A new creative you takes the lead when you surrender to your unexplained sensitivity

The personal challenge

What if a google map of your town, instead of showing the restaurants where you might enjoy dinners, could show the companies and communities where you would enjoy the pursuit of possible interests. To bring into existence such a map, you would need to describe the intellectual, artistic, entrepreneurial, activist or spiritual interests. 

You know what excites you based on the experiences you have had so far. What if your life experiences, as you know them, have been in environments where your innate interests were not supported? Until one day, thanks to a lucky circumstance, you read one sentence or listen to someone’s story and you think, “That’s me.”

Out of all the interests you thought you have, the newly awakened interest rearranges your internal awareness and motivates you to move away from a conforming and insecure person towards a creative, passionate and authentic individual. 

Suggested solution

Establishing a new kind of trust is the desired outcome when the internal psychic landscape is negotiated between the old and new you. 

The discovery of a new interest brings up the possibility of taking the role of a creator

The teacher who teaches a new grammar rule, by playing a ball game with the pupils. The parents who want their kids to have a manual to use during the class. 

Millennials who buy online what they need, from groceries to a new home. Baby boomers who prefer physical visits to the store, touch the product and look into the sellers’ eyes.

The world has always been in hegemony between the old way and new way of doing things. Moreover, these kinds of conflicts are internalised within each one of us. 

One day, you listen to someone’s story or you read a book when you get excited, “My goodness, this is my thing! This is what I’d like to do.” A sentence that someone wrote opens your mind to a new world of possibilities.

Composing music is my thing. 

Surreal fine art photography is my thing.

Designing new vaccines is my thing.

Leadership communication is my thing.

Virtual team management is my thing.

What is your thing?

Discovering a new interest is a life-changing moment. Your heart tingles to understand more about the respective topic, i.e., intellectual, artistic, entrepreneurial, activist, spiritual.  

Your mind is flooded with What if scenarios. “What will be the outlets where I could practice my interest? I’ll host a podcast show. I’ll have a YouTube channel. I’ll write a blog. I’ll start a Greta Thunberg kind of movement.”

Regularly, you start to create something around this interest but then the pull between the current you and the possible you kicks in. And the inner tension is increasingly nagging and consumes more of your mental energy. 

On one hand, there is comfort in the certainty of doing things and meeting the people you know. The past you is the one you are familiar with. The version of you who feels in control over the competencies, skills and relationships related to the professional experiences you’ve had so far.  

On the other hand, you may start to believe there’s some potential in you triggered by a particular curiosity. The newly discovered interest is enriching you but pushing you into an unknown territory where you’ll need new skills and relationships.  

Who is going to win the inner conflict between the one you used to be and the one you could be? 

It depends on whom you decide to trust more in the present. The sense of familiarity of previous experiences. Or the intuitive sense that gently informs you of the new interest where your potential lies. Should you trust the latter, you’d then need to be willing to take the active role as a creator. You’d need to explore what you are naturally drawn to create. 

You become active creator when you trust the unusual attraction towards something 

Whatever the domain where you’d like to bring your contribution, it will not be enough that you acquire all the relevant information and you know what to do with it. You have to be interested in the state-of-the-art in the respective domain. But not the regular information that a person must have to adapt to the environment in a particular situation, as in, “I like to take nature photos to calm myself down.”

To increase the likelihood of turning the newly discovered interest into a significant work, understood by some people, you need a highly acute interest, which psychologist M. Csikszentmihalyi calls it psychic energy, to a particular aspect of the domain. “I’m interested in the use of photography techniques to express meaningful stories. My photography will thus help other people calm down.” 

Therefore, in the present, you’ll need to give in to your sensitivity, your disposition to perceive certain subtleties related to a specific topic in a domainIt would be fascinating to inquire into the origins of highly acute interests. However, for the purpose of this article, it is more useful to investigate what you can do about a newly discovered interest. For example, the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher is known for his love for the “game” of dividing a plane into small recognisable figures that repeat themselves on end. How did he come to embrace this love?

“My first intuitive step in that direction had already been taken as a student at the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem. This was before I got to know the Moorish majolica mosaics in the Alhambra, which made a profound impression on me.” wrote Escher in the art magazine De Delver, The Digger

Unconscious choices are the first part of discovery of acute interests. For Escher, this part ended in 1936 when he took his second trip to Spain, when the decorative Moorish art in the Alhambra fortress intrigued him more.

The second part of the development of an acute interest starts when you are conscious about what you need to do to develop the affinity towards something. Then you take up new learning. When Escher returned from the second trip to Alhambra, he learned from the mathematicians community that the regular division of planes in congruent figures is part of the study of geometric crystallography. Therefore, he got interested in reading articles on this subject. In the end he “dared, that is, to work on the problem of expressing unboundedness in an enclosed plane that is bound by specific dimensions

To turn a new interest in a love for creation takes years and unflinching commitment to learning and developing yourself.

