Introverts: Creative Quiets

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I masquerade as an extrovert.

But it’s just an act, a role played in pretend-land. Sooner or later, I’ll need to cocoon myself away for a bit to enjoy some silence.

I don’t think I’m alone, am I? Many creatives are introverts, preferring fewer words, fewer friends, and fewer parties.

Extroverts: we marvel at you. We marvel at your abilities to mingle at gatherings. We stand (preferably silently sequestered) amazed at your bombastic, never-ending ability to communicate with your host of friends while we struggle to maintain contact with the two or three friends in our close-knit circle. We’re jealous of your confidence in social situations.

I’m appreciative and bewildered by extroverts. Their behaviors are so far from my own that I wonder if we’re even from the same planet. At times, I feel like calling myself an introvert is merely an excuse to be cantankerous, picky, critical and fill in other negative words here. Truly, I have a lot to work on in these areas, but I’ve come to realize it’s part of who I am.

I AM AN INTROVERT (shouted from the mountain tops, then crawling under a rock to not be noticed).

Indeed, that’s what I enjoy about acting: I get to communicate and make connections in a way that doesn’t always feel safe socially.

This past weekend I was part of a fantastic event called Playgrounds: Theater on Site (plug: produced by the fine folks at Wood Stove House–like them here). It had been several months since I’d performed and several years since I’d been through a rehearsal process. Here’s what I learned…

  • I’ve great respect for writers.
  • I’ve great respect for patient directors.
  • I’m impatient.
  • I love performing.
  • I love people.
  • I want to perform and then go and hide.

It’s an odd phenomenon isn’t it? To be a performer, a teacher and an introvert? But I’m thankful for who I am, though I’ve much to learn from the extroverts. And though I’ll probalby never be an extrovert, I can marvel and learn… from a slight distance (insert wry smile here).

***

I stumbled across this graphic which encapsulates so much of what introverts experience.

Introverts: do you agree?

Extroverts: what do you think?

What about you? Are you an creative who’s an introvert or an extrovert? What have you learned about your strengths and weaknesses?

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Author: Andrew Zahn

I'm a son, husband, dad, business owner, actor and good sleeper/eater. On this blog, I pave a highway for creative growth by providing food, water, and shelter for those wishing to live, work, and play with creative zest.

  • Rob

    I can relate! good thoughts..

  • This: “I AM AN INTROVERT (shouted from the mountain tops, then crawling under a rock to not be noticed)” cracked me up πŸ™‚

    I’m with you, secretly introverted, but can fake some extroverted characteristics when necessary. It’s a weird balance, really.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Isn’t it reassuring to know you’re not alone… even though introverts want to be alone.

      Such a dichotomy.

  • I’m with you, and Stephen–shout it, then head to my cave. In fact, I’ve posted about what it’s like being an introvert in a megachurch, and today I’m happy to have a guest post from an introverted worship leader, Jamie Kocur.

    Great post, Andrew!

    • Andrew Zahn

      I guess the whole “introverts” thing is in the air right now. I’m headed over to your blog to read it now. Thanks Chad!

  • I, too, would shoul I’m an introvert from the mountaintop, but first I need to make sure *I* have a rock to go hide behind/under. πŸ˜‰

    I can be extroverted around people I know, and my job forces me out of my shell. Plus I married an extrovert (who was introverted as a kid — you would never guess that now). I’m learning to be okay with my quiet, even in a culture that seems at times to favour the louder ones.

    • Andrew Zahn

      Interesting that your hubby is an ex-introvert.

      I feel kind of the opposite… as if I’m an ex-extrovert.

      My, I don’t think I’ve used the letter “x” so many times in one day.

  • Amen!!! *Shouts and then pulls into turtle shell*. I fully agree with the graphic. I often feel guilty/inadequate for my desire but lacking ability to captivate crowds and lead a large circle of friends and acquaintances. Then I remember what I’m good at – and why I’m good at it. One of the best discoveries I ever made about myself is my need to hide away from everyone and everything every now and then – even if just for an hour. This is my safeguard against burnout.

    • Andrew Zahn

      A good discovery to make… to know that’s what you need so you don’t get burned out.

  • I am an introvert for sure. I have my moments of extroversion, especially around those I know well and am comfortable with, but at my core, I’m an introvert. I need those times of silence. I need that time to be by myself. I need my down time or I burn out quickly.

    Once I embraced my introversion and learned how I best operate, it gave me power to be who I am and know how to stay refreshed.

    • Andrew Zahn

      I used to fight it… that ‘need to be refreshed’ that you mentioned. Now I embrace it as part of who I am.

      Glad to know you’ve been there too Jason!

  • Oh, amen. It does seem that introversion is in the air, or the water lately. I’ve noticed way more discussion about it. Or maybe all the introverts are finally feeling brave enough to say something.

