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Introversion & Creativity

Just a day after watching a TED talk on the hidden powers of introversion, I found myself in a position for the first time in quite a while where I was called on to be creative in an interrelational context. A large portion of this TED talk was focused specifically on hilighting the differences between how extroverts and introverts ‘find their flow’, and tap into the creative impulse. I, for one, fall more in the latter category. In other words, I recharge and tend to get creative significantly more so in solitude than in bouncing ideas off of another or others. I’m moved to write on this subject here because we introverts make up approximately 30-50% of the population and, perhaps by our nature, we can tend to be an underrepresented bunch. I’d like that to change. In writing this blog, if I can reach even just a few people who could benefit from my processing this, then I am happy and honored to do so.

The above-mentioned scenario where I found myself called on to be creative with another actually played out in the context of co-creating this very blog. As you may have noticed, there are three of us that contribute to it, and it was myself and one of the other two wonderful women who were brainstorming a few weeks back in her office to create the blog. Specifically, it was while trying to come up with the name of the blog where I uncannily experienced our different ways of ‘finding flow’. It’s not that I always find access to my creative flow more easily in solitude than interrelationally, but you could say that this is the case perhaps 60-70% of the time. After all, this introvert-extrovert spectrum is not a black and white thing, but a continuum. I likely fall somewhere in the shady gray area between an extremely introverted and mildly introverted person. All of this self-disclosure is not in vain, as I imagine there are many of you out there who identify similarly, and/or who are close to someone who embodies more of an introverted than extroverted flair! It is with this audience in mind that I am moved to disclose a bit about myself here, so that we may all connect toward opening to, rather than shunning or ignoring, the hidden charms and efficacy of the introverted creative process.

Getting back to the co-creating of this blog site for a moment, I realized at some point early-on in the brainstorming process that I was not particularly feeling ‘in my creative flow’, as we were bouncing some ideas off each other. My friend then expressed some curiosity about this from her own perspective, and thus attention was brought to it, both internally as well as externally. During our dialogue I felt simultaneously both honor and respect for my own introverted experience, as well as appreciation and enjoyment of my friend’s differently nuanced creative impulse. There is clearly not a ‘right and wrong’ here, just different flavors of leaning into life and getting creative.

My experience is that our society has a tendency to shame solitude, and in turn value, even cling to at times, togetherness and socializing. This seems to also translate into the work-place, as well as more and more classrooms. Again, it seems to be about finding one’s own subjective balance and natural way of navigating the world, both inner and outer. The more we can set aside the paradigm of ‘right vs. wrong’, even for but a moment as an experiment, and invite the one of ‘what wants to happen here?’ or ‘where is my energy at?’, mental suffering tends to significantly decrease or even vanish entirely in these moments.

In the context of being an introvert and tapping the creative wellspring, intermittent aloneness is often where it’s at. Quite naturally, if we let ourselves honor and embody this aloneness, even while in the presence of another, a boundary arises. Not so much ‘against other or the outside world’, but rather in support of the fire-starting focus required to ignite creativity. Quite simply, there is more of an inward focus that an outward one. What often goes unrecognized is that boundaries can be porous. In other words, while there may be more of an inward focus, there can simultaneously be engagement and connection occurring with another or others. Whereas with the extrovert, the opposite tends to occur; the foreground focus is on the engagement with other, and yet inward focus can be happening too to some extent. There are moments where us introverts will embody extroversion, and vice versa. From my perspective, it seems to be about balance. This balance is struck more or less effortlessly when we let ourselves trust our gut, and act from the obviousness of that impulse. This is, for me, the birthplace of authenticity and integrity. When we lead from there, the fruit reaped tends to be both nutritious and delicious!

I’ve attached here the 18-minute long TED talk that inspired my recent and rekindled interest in the central processing unit that is introversion. Enjoy.

Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes

Tom Rhodes is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. He specializes in working with people who suffer from anxiety or whose very identity is being called into question by the current circumstances of their life.

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  1. cheeryday on March 31, 2012 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you for these insightful words. Very helpful to a fellow introvert.