The acceptance of your natural sensitivity provides the inner drive to put in the required effort so that the newly acquired interest transforms into an acute interest that results in useful creations.   

“It (to draw) is really strictly a matter of persisting tenaciously with continuous and, if possible, pitiless self-criticism. Talent and all that are really for the most part just baloney.” wrote Escher to his son Arthur, on November 2nd, 1955. “Any schoolboy with a little aptitude can perhaps draw better than I; but what he lacks in most cases is that tenacious desire to make it a reality, that obstinate gnashing of teeth and saying, ‘Although I know it can’t be done, I want to do it anyway.’  

Finally, the new you wins over the old you when you learn to trust in your sensitivity towards certain subtleties in or outside yourself, despite the self-criticism. And you’d then need to recognize what is that you will have to do differently in order to grab opportunities to create. 

“I cannot help it! This topic is my thing.” This surrender to your extraordinary sensitivity will change the way you perceive the people and resources in your surroundings and the person you become. Engaging in acts of creation is your new and most important life aspiration.

What if your google map of acute interests required an update with a new community in town where you’d show the outcomes of your first act of creation? What would that place be?

Artists need artistic expression, other types of creative people need emotion abilities in the creative process

Can you think yourself as a creative person if you are not an artist?

Artists are generally acknowledged as the most creative individuals in a society. How about the creative individuals in other professional domains. Do they need to think of themselves as artistic? Do they require artistic expression to come up with exceptional products?

“Now I’m thinking very broadly and allowing these associations to come.” says entrepreneur Harriet Fagerholm. “ Of course, creativity has to do with art. Creativity is also related to artistic expression. But it’s not necessarily the art per se. That’s the outcome. But creativity can be about innovations, new thinking, whatever. ”

When asked about other areas of life where composer Matias Kupiainen sees the outcomes of creativity, he replied:

“I have a good example, this Chilean friend who had basically nothing when he came here to Helsinki. I rented a small 2×2 warehouse kind of thing and he was building pedals. Now he is running one of the biggest pedal industries in the whole world, 3.5 million net last year. He made it in less than 10 years.

He had a clear vision of what he wanted and he executed it. It was in the long-term what he wanted to do. Does it have to do anything with creativity in this kind of case? Yes it has, you need to have a product and you need to be creative to do the actual product and you have to believe in your product.

You can’t sell just nonsense. But when you have the product ready and have to sell it, then it’s more like business and technical approach again. And of course, you need to be lucky.

The product development is the creative, artistic process. Sure.” concluded Matias.

Talking about artistic expression as a requirement for creativity and about product development as an artistic process, it may be a bit confusing for possible creators outside the domains of art, music, dance or writing. What do the artistic expression and process refer to?

Artistic expression refers to the expression of emotion by works of art. Artists create the emotional expressiveness of their works. The better the emotions, – say love, sadness, nostalgia -, are captured in the final works, the more hooked the audience. Artistic expression stands as a criteria of the quality of creations in art, music, dances, and writing.

And the artistic process is in fact the creative process, when artists open up to their own emotions and allow their emotions to guide them in the implementation of their vision.

Artistic expression and process may thus be terminologies recognised by artists as requirements for achievement. However, these are two concepts with which other professionals, like sales engineer Oscar Santolalla may not identify themselves with.

Oscar thinks that he developed his creativity at a good level of 7, on a scale of 0 to 10. Yet, he does not perceive that his main job activities require creativity.

“What are the activities that you would label as creative activities?”, I asked Oscar.

“Everything that is art, it requires a lot of creativity.”, replied Oscar. “Probably it’s the field that requires most creativity, but it’s not only that. There are other fields. One is advertising. It’s clear that you need a lot of creativity to do good advertising. The same, you remember only the good ones. Some are really extremely good but it requires a lot of work on that. Also, in music, writing. Also, if you pay attention to a speech, like a politician’s speech, there is a lot of creativity to stand out. The majority are boring, the people don’t remember. But the ones that stand out have good creativity.”

To Oscar, creativity seems to be mainly associated with communication contexts, in arts, advertising and public speaking. He emphasizes that the most outstanding works are those where creators play with words, in the right order and cadence in a way that people get emotional.

When we associate creativity to arts mostly, there’s the risk of not recognising or appreciating our individual creative potential. We may not trust our creative selves to grab opportunities and make contributions in our professional roles, in domains of engineering, technology, science, entrepreneurship, or leadership.

Oscar may not think of himself as an artsy person, but he may realise that he does have a unique profile of creative potential. And each individual’s unique creative potential is better suited for specific tasks in a particular domain.

