it.
I don’t believe that there are those treasured few among us who are “the creative type” and the vast majority of us who have no business describing ourselves as creative at all. Certainly, the existing typologies, including Holland Code and the Briggs and Myers personality system, help us identify who might want to make art such as paintings, songs and plays. I am not questioning the usefulness of these tests in this arena.
What I am suggesting is that being creative is not the same thing as making art. When we widen our concept of creativity, it’s easy to see that we all have it.
What is Creativity Anyway?
In her great book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown defines creativity as “the expression of our originality”. She goes on to say:
“‘I’m not very creative’ doesn’t work. There is no such thing as creative people and non-creative people. There are only people who use their creativity and people who don’t.”
I would add to this that creativity requires that we put our time and energy into generating something that did not exist before. Astonishingly, this thing does not have to be a physical thing; it can be an event, a service, a system or an approach. Further, looked at more broadly, creative acts can even reinforce convention, as long as the result is a new iteration that repeats the existence of something that came before. More on that in a moment.
The Four Temperaments developed by Keirsey provide a useful framework for discussing four ways of creating. In the categories of Artisans, Guardians, Idealists and Rationals, we see how every one of us has an innate tendency to create in our own way. Of these, Artisans are most likely to be perceived as the “creative type” and certainly, they are the ones most often doing the painting, composing and acting. However, the fact is every temperament and every type is uniquely creative in his or her own way.
Artisans as Creatives
Artisans are the SP personality types—ESTP, ISTP, ESFP and ISFP.
These are the individuals we tend to think of as the “creative types”. Keirsey refers to these as the Promoter (ESTP), Crafter (ISTP), Performer (ESFP), and Composer (ISFP), so these are people who are either making or promoting what we tend to think of as art.
Certainly, the S gives them the ability to pay attention to detail, and P keeps them in the present moment, so when it comes to making things and letting people know how great these things are, Artisans are the obvious choice. They are playful, fun-loving, daring, and spontaneous. They take risks and adapt to new circumstances as they come up. Since they seek out stimulation, excitement, and variety, Artisans are true adventurers.
Creativity for Artisans includes not only art and craft forms, but also out-of-the-ordinary experiences, such as river rafting, skiing and kayaking. They may lead outdoor trips, instruct adventure sports, train as tandem skydivers, or otherwise serve as guides to others into unknown territory which may otherwise prove too scary for other types. Their bold nature and ability to troubleshoot makes them the perfect leaders in these arenas—as well as entrepreneurship and other risky endeavors.
They make excellent wilderness therapists, search and rescue team members, or EMTs. They work well with their hands and therefore excel at sculpture, welding, pottery, and other work with tools. Of course, they create paintings, performances, and other art forms as well. They make interactive, participatory, innovative art, such as installations or comedy shows.
Guardians as Creatives
Guardians are the SJ personality types—ESTJ, ISTJ, ESFJ, and ISFJ.
These are the personality types we are least likely, in my opinion, to consider themselves as “creative.” This is because Guardians admire the status quo and tend to uphold it in their lives. Keirsey calls these types the Supervisor (ESTJ), Inspector (ISTJ), Provider (ESFJ), and Protector (ISFJ).
Guardians are responsible, loyal traditionalists who trust authority. They put their faith in existing systems, such as the government, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system, and they express their duty to these systems. They are steady, law-abiding citizens who follow the rules. Guardians tend to be down-to-earth and hard-working individuals who excel at management. They join groups, such as churches, service organizations, and political parties.
While we may not tend to think of Guardians as creative, they show tremendous resourcefulness in creating new iterations of long-standing traditions. For example, a Guardian might plan and execute a Veterans Day honor event, a law enforcement awards dinner, a Rotary or Lions Club meeting, or a church function.
Similarly, Guardians are great with financial planning and show creativity (if not risk) in budgeting and investing money. Guardians are the ones who create our tax codes, laws, and regulations. They make solid PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, and reports. They manage policies and procedures and ensure that others are in compliance with them. They uphold institutions with fresh activity and purpose. It takes time and energy to reinforce conventions in new iterations. Guardians take a slow and steady approach to their lives, and they honor traditions. They would likely prefer a realistic aesthetic when it comes to art, such as realistic paintings or plays that depict real life.
Idealists as Creatives
Idealists are the NF personality types—ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP and INFP.
These are the personality types we most likely consider imaginative, hopeful or having faith in humanity. We may be able to see how they create things, but their process is more likely to occur behind the scenes and to deal with abstract thoughts or approaches. Keirsey has named these types the Teacher (ENFJ), Counselor (INFJ), Champion (ENFP), and Healer (INFP), so we can see that their contributions are more likely to be services to people, rather than things.
Idealists prefer to work with others and to help them on their journey. They tend to be spiritual, empathetic, sensitive and intuitive beings. They prize meaningful relationships and often eschew small talk. They can be quite romantic and seek to inspire others to engage in personal growth and development. They seek their true, wise selves, and they encourage others to do the same.
Creativity for Idealists includes writing, including books, poetry and lesson plans. For Idealists, the real world is only a starting point, so we can see how this would make them strong novelists, educators, and mediators. They demonstrate their tremendous enthusiasm for the best in human beings by generating work that helps bring out the best in self and others.
They have deep feelings and enjoy conveying complex inner worlds through their art. They write inspirational self-help books and workbooks. They enjoy collaborative art-making, such as ensemble work. They communicate in metaphor and take leaps of faith. They excel at ministry, psychotherapy, teaching and social services. Overall, they would likely enjoy art such as poetry, Monet paintings, or other forms which communicate the deeper, hidden, emotional truths of lived experience.
Rationals as Creatives
Rationals are the NT personality types—ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP and INTP.
These are the personality types we are most likely to associate with science, academia and ‘the life of the mind’. Keirsey has deemed these types the Fieldmarshal (ENTJ), Mastermind (INTJ), Inventor (ENTP), and Architect (INTP).
Coming up with inventions and architectural plans is creative in a way that is different from other ways discussed above. Rationals apply thought processes to complex issues and engage in advanced problem-solving. They are logical, independent thinkers who come up with ingenious solutions others might not have considered. They have a healthy skepticism which allows them to question the obvious way of doing something and which leads them to come up with innovative approaches. They tend to be pragmatic, calm, curious, and self-contained. They trust data and look for results. They prize technology and value intelligence highly.
Creativity for Rationals, then, includes art forms such as drawings for new inventions or buildings. Rationals are likely to create systems, approaches and solutions, rather than things. They might create beautiful mathematical solutions or write scientific papers. They could write and understand IT manuals and lab instructions. Rationals make great researchers and excel at coming up with new solutions to existing problems. For example, the teams that figured out how to get humankind to the moon were likely comprised of Rationals. They become absorbed in a problem until they find a solution. Rationals may prefer art which includes Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM), uses geometric shapes, or shows a new solution to a problem.
Yes, We’re All Creative!
Clearly, there are more than four types of creativity in the world. However, hopefully this description has helped you expand your notion of what creativity means. When looked at more broadly, creativity becomes putting our time and energy into generating something that did not exist (in this iteration) before.
That’s how we’re all the creative type.