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Artistic Temperament: The Challenge Working With Others

I’m gonna let you in on something… sometimes I don’t work well with other people. Maybe it’s my artistic temperament or maybe I’m just an asshole.

I have a tendency to get under people’s skin, make them uncomfortable, frustrated, upset or at worst, even angry.

When I lead a project I have an idea of how the end result and the route to that result should look. In the interim, I can become irritable, blunt and intolerant with others who are not up to speed.

The outcome of these working relationships is usually that they either leave or comply.

This has caused me problems in the past. However, although many people find it difficult to handle an uncompromising approach, it’s great when a collective effort works out.

It has been this way for a long time, in sport, work and even at home washing the dishes.

For a while though, I thought I needed to change, but these days not so much.

Sometimes the thought still crosses my mind like when my young sons come working with me.

They are at that age now where I can begin to introduce them to my work and the standards I set for myself.

It’s enjoyable for me to do so and allows me to bond with them in such a way that I cannot otherwise do. There is something special about father and son working together.

They are eager to spend time with me and of course, earn a few bob even if the work will not form their particular career path.

I have encouraged them from an early age to do whatever they love first, then the money will follow.

I think that’s a good philosophy.

However, I need to be careful that I explain the thrust and purpose of my insistence on standards in such a way that they feel encouraged, not criticised.

With adults, outside an agreed teacher/student situation, I’m not so forgiving.

Teaching my boys then is my new challenge.

The Misunderstood Artistic Temperament

The standards I set for myself are high and I expect others I work with, sometimes unfairly it can be said, to meet me there.

I say unfairly because not everyone is at the stage where they can move up to where I am at.

Christ, that sounds really arrogant — but it’s true.

I’ll explain more on that in a bit.

That’s not to suggest there is no room for improvement on my end, or that I always get things right.

On the contrary, there is always room for better and I often come up short.

It’s never finished you see, and never will be but that doesn’t mean we settle for lower standards than we are capable of achieving.

One of the greatest challenges of the creative mind is that we constantly push ourselves beyond the sameness and mediocrity that most of society lives and promotes.

The continued pursuit of complexity is what drives the evolution of art, science, sport and humanity as a whole.

If you and I do not constantly push ourselves to greater creative expression life becomes stagnant and unfulfilling.

Too many people in the world live like this.

They live in a repetitive cycle of mediocrity and dissatisfying work devoid of challenges.

Shortcuts are what they chase and short-term gratification is their only outlet.

For people on the outside of this need for complexity, there is often a misinterpretation of what drives us.

We are misunderstood.

Others, in their need to have our attention, often see the artistic temperament as rude and unsociable but that’s not what’s going on.


The Artist’s Manifesto

The Artist’s Manifesto is a short book about staying true to our art. It is a call to Artists and Creatives like you to create from the heart with passion and integrity, disregarding the need for applause and recognition.

Grab your FREE PDF copy here.

Attention & Creativity

What prompted me to write this article today on artistic temperament, was a passage I read from the book; Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery & Invention.

In the book, the author claims that attention is a limited resource.

He suggests that we cannot devote ourselves to more than one domain of knowledge sufficiently to obtain an expert level of execution.

Also, he suggests that as society evolves to more complex levels, generalised knowledge is less favoured than specialised knowledge, therefore, an advantage is to be gained by specialising.

But as the author points out, there is a sacrifice for you and me in this pursuit.

Another consequence of limited attention is that creative individuals are often considered odd — or even arrogant, selfish, and ruthless. It is important to keep in mind that these are not traits of creative people, but traits that the rest of us attribute to them on the basis of our perceptions. When we meet a person who focuses all of his attention on physics or music and ignores us and forgets our names, we call that person “arrogant” even though he may be extremely humble and friendly if he could only spare attention from his pursuit. If that person is so taken with his domain that he fails to take our wishes into account we call him “insensitive” or “selfish” even though such attitudes are far from his mind.

Similarly, if he pursues his work regardless of other people’s plans, we call him “ruthless.” Yet it is practically impossible to learn a domain deeply enough to make a change in it without dedicating all of one’s attention to it and thereby appearing to be arrogant, selfish, and ruthless to those who believe they have a right to the creative person’s attention. In fact, creative people are neither single-minded, specialized, nor selfish. Indeed, they seem to be the opposite: They love to make connections with adjacent areas of knowledge. They tend to be — in principle — caring and sensitive. Yet the demands of their role inevitably push them toward specialization and selfishness. Of the many paradoxes of creativity, this is perhaps the most difficult to avoid.

Excerpt from Creativity, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Moving Up A Level

Back to that “arrogant” comment from earlier.

When we are new to a field of endeavour we are miles off a competent level of performance.

It’s impossible for a newcomer to take a quantum leap to competency in a very short time and improper that more experienced ones such as us should expect that of them.

It is especially applicable where we teach children.

Metaphorically speaking, it is only possible for someone to reach a given level in a new task that the length of their arm with a moderate stretch will allow them.

Any further and they may fall over trying.

We don’t want them to fall over, we want to reach that next level.

And so in this, it is a case of speed of thought and execution and the degree to which we are willing to forgive the novice their inadequacy.

Assuming they are willing to learn that is.

If the people we find ourselves working with are not up to our pace, we have a choice to make.

We either slow down to their level and accept a lower standard, or we insist that they come up to ours.

It is in making this decision there rises a creative challenge.


Taking the above into account, I accept that the novice needs space to learn but that does not mean the teacher does not push them to their limit.

There must be some stress in that growth and I see it as our responsibility to provide that stressful stimulus to those who want to learn from us.

Confrontations occur where the learner does not really want to learn or where others we’re working with are set in ways that produce lesser results than we are unwilling to accept.

It is at this point my intolerance becomes palpable.

I am of the belief that creative people like you and me must be willing to accept this challenge otherwise we are better suited to working alone.

And that’s ok.

Whatever work we decide to do and whether or not we work alone, we must maintain creative integrity.

The Artist’s Manifesto says we must never compromise even if that sometimes means pissing other people off.


The Artist’s Manifesto

The Artist’s Manifesto is a short book about staying true to our art. It is a call to Artists and Creatives like you to create from the heart with passion and integrity, disregarding the need for applause and recognition.

Grab your FREE PDF copy here.

This article was originally published on Larry G. Maguire Thanks for reading. Join the weekly Sunday Letters readers here. If you like what I write perhaps you’ll like The Daily Larb podcast too.

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Larry G. Maguire

Larry G. Maguire


Work & Org Psychologist writing on the human relationship with work | Slight Perfectionist | Introverted | Humanist Socialist |