Artists are generally more sensitive because their senses are naturally attuned to a perceptual dimension most people are unaware of.
This affects people differently but generally it bleeds into all areas your sense of touch can be acute, your eyesight can be acute to color and form, your ability to see depth in all things is heightened, your emotions can be extra sensitive, etc.
This characteristic does not discriminate between painter, actor, or musician—they all appear to have one thing in common: they experience the world differently than the average individual. Creatives often feel and perceive more intensely, dramatically, and with a wildly vivid color palate to draw from, which can only be described as looking at the world through a much larger lens. Without a substantial filtration system firmly in place to screen out most of the busy noise, these people tend to receive a far greater amount of stimuli directly into their psyches. As a result, they frequently become more attuned to subtle details in their environment, to the people they deal with, and especially to their own internal process.
Creatives might find themselves more easily overwhelmed, and often live chaotic lives, affecting not only personal relationships, but also their own productivity. Over-stimulation can sometimes manifest further into anxiety or depression, bogging down their ability to cope with every day stressors or life’s challenges.
Pearl Buck, an American novelist living in China, and who received a Noble and a Pulitzer, best describes the highly sensitive person by saying, “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them…a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.”
According to psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, 20% of the population has this innate quality. I would even take that figure one step further and suggest that a large percentage of highly sensitive people would fall into the category of creative minds.
Although this is something many artists report struggling with, I don’t believe a high sensitivity to the world should necessarily be viewed in a negative light, but rather as a divine gift. For without this quality, their art, script, music or performance might lack a necessary element capable of touching an audience deeply. This might then bring up an important question: Do people create in an attempt to process, and survive, a condition that overwhelms them?
Pearl Buck also mentions, “Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create—so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, their very breath is cut off…They must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency they are not really alive unless they are creating.”
There is an art in itself to expressing ideas and opinions without stepping on the toes of anyone. A critique, for instance, is not personal and it focuses on the technical and ideological aspects of a project not the person who is creating the work. If you keep this in mind you can shift your attention away from the person, and ultimately not “hurt” the creative’s feelings.