…the study showed that creativity is informed by a whole host of intellectual, emotional, motivational and moral characteristics. The common traits that people across all creative fields seemed to have in common were an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for complexity and ambiguity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray; the ability to extract order from chaos; independence; unconventionality; and a willingness to take risks.
Describing this hodgepodge of traits, Barron wrote that the creative genius was “both more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, occasionally crazier and yet adamantly saner, than the average person.”
This new way of thinking about creative genius gave rise to some fascinating—and perplexing—contradictions. In a subsequent study of creative writers, Barron and Donald MacKinnon found that the average writer was in the top 15% of the general population on all measures of psychopathology. But strangely enough, they also found that creative writers scored extremely high on all measures of psychological health.