Any field needs innovation. For the diffusion of innovation, the new products need to become memorable and to have an effective impact on the consumers who adopt the innovation.

For the clarity sake, we may want to avoid  talking about artistic expression in innovation in engineering, science, technology, or management. Instead, we could talk about the affective impact of original products in the target audience. And equally importantly, we may bring up the importance for creators, be they artists or non artists, to possess emotional ability in order to come up with a significant improvement or an innovation or a remarkable creative work.

Emotions ability refers to the capacity to think and reason about and with emotions during the creative process. It’s true, the emotional expression and passion of artists is more evident in their works. In reality, all types of creative people, including scientists, engineers, leaders and entrepreneurs, need emotion ability and passion for their interest if they are to make a difference in the chosen domains of work. (Mayer et al., 2008,; Ivcevic & Hoffmann, 2019)

Emotions affect the whole creative process in any form of creativity

How emotions are used and managed in the creative process? Professor Vincenzo Cerullo needs to create positive emotions that get his creative juices out when he prepares for a public talk. He describes how he generates emotions in himself by envisioning himself in front of the audience.

“I don’t know where to put the emotion and I have been trying also to talk before the TEDx talk to other people who are supposed to be experts on creativity.” says Vincenzo. “I don’t know where to put emotions, but I have to say, I think to me, it works very well to try to bring up emotion.

Let’s say that I will have a keynote lecture in the university, something big that they are arranging and I am going to give a lecture there. A way for me to come up with something original, nice or a way to get my creativity out a little bit is, if I put myself there. Preparing the lecture, I’m actually already physically there and I can already see the people, they are looking at me, I can see the attention (or tension). It’s a positive emotion and I think that positive emotions give me, the colour or the thing I want to see.”

Sometimes, it can be that negative emotions such as frustration or boredom, direct the attention and thinking towards problem-solving aspects in the environment. And then, cognitive flexibility helps us see familiar objects or information in different ways.

For instance, Tulia’s calling was initiated thanks to her ability to act upon her frustration with the format of the networking events that she started attending when she moved to Zurich.

“So when I got to these events in Zurich, there was one thing that I’ve noticed. They had a format, a typical networking event. There’s the speaker, usually a woman, with the topic, they come, they present it, there was usually a nice dinner and that was it. And I felt many times where the speaker, the presenter had a nice topic, something interesting that I wanted to talk to the person afterwards.

I felt there was a huge gap and I started observing that this was happening in several different events. There was the speaker, the expert was there and you, the audience, you’re there, so there was not a bridge. And that bothered me, because I felt like, well, if you come and you deliver something, the people enjoyed it, people of course want to talk to you and if you leave is kind of half work done.

The only two things I had in mind was this, that there’s going to be a women event, only women on stage, could be men as audience but only women on stage. And I want them to share their story, their life story, their professional story, whatever story it was they wanted to share. But a story, I didn’t want it to be a business presentation.”

The new direction in Tulia’s entrepreneurship started from her vision on creating a different speaker-audience connection.

“If you come on stage to share something, and you don’t want to engage with the people who are listening to you, it’s kind of a bit weird. So long story short, this became my signature event, the Awe Summit which I’ve been doing since 2014, I did it in Zurich four times, then we went to Barcelona twice and we went to Porto in Portugal once and I want to do it here in Munich, next year, let’s see.”

Yes, artists need artistic expression. But what creators, from all walks of professional lives, need is to recognise two ways of working with their emotions.

First, how to recognise which emotions (i.e.., happiness or anger) to activate in themselves to increase their levels of creativity to perform a task at hand.

Second, they need to understand how their emotions represent cues about the effort needed to achieve an outcome. Positive moods indicate the goal is about to be reached. Negative moods signal that more effort is needed towards reaching a goal.

Summing up, it is not necessary to think of yourself as an artist when you have aspirations of making a contribution in domains of science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship, etc. However, assuming you do perceive yourself as a creative person, you may want to make it a priority to understand your emotions and the potential that this ability holds for the quality of your creative process and outcomes.

Immense gratitude for the following amazing people. Because they accepted to meet me for an interview on their creativity, this article could be written.

Harriet Fagerholm, creator of InTune, Academy of Cultural Evolution

Matias Kupiainen, composer and professional guitarist in the Finnish power metal band Stratovarius

Oscar Santolalla, sales engineer and author at Ubisecure, postcast host at Time to Shine

Tulia Lopes, communication architect, presentation trainer, speaker, author

Vincenzo Cerullo, immunology professor at University of Helsinki and director at Drug Research Program.


Ivcevic Z. & Hoffmann J., 2019, Emotions and Creativity, The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity, pp. 273-205.

Mayer, J.D., Roberts, R.D., & Barsade, S.G., 2008 Human abilities: Emotional intelligence, Annual Review of Psychology, 59(1), 507-536.