A Mirror to the Soul?: Creative Work and Personality

Five young people looking astonished on multicolored backgrounds.

Ever have that moment where someone asks you about your writing, art, or other creative work and your insides contract just a little? Ask me about business items, the weather, or my weekend plans and I’m a pretty decent conversationalist. Ask me about the short story I’m working on, the novel idea in the back of my head, or the nonfiction pieces that I fiddle with and I can feel the uncertainty, the doubt, the fear.

Why do we have so much fear when it comes to sharing our creative work and ideas? Instinctively, I think we know—that our creative ideas are parts of who we are. Sharing those ideas or our work is sharing a piece of ourselves.

Sure, that short story has fictional characters and a fictional plot. It’s not technically about me. But, it is, isn’t it? Those ideas and the words and the ways that I put it all together say something about me. If I share it and you don’t like it, it may feel like you’re also saying that you don’t like me.

Research supports this instinctive feeling that every creative has when asked to share our ideas. Not only do we perceive that we’re sharing a piece of ourselves, but other people also think they are seeing our personalities when we share creative ideas with them. “More importantly, other people listen to your ideas and make judgments about you. We found that when people heard another individual’s creative ideas, they became more confident that their judgments about their personality were accurate. People are not just judging your ideas, they are making personal judgments about you based on your ideas.,” Jack Goncalo told Psypost about his research findings.

Yikes, right? Really makes you want to go out and share your creative ideas, doesn’t it? Well, maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds. Goncalo also mentions that the jury is still out as to whether this makes us bond or reject with others. It may just be one data point that we use to determine whether we like someone or not. And that odd personality quirk that you think you’re sharing in your work may just help you find people who appreciate that quirk.

But it does make those stomach clenching moments where we have to decide to share our creative ideas and work (and how much to share) understandable. Our personalities and who we are at our cores are on display when we share. It’s a vulnerable position that can leave us a little uncomfortable.

So the next time, you hear someone sharing their creative ideas and work, remember the person behind it. The acceptance of the person, even if you’re not all on-board with the idea, can make all the difference.