Creative People Shouldn’t ‘Tone It Down’

By Cynthia Morris

Sarah Bernhardt

I’ve been accused of being ‘too much’ all my life.

Too loud, too fast, too smart, too multi-talented, too audacious.

I’ve never been able to live according to that external standard of ‘just right’.

Artists are often ‘too much’.

It’s the job of the artist and writer to reflect what they see and feel. This expression of their art and talents must be larger than life.

The trouble is, our expression doesn’t always jibe with what’s going on in the ‘normal’ world.

Once creative people stop trying to calibrate their expression to a ‘norm’ they can thrive more easily.

I was once coaching a client about her talents and how she could best express them. It became clear to us that she was a larger-than-life personality, and that her talents required a bigger stage than she was currently occupying.

> Continued in her article Too Much, Not Enough – Why Creative People Shouldn’t ‘Tone It Down’

Visit her site: Original Impulse

Also see more articles by Cynthia Morris

Book: Create Your Writer’s Life: A Guide to Writing With Joy and Ease by Cynthia Morris.

~ ~


Russell CroweHigh ability people often, even typically, have personality characteristics that include high intensity or excitability.

Polish psychiatrist and psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski developed a theory of personality and emotional development that is often applied toward understanding the psychology of extra intelligent and intense, gifted and talented individuals. One aspect of his Theory of Positive Disintegration is the concept of unusual intensity and reactivity, which he called overexcitability.

From the “Intensity” section of one of my books: “Developing Multiple Talents.”

[Photo: Jodie Foster once commented about Russell Crowe, “He has that glacier intensity.” – From post: Working With Your Intensity Through Creative Expression.]

Thanks to Cynthia Morris for her enthusiastic review of my book:

“Packed full of insights and resources for the creative life, Developing Multiple Talents offers new ways to thrive as a creative person. Douglas Eby addresses many of the issues we face – fear, lack of confidence and focus – allowing the creative person to feel understood and ultimately empowered. Normalizing the challenges in the creative process provides a huge step toward coping with those challenges.

“Douglas’s book gives readers a resource for understanding and accepting our problems and our gifts. I highly recommend Developing Multiple Talents as a resource for anyone who wants to understand the psychology behind our creative drive.”

Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression
[Kindle]  [Website with more versions]


Julie HarrisOne example of an artist and intensity:

Julie Harris: “My mother used to say to me, ‘But you’re so dramatic.’ Yes, I’d say, that’s what I’m supposed to be. Life is dramatic, all the time, much more than on stage.”

Harris also commented: “Some people asked me, ‘Why do you have to cry so much in ‘The Last of Mrs. Lincoln?’ [a play in which she played Mary Todd Lincoln at the end of her life].

“My answer was that she was always crying. She couldn’t speak of her children who died, without crying. And after the assassination, her whole life was gone. She clung to the pain. As actors, that’s what we deal with.”

[From “Julie Harris, Celebrated Actress of Range and Intensity, Dies at 87” By Bruce Weber, New York Times August 24, 2013.]

Harris commented about one of her most famous roles: “After playing, or more correctly transforming myself into, Emily Dickinson for twenty-five years, I am still awed by her. She was a free soul and an eccentric. For her, words were life; sacred beings, phosphorescence. To find that light within — that’s the genius of poetry.”

From book: Wise Women: A Celebration of Their Strength, Spirit, and Grace by Joyce Tenneson.


Also see post: Pain and suffering and developing creativity – The tortured artist mythology is an ancient and enduring notion: The idea that art depends on suffering, and artists are likely to be fraught with suffering and dark emotions, and even need their pain to create. But a number of artists say that is a wrong idea.

And see multiple posts on the topic of Intensity.


Enhanced by Zemanta

Originally posted 2011-05-31 19:14:51.


  1. Hi Cynthia, I perfectly understand where you’re coming from. I know many of my past friends will not want to accept me for what I’m doing with my life. It’s personal development, it’s self growth, it’s all things that I love but scares the living daylights out of my relatives…like why am I up on stage and “Telling” people what they can do to become far more accomplished.

    But, I am always a student of all things that brings accomplishment and personal mastery.

  2. Thanks Emma, great reply and great reading. I agree, and am quite a designer myself. Of course, this leaves me even more frustrated, not able to design, nor fully utilize my skills. The P&G article was great, including the interview with Claudia Kotchka. Interestingly enough, she left P&G in 2008, and is now a consultant. Even at her level she couldn’t find the right support, audience, and reward for her efforts at the large company. Perhaps creative, talented people are doomed to be underappreciated and end up working for themselves?

  3. Hi Craig,

    A lot of people in your situation seem to take the “if you can’t beat ’em, do your own thing” route and become entrepreneurs.

    Which is good if it leads to satisfaction for them, but also in a way unfortunate because “redesigners” can have a lot to offer the right large(r) company, if the company is willing to see that person’s potential.

    Although I can’t say I’ve seen this happening in practice yet and it sounds like you haven’t either, business thinking is starting to change. For example: (particularly the chart at the bottom of page 9)

    You may be interested in my blog where I write about “how people succeed” (I did not set out to write for gifted/HSP people, but since I am one, I have no doubt that it influences the approach I take).

    And if I come up with any answers (or even better, good questions), you can bet you will find them there!


  4. Thanks Douglas, it is an excellent article. I have seen it before, and it is useful. Personal awareness, though, doesn’t change the work environment, it only changes your perception of the environment. If it is too skewed, it will be impossible to correct.
    Noks has been helpful as well, we both belong to the same high iq society TNS.
    I am looking for the next opportunity, and my eyes are wide open thanks to Noks, and people like you. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Excellent article, but how does one end up in a position where that creativity and extra enthusiasm is appreciated? I am an engineer, a creative field. I have been fired from my last two positions, mainly for being too creative, and not conforming to the “get it done as the boss wants it” mentality.

What do you think about these topics?