It is easy to identify creativity, and creative persons, in hindsight, when the produced work is available and has had its impact on society. It is much harder to explain what creativity is in terms of personality features. This second approach is intrinsic and predictive; It identifies a creative individual before the fact, before the body of work has been created.

There are three groups of personality traits or aspects that are important to be creative: Ability, Conscientiousness, and Associative horizon. The combination or synergy thereof is what enables the individual to bring into being what was not there before. All three are needed; Each one is of limited value without the other two. And they do not always go together. In fact it is rare to find them combined in large amounts into one individual, and when that happens, you have a genius.

Ability comes in a spectrum from general to specific. The more specific, or narrow, an ability is, the greater its trainability, and the more improvement through practice and study is possible. Specific abilities are for instance painting, writing, or sculpting. General abilities are for instance numerical or spatial insight, intelligence, or musical aptitude. One may imagine that general abilities are aptitudes that are largely inborn, and specific abilities are learnt skills. To become creative, one must form one's aptitudes into specific abilities through hard work.

Conscientiousness consists of traits like persistence, accuracy, dependability, self-discipline, diligence, and punctuality. These are needed to actually do something with one's abilities; Without conscientiousness, ability is wasted, falls in arid soil. In this field, much improvement is possible through exercising will power, setting oneself to work and study, and learning from past errors to improve the quality of one's work. The greatest improvement to one's creative output lies probably in becoming more conscientious.

Associative horizon concerns matters like divergent or lateral thinking, mental flexibility, fluency of association, non-conformism, humour, or individuality (resistance to various outside pressures like socialization). These traits provide the "spark" that causes work to be "original", they allow one to see what others miss, to think what none have thought before. Associative horizon is not easy and perhaps impossible to improve, but does relate to one's mental state and health, and is influenced by medication. It is attractive to lazy or unable persons to think Associative horizon is all there is to creativity, but alas; Ability and Conscientiousness, including hard work, are required as well.

Of the three pillars of creativity, Ability is the easiest to test or measure, with either general or specific ability tests. Conscientiousness and Associative horizon are harder to assess, and methods to do so are experimental, or less reliable and valid. To understand how creativity comes forth from personality, is to understand how human society and culture have come about.

Author's Bio: 

Paul Cooijmans (1965) has been designing and administering difficult intelligence tests in the context of high-I.Q. societies since 1995, and has founded and led several of such societies. In addition, he has written articles and been a composer and musician as well as an award-winning writer of short stories.

His main goals are to find out to what extent it is possible to measure intelligence beyond the ceilings of most regular tests, and to study high intelligence in general. Other aspects of psychology having his interest are creativity, genius, and Asperger's disorder.