Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

What Kind of Creative Are You? The Key: Animal Physiology

Embrace your creative creature to increase productivity with less stress.

Key points

  • Animals have their own unique strengths. Creatives may benefit from considering how they embody those traits and categories.
  • Understanding these traits can help address challenges such as procrastination or lack of motivation.
  • Much of creative activity happens internally. Work can still be in progress even if the final product takes time.

Do you remember Aesop’s Fables? The story of the tortoise and the hare? The hare dashes away from the start line but soon goes off the course. Meanwhile, the tortoise consistently plods toward the finish line.

Remember the moral? Slow and steady wins the race?

Authors and researchers have been categorizing human behavior for years.

Stephen Covey popularized the four quadrants of time management in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. When we have a task to do (or too many tasks vying for our undivided attention) we often make choices based on this simple test. Urgent and important tasks need to get done now. But non-urgent and unimportant tasks are easily put aside. All too often, creative tasks (the ones that feed our souls) fall into this quadrant and sadly don’t get done.

Gretchen Rubin offered a four personality profile in her book The Four Tendencies, which helps explain another reason why creatives do their art or hesitate. A simple quiz categorizes the participant as an upholder, an obliger, a questioner, or a rebel. I’m an obliger, in case you wanted to know.

The Enneagram Test purports to be a “powerful and insightful tool for understanding ourselves and others.” I’m a 2, the helper. Seems to align with my tendency as an obliger.

Most recently, I discovered Cas Aarssen’s Clutterbug system to better understand our organizing tendencies. She has a quiz, too. Her ‘bugs’ are based on whether an individual needs to see their belongings or prefers to hide them away and whether we categorize our items on a micro or macro-level. When you learn you’re a butterfly, a ladybug, a cricket, or a bee, you also better understand why your desk is covered by stacks of papers. The Clutterbug system reaffirmed my need for hooks and open baskets, not closets and drawers.

These charts, quizzes, and symbols started me thinking about creativity.

Could creatives be categorized by a simple grid, too?

If the x-axis is speed, then the y-axis is force.

Starfish: A starfish moves slowly and lightly.

Considering its size and weight, the starfish can do little damage. It floats with the current and it can regrow a missing arm should something happen to it.

The creative starfish begins projects slowly and lightly. They work best when they have no deadline. They enjoy the process, perhaps more than the product. They dabble with different media, different genres, different sizes.

If inclined to take up a new artform, they may spend days mulling over catalogs and online sites, watching YouTube tutorials and interviews and reading blogs, forums before they take any tangible action toward beginning the new form.

Rabbit: A rabbit bounds quickly but quietly over the landscape.

Rabbits cover a great deal of ground quickly by hopping, almost effortlessly, from one point to the next. They land softly, and with little impact. Their power is in their legs and feet, making them fast but unable to exert much force other than perhaps eating.

The creative rabbit works best when there is a deadline. They understand their limitations and their process. They may play at a few different techniques and styles until they finally decide and then they work quickly to finish up.

The rabbit is quick to purchase a myriad of fresh supplies, enroll in classes and courses, buy books and patterns. The supplies go unopened, unused. They complete the first lesson of the course or read the first chapter of the book. The potential remains and when the need arises, the rabbit speeds along with all the necessary components close at hand.

Bear: Bears are strong, fierce, and extremely powerful when they are awake.

During hibernation, bears metabolism slows and they can slumber for long periods.

The creative bear dives into a new artform with intensity. They may invest in expensive equipment and supplies, but then they may walk away from their new materials for long periods. When they return, when they decide, they work tirelessly, often around the clock, in order to complete a project or learn a new skill or technique.

Horse: The horse is a dynamo of speed and force.

Throughout the world, horses have provided humans with mobility and strength to cross the prairie and also to pull a plow. Used in battle as well as policing, their size and their strength make them the go-to for getting the job done. They’re also graceful and fast, as witnessed in dressage and racing.

The creative horse tackles projects with power and passion as if effortlessly. But it is with their pacing and their power that they get the job done.

Once you’ve identified your creative creature, embrace those traits. A rabbit who hops lightly from task to task will become exhausted and depressed if they try to tackle too much too quickly. But a horse will become bored and start munching hay if they have no firm goal. A bear will not tolerate floating aimlessly. It will probably fall asleep. A starfish just cannot run a race. But they are so beautiful and their grace and elegance, their attention to detail, and their ability to tackle the newness of a project suit them well for any project.

If you have ever been accused of procrastinating on a task, you are likely a starfish or a bear. But you know that your inactivity does not represent laziness or idleness. Your creative potential spills forth at the right time. If you’ve ever experienced setbacks from racing too quickly through a task, you are likely a rabbit. You learn from your mistakes and quickly get back on track with renewed energy and added experience. And while it may seem that the horse represents the optimal creative creature, the blinders that help them stay the course may also prevent them from exploring new trails. Best to let your inner horse free to graze in a pasture now and then.

Aesop's Fables offer morals, but there's more than one way to win a race.


Covey, S. (1998). The 7 habits of highly effective teens : the ultimate teenage success guide. Simon & Schuster.

Rubin, G. (2017). The four tendencies : the indispensable personality profiles that reveal how to make your life better (and other people's lives better, too) (First). Harmony Books.