Are you a creative introvert?
Here’s a scenario from your student days that might sound painfully familiar:
It’s 6pm on the day before a big assignment is due. Your final grade depends on you acing this paper. But there’s one very big catch.
It’s a group project, so you’ve got to work as a team to make sure everyone succeeds. In what seems like the trillionth group meeting, you are trying to hammer out a creative conclusion for your argument. Then it happens.
The loudest person in the group yells out a lame idea, and the others seem to be on board. You want to wave your arms in the air and say, “Please, no! We can do better than that. At least, I know that I can do better than that.”
Unfortunately, there is no “I” in team. There is, however, most definitely an “I” in “introvert”, and that is exactly what you are. This means that your best ideas emerge in solitude.
Why The Creative Introvert Needs Quiet
As an introvert, your creative powers, which are about as badass as they come, can only be accessed in solitude. You need quiet to connect dots, and create worlds. You also require solitude to to give your brain a break from all the overstimulation assaults you face each day. Think of it this way:
You know that children’s story, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, by Judy and Ron Barrett? It’s about this town where the townsfolk get all their meals from the daily shower of food from the sky. This is all fine and good until suddenly the weather takes a turn, and gross, oversized foods pour down, causing catastrophe for the townspeople. Being a creative introvert is kinda like this.
Each time we leave the house, we face a showering of stimulation in the form of sights, sounds, and people. Sometimes, the stimulation is nourishing and enjoyable, like a forkful of bolognese with a side of crisp greens. Other times, they are a massive meatball to the face.
The Solitude Shield
Solitude shields us from those giant meatballs of stimulation. It gives us time to brush ourselves off, and actually digest what we’ve taken in. Just like a hunk of red meat takes a long time to digest (which is one of the reasons I don’t eat meat, by the way, but that’s another story), so, too, does all the complex information we introverts take in from the outside world. Because here’s the thing.
Studies have found that introverts process more information at a given time than extroverts. That’s why we need more time alone to make sense of it all. But there is another important reason to guard your solitude like it’s the last cup of coffee at a Monday meeting.
Honoring your need for solitude has huge creative payoffs. Creative giants in every field have been praising the merits of solitude for centuries. Take a look at some of the daily habits of these great minds, and you’ll see how crucial solitude was and is to their creative process.
Solitude Habits of Famous Creative Introverts
The RZA walked his way to creative magic. In his book The Tao of Wu, The RZA (rapper, author, music producer, and de facto leader of the Wu Tang Clan) tells the story of how he was walking alone for several hours a day when he came up with the idea for the Wu Tang Clan. Elsewhere in the book, The RZA explains how solitude clarifies confusion:
“Confusion is a gift from God. Those times when you feel most desperate for a solution, sit. Wait. The information will become clear. The confusion is there to guide you. Seek detachment and become the producer of your life.”
Henry David Thoreau found inspiration in nature. Thoreau, though not the hermit many describe him to be, most certainly appreciated the creative benefits of solitude. He famously stated:
“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”
Steve Wozniak came up with his best ideas alone. In what is likely one of his most famous quotes of all time, Wozniak advises:
“And artists work best alone—best outside of corporate environments, best where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has ever been invented by committee.”
Kurt Vonnegut swam his way to mental clarity. The celebrated author of Slaughterhouse-Five was known for his daily routine of swimming at the Iowa City Municipal Pool. He took his dip right before lunch because this was when the pool was emptiest. In his book, The Player Piano, Vonnegut writes:
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”
I could spend all day listing creative introverts who have a daily habit of seeking out solitude. But I think you get the idea.
The Bottom Line
If you are a creative introvert, carving out some solitude each day must be a priority. Get up early and catch the last sliver of silence before it is swallowed up by the demands of the day. Or sit and stare into space, as you wait for your dinner to bake. You can even sandwich a walk between meetings, and let the creative inspiration rain down like spaghetti.
Just be sure to hold the meatballs. 😉
Are you a creative introvert? What habits do you recommend to stimulate creativity? Please do share your thoughts in the comments below.