There’s this whole story that accompanies many people’s idea of what it is to be a writer or an artist – it includes things like the idea that artists tend to paint “en plein air” a lot or that you can only be a “real” writer once you’ve travelled around the world several times and had lots of “life experience”.
Likewise, these days, many people expect creative people to have a regularly-updated Twitter account and to be instantly accessible at literally every hour of the day on Facebook, Tumblr etc…..
If reading and thinking about all of these things is making you quiver with joy, delight and happiness, then this article isn’t for you.
But, if the idea of doing all of these things fills you with a churning mixture of icy dread, painful awkwardness, bitter cynicism and weary annoyance- then this article is for you.
You see, whilst the public face of creativity is one of celebrities, internet micro-celebrities, TV interviews, street artists, youtube videos etc…. this isn’t exactly the whole story. For every person who gets into writing or art because they want to be “famous” – there are many others who do it because it is, quite frankly, one of the best ways to spend lots of time alone.
Yes, I’m talking about the whole “introvert” and “extrovert” thing. In case you haven’t heard either of these terms before, an extrovert is someone who thrives in the company of other people and withers away in solitude.
On the other hand, an introvert is someone who withers away in the awkward emotionally-draining company of other people and who thrives in glorious blissful solitude. No points for guessing which one of these two groups I fit into.
You see, there’s something of a paradox when it comes to creating things. In order to create stuff, you have to go deep into your own imagination (eg: something that introverts enjoy) and find a way to turn it into something that you can gleefully show off to other people (eg: something that extroverts enjoy).
But, since the second part of this paradoxical process is the only thing that anyone else really sees, this tends to be the part of the creative process that gets glamourised and romanticised.
This cruel injustice is further compounded by the fact that, depressingly, the world around us is often one of the easiest sources for quick inspiration. It’s a lot easier to base a story on people, locations and/or events that you’ve seen than it is to create one completely from your own imagination. Likewise, it’s about a hundred times easier to paint something that you’ve seen in real life than it is to conjure up an interesting image using only your imagination.
So, yes, for extroverted people who love travelling, meeting people, painting whilst other people are looking etc… then inspiration can come easily. But what if you’re the kind of interesting introverted person who has much better things to do than to go out regularly? Where do you find your inspiration? Well, I thought that I’d offer a few tips.
The first one is that you have an imagination. In fact, you have an imagination and a mind that you’ve probably explored and looked at a in a lot more depth than most people do. Whilst extroverted people might while away boring moments chatting with other people, looking at Facebook or texting people, you probably spend this time daydreaming and pondering instead.
So, use this to your advantage. Yes, creating things entirely from your imagination is more difficult than just copying real life, but it isn’t quite as difficult if you’re already intimately acquainted with your own imagination and have spent a lot of time with it.
Secondly, you already have “life experience”. Just because you spend a lot of time in the company of someone interesting (eg: yourself) doesn’t mean that you don’t have any “life experience”.
After all, you’ve been alive for quite a few years and you’ve experienced all of this – therefore, you have life experience. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And, even if you’ve spent a good portion of that time alone, then you can still find ways to squeeze some inspiration out of your experiences – even if it means being a bit more creative about how you do this.
Thirdly, since you like spending a lot of time in glorious solitude, then it’s probably a safe bet that you’ve read more books and watched more movies and/or TV shows than the average person has. So, your imagination has been nourished with images and descriptions of many more things than the average person would ever see first-hand in their lifetime.
I can’t remember who said this (I think that it was G.R.R. Martin), but there’s this brilliant quote which goes something along the lines of “Someone who doesn’t read only lives one life, but someone who reads lives a thousand lives“.
Whilst you shouldn’t directly copy anything that anyone else has made (unless it’s old enough to be in the public domain, that is), don’t be afraid to use an interesting mixture of different things you’ve read and watched as a starting point for coming up with your own interesting creative ideas.
So, yes, being an introvert doesn’t mean that you can’t find interesting creative ideas.
Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