    I relate to your comment of: “Indeed, that’s what I enjoy about acting: I get to communicate and make connections in a way that doesn’t always feel safe socially.” That’s why I love singing. When I can stand in front of a group of people and perform a song, I have their undivided attention. I don’t have to fight for air and words, lost amongst a group of extroverts. I can sing what I’m feeling, know that people heard it, and then promptly try to hide as soon as I’m done.

    One thing I’m learning lately is that being introverted is not a bad thing. It’s not a disease or condition that I need to get over. I’m learning to embrace it and love it. And I know that when I do speak (especially amongst a group of extroverts) they all sit up and listen, mainly because I don’t talk much. πŸ™‚

    • Andrew Zahn

      Preach.

      πŸ™‚

  • Great post today, filled with honesty and vulnerability about who you are. I would also classify myself as an introvert, but I do have some extrovert tendencies. I think being a creative encourages introvert behavior because we have to create by ourselves, we can’t create art with other people. We can’t listen to what they think because then it would cease to be “my” art. I’ve learned WHAT my strengths and weaknesses are so that I can live in them and not try to be someone I’m not or what someone thinks I should be.

    • Andrew Zahn

      You bring up a good point about art Dave.

      The idea of collective creation vs individual creation.

      And yes, there’s a place for both though most of the times we create alone.

      At work, I often have numerous creative projects with an awesome team of creatives. It’s been good for me to break out of my introvert shell and share ideas, listen to other ideas, and enjoy the outcome from the team.

  • Yvette Carol

    That’s utterly brilliant Andrew! Never saw myself represented quite so well, have to say πŸ™‚
    I saw a great piece by a comedian once. He said you see young people out at a party and they’ve got a dozen friends with them. You see a 20 year old at a party & they’ve got a gang of five. You see a 30 year old and they’ve got one or two mates along. Then cut to about 40 or 50 and they’re there on their own or with their brother!!! So it happens to all of us, even the non-introverts. Ha ha. But I think for introverts like us, it’s really hard to hold on to people in our lives.
    My dad calls my lifestyle ‘calvanistic’ because I spend so much time alone. Only another introvert would really understand, right?
    Yvette Carol

    • Andrew Zahn

      Hi Yvette! I’m glad you found solace in not being alone in the way you’ve felt.

      The comedian’s story seems quite true…. and yes, I totally understand.

      Thanks for dropping by.

  • Love love love the graphic…First time i’ve seen something that is so specific to how I am wired up.

    I am WAY far on the introvert side of the scale. I can put on the act when I need to (particularly at work), but it takes a boatload of energy to pull it off. After a few days of meetings or presentations or other human contact, I have to retreat to my hotel room and just sit and recharge. In fact, that’s what i’m doing this very instant.

    There’s a big difference between being by yourself and being alone. πŸ™‚

    • Andrew Zahn

      Recharge away Christine!!!!

  • I am not exactly an introvert or an extrovert. I float between the two. Sometimes I need to be introverted and and sometimes I need to flex my extroverted self.

    • Andrew Zahn

      You don’t have a default to which you normally fall into?

  • Wow. I cannot begin to tell you how encouraging this was!! It describes me ALL the way…a fact that I’ve always struggled with! I too know how to put on the extrovert mask but I’m utterly exhausted when I take it off. Knowing that I’m not the only creative introvert out here blows open an entirely new and exciting path for me! Who knew!!

    • Andrew Zahn

      You are not alone. Truly!

      Just look at the commenters πŸ˜‰ Connect with them… and then go sequester yourself away πŸ™‚

  • This is great. I write and read a lot about introversion, and I like the fact that you picked up on one of the things that I try and emphasise a lot: “I feel like calling myself an introvert is merely an excuse to be cantankerous, picky, critical” – it is important not to use it as an excuse or justification for being rude and anti-social, and instead to use understanding oneself as something very freeing. Now that I know why I am like I am and do what I do, I am able to work out how to use it, and care for myself in a way that benefits me AND everyone around me.

    I love that infographic too. So much rings true. I only worked out I was introverted a couple of years ago. Had I known when I was younger that the way that I liked to learn (going off and doing it alone before showing and talking to others), the fact that I liked disappearing into my own space, the fact that I wasn’t interested in having loads of friends etc, then my education would have been very different. It’s so great that these issues have become much more public and talked about recently, I just hope it’s filtering through into learning environments. I’m concerned it’s not, and that group work and extrovert-centric quick speaking is more encouraged in schools than that which is good for introvert learning.

    • It’s super important–I agree! I love all that you wrote here Andy.

      One area that’s still difficult for me is church. It seems like almost all churches are geared for extroverts and there’s almost guilt if you don’t want to shake everyone’s hand and attend every function. Still working that one out!

      Thanks for sharing your insights.

  • @nippon98

    As an introvert myself, I quickly learned that my son was also an introvert before he began kindergarten. He is now a ten year-old who questions me about his social anxieties which appear to become more apparent with his peers. After our quiet conversations about this loud world, he finds comfort in knowing that he is not alone. In fact, I will have him read this blog….even now, for me to attend a simple baby shower equates to being in my “cocoon” for days afterwards…