Introverts and the Creative Process
“Introversion is not defined by lack. Introversion, when embraced is a wellspring of riches”. Laurie Helgoe
Many introverts are told they are too quiet, parents tell them to stop spending so much time in their bedroom, teachers tell them to take part more. Introverted children get the message that there is something wrong with them because of their quietness.
I often see quiet people who are humble and often don't step forwards. Less inclined to shout about their work or put themselves out there on Youtube or on stage and often go unnoticed. It may be that you have spent your life apologizing for your quietness. Trying to fit in in a world that values extroverts. Feeling inferior to the louder more popular people around you. You could have spent your life being told by extroverts what is best. Those who mistake your quietness for being timid and having a lack of knowledge or direction.
I read Susan Cain's book 'Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking' a few years ago and my life changed. Susan's main aim was to change the way in which the world views introverts, but also how they view themselves. When I read the book, I finally accepted my quietness.
Once I realized that my introversion was a strength, I was able to gain the self-belief that was lacking. I realized that there was actually nothing wrong with me. And indeed there were a lot of positives to my quietness. I was able to continue with my creative work with a renewed purpose.
It is still generally believed in Western culture that life as an extrovert is better than life as an introvert. Outgoing personalities fare better when looking for jobs and friends. We have become an outward society. Building, competing, improving, online presence increasingly important, constant communication is a must. A competitive culture. It is no wonder that introverts feel anxious as they feel pressure to keep up and speak out.
Misconception - Shyness
Introversion and shyness are two completely separate things, yet they are very commonly mistaken. If you are shy, you fear others' judgment. You can feel timid, nervous, insecure in social settings. A shy person will skip a dinner party because making small talk makes them uncomfortable or anxious. Whereas an introvert will skip because they see more value and enjoyment in a relaxing night at home by themselves.
Introverts don't necessarily prefer less time in groups. But they are more focused on their interests and relationships. When spending time in groups that advance their interest and make efficient use of their time, introverts are happy. Introverts are energy conservers. They re-energise by spending quiet time alone with their thoughts ideas and feelings. Getting drained when forced to focus on external influences. This causes tiredness and exhaustion.
The Introvert Hangover
Ever need a day to recover after socializing? The introvert hangover is a real thing. Physical symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, and headaches can be experienced after socializing if you are an introvert. Symptoms will depend on several factors. The level of your introversion, how much energy you had before, and the quality of downtime afterwards. Many introverts like socializing, as I do myself. I thrive when teaching others and love being around like-minded people. But I have learned to build in downtime and recovery time afterward to gain my energy back.
Solitude provides space to develop self-awareness. Photographing, painting, reading, or walking renews me. In solitude, I rest and hear my inner voice and personal values become clear. Too much external stimulations and our inner voice are stifled. I still feel connected to others even when alone and I have time to miss them. A desire grows to return and engage with them, but I return fulfilled and happy.
Creativity and Introversion
Introverts are naturally less concerned with what everyone else is doing, so working alone is no hardship. Psychologists agree that solitude is essential to doing our best creative work. Hans Jürgen Eysenck, a German-born British psychologist noted that introversion and creativity go hand in hand. Because working alone lets the person concentrate better on the task. And spending less time with people conserves energy for creative work.
While driving alone or in the shower, memories, and random facts join to become solutions for everyday dilemmas or epiphanies appear. It is in downtime that our most revelatory insights and creations are developed. We expand in idleness. We come up with new solutions, ideas, ways to communicate, new songs.
Creative incubation - letting your mind wander. You aren’t thinking of a problem but your mind is still working on it in the background. The idea dawns on you whilst you are washing the dishes. And introverts are great at letting their mind wander and turn inward.
Creativity and Solitude
Writer Ernest Hemingway said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech that writers must spend time alone to do their best work. Steve Wozniak invented the first usable computer working late at night alone. He wrote that engineers and inventors are like artists. And like artists, they do their best work alone. Not in a team, not in a corporate office, but alone.
See if any of these traits resonate with you;
- I prefer time alone or with one or two close friends rather than a group
- When I work on projects I like to have longer uninterrupted periods rather than smaller chunks
- I can zone out of too much is going on
- I don't like to interrupt others: I don't like to be interrupted
- I can become grouchy if I am around people or activities too long
- I often dread returning phone calls
- I am creative/imaginative
- I form lasting relationships
- I usually need to think before I respond or speak
I hope this has shed a little light onto introversion. My wish is that all the creative introverts out there feel uplifted and more confident in their quietness. You can see my short video on YouTube here about creativity and introverts.