Generally, I don’t like to make generalizations (see what I did there?). But this is a post that’s sort of about generalizations. Namely, are authors and other creative people generally unlikeable? I recently read a post about the “creative personality” on the Writer Unboxed website. This article posited that the attributes that most writers and other creative people share are typically those not favored by society. The author of this post, Barbara O’Neal, stated that society enjoys the fruits of this personality type, but does not always enjoy the personality. I thought this was a rather interesting point to make, so I started to think about authors I didn’t particularly like, wondering if they had these personality traits.
In her article, O’Neal mentions traits such as introversion, as well as being “non-conforming, haughty, brilliant, intense, restless, prickly, with a sense of destiny.” O’Neal mentions Steve Jobs as a prime example of this personality type. Two other creative types that come to mind are Steven Moffat — current showrunner and writer of Doctor Who — and Dan Harmon — the creator of Community. These are two people who are absolutely despised by a sizeable portion of their fanbase. Although these fans adore the television shows that come from these creators’ brains, they’re not too keen on the creators themselves. I readily admit to being guilty of this. Steven Moffat is one of my least favorite people on the planet.
But is it really fair for us to enjoy a show or book, and then become annoyed when the person behind that work doesn’t conform to our ideas of a “likeable” person? If it’s true that this particular personality type tends to naturally put work out into the world for us to enjoy, shouldn’t we be glad that these people are the way they are? Shouldn’t we laud the “creative personality” rather than object to it?
I believe this issue is separate from the other, rather more troubling issue of an author having objectionable viewpoints, and having to somehow separate their beliefs from their works of art. For instance, Orson Scott Card recently came under fire for his anti-gay sentiments, and fans of Ender’s Game had to reconcile their love of his book series with his horrible anti-gay screeds. In cases such as this one, as long as those viewpoints don’t come through in the person’s work, I think it’s easy to enjoy the work and not enjoy the person. It’s different, though, when we’re talking about a person’s personality rather than his or her viewpoints.
What do you think about all of this? Do you think there is a certain “creative personality” that creative people often share? Do you think it’s fair that we are sometimes annoyed by creative people, but continue to enjoy the fruits of their labor? Do you have some of the “creative personality” attributes? Share your thoughts in the comments.
— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan