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I'm reading Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. And this has me thinking about introversion and extroversion in the creative community. A couple question for you...

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert? (Susan's quiz, linked below, can help you find out.)

How does your personality show up in your creative work?
Chris M's profile photoMari Miller's profile photoDiane Gilleland's profile photoLinda Tieu's profile photo
I'm also an Introvert! (when it comes to working, and thinking, but I can turn on the extrovert for about 2 hours when required)

How does it show up in my work?
I've learned to create a workday that allows for lots and lots of alone, writing time. I don't take more than 2 meetings/appointments/phone calls in a day.
Also, I make stuff that requires/allows me to be alone!

I think a lot of self-employed crafty folk love it because they're introverts and a traditional workplace is just overstimulating and exhausting.
Amen, +Tara Swiger ! When I had day jobs, they were always extroverted kinds of jobs - hotel front desk, retail sales, people-managing, production coordination. It was only after my first year of self-employment that I fully realized how draining all those work environments were to me, and how much nourishment I find in being able to work largely alone.

...Though, like you, I can turn on "the thing" for short bursts. :-)

+Alice Merlino , I hadn't thought about your deeply analytical approach to craft as a function of being introverted, but that totally makes sense!

I really love how the blogosphere has given all us introverts a means of connecting comfortably. And it's allowed me to meet both of you in person, and for those meetings to be just as easy and cozy as if we'd been neighbors for years. I'm eternally grateful we never had to wrestle through small talk about the weather. :-)
"Wide open spaces" is exactly the vibe, +Alice Merlino . Too much meatspace (heh heh heh, you said meatspace) makes me feel pretty claustrophobic.
I really am both introvert & extrovert. I love being around other people and, to a point, get energy and inspiration from that. However, I also have about a two hour limit. After that, I start to feel exhausted and over-whelmed. My favorite work/creating is when I am home alone with soft music playing in the background. Too much noise or too many interruptions, and I can't connect with the creative part of myself.
I certainly consider myself an introvert, much to the surprise of those to whom I proclaim it! Though in truth, I probably sit closer to the fence. Then again, I just took the quiz, and apparently I'm an Ambivert. So I most definitely sit on the fence.

Considering that my primary means of creativity these days is The Ambidextrous Brain blog, then yes, it certainly manifests more of my introverted tendencies. But I love being around community, in situations where everyone cares about each other. Kind of an introverted take on a larger social situation.

I took a test at work and I am mostly and introvert, but in some situations (like being with firends or if I'm forced to do a presentation, I can be a lively extrovert, but I too, have a time limit).
As for my work, it can get intricate and time consuming to do. Being an introvert, I am happy to spend hours by myself drawing, listening to music, or the birds outside, and be completely content and not deprived of human interaction. I wonder if I was an extrovert, would I have the patience to do my work?
Introvert to the core! And married to an extrovert, to boot. He can't stand to sit around the house too long, and has no clue how I am totally comfortable working from home (and not leaving it) for multiple days in a row. Office environments and that open cubicle "door" make me itchy. It's also why I like Twitter over Facebook. Conferences and networking are ok... to a point. I loathe small talk and prefer just digging in to deeper conversation, which is also an introvert thing, from what I've read.

I think it shows in my work through the details and things I tend to zoom in on; I prefer macro photos and art to wide open landscapes. I have no problem getting lost in a project, though sometimes it can be to a fault.

It all probably reflects on how introverts talk less and, therefore, observe more. Maybe we notice tiny details that those more involved in the bigger picture overlook? Not to say that extroverts can't or don't notice these things. Sometimes it would behoove me to not have my head in the clouds and my focus in my bubble all the time.

This book has been on my reading list, along with a few others. I completely embrace my introversion and am fascinated by the study of it.
+Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard - That is such a great point you bring up about having to draw or write everything out. I seem to have no patience for sketching, and my ideas usually just come to me in their final form in my mind's eye. The struggle is in trying to get my hands to produce what my brain so clearly sees. I also don't do prototypes or crochet swatches. Dive right in and learn by failing miserably seems to be my M.O. :)
+Lisa SanCrom , I have the same issue with noise. Put me in a loud restaurant, in a group with lots of conversations going on, and my whole brain shuts down. I even need a day to recover afterward!

+Isaac Watson , I would have totally pegged you as an ambivert! In Susan Cain's book, she talks about the leadership style of an introvert, and there's a lot of similarity to the thoughtful, connected way I've seen you approach a group event.

+Linda A. , Ooh, cool! Nice to meet another introvert who enjoys public speaking. That's an interesting point about extroversion and patience. +Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard , as the only current extrovert in this conversation, what are your thoughts on that? Do you ever struggle with having the patience to do what you do?

In Susan Cain's book, she cites a study of the leaders of a large number of big companies. The study concluded that the majority of them were introverts, which is really interesting.

...Also, my partner K. is pretty extroverted, so that makes three of us in this discussion who are partnered with people of the opposite type. Interesting!
+Tina Jett , I so agree re: small talk. Remember when we were sitting at that lunch table at CCE? I felt then like we could have had a much deeper conversation, but there was so much going on around us, so many side conversations at once, and all that noise. It felt impossible. So, next time we're in the same place at the same time, let's just go to coffee somewhere and talk deep, OK?

Also, wowee. I prefer macro to wide-angle, too - in all kinds of visual expression. I never connected that to introversion. Love that idea.

I really respect how you embrace your introvert nature. It took me until my 40th birthday to stop seeing mine as a problem to be "fixed."
+Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard That article by +Jonathan Fields is really interesting! Thanks for sharing. I happen to have the same Myers-Briggs type as he—INFJ, and I experience the same kind of "on switch" that he (and others above) have described. But I definitely need to recuperate afterward. That usually involves watching TV shows or playing video games to let my mind isolate itself and decompress.

The macro–wideangle thought is really interesting to think about as well, though I think my own visual preferences sit on the fence like I do with introversion and extroversion—I see value and satisfaction in both.
+Diane Gilleland Re: CCE = YES. And yes!

The macro vs. wide-angle thing... I think that was from The Renaissance Soul by Susan Cain. There was mention of people who tend to view things in macro, mid-distance, and landscape. Made so much sense to me. That book also gave me an appreciation for Benjamin Franklin, my scattered interests, and a desire to live to be at least 100. :)

I've always been very protective of my time and personal space regarding introversion. I could site all sorts of reasons I think am the way I am (parents' divorce, being a latchkey kid, etc.) and even the circumstances that have brought out more of my extroversion over the last 10-15 years. I just know I thrive well and am most productive in my private time. It's where I'm most comfortable.
INFJs unite (in your own private space)!
And I don't know how I just glossed over the fact that Susan Cain, writer of The Renaissance Soul, also wrote Quiet. No wonder I want to read it!
+Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard That post was so super helpful! Thanks for sharing it!
You said "I often wonder if the smartest people in the world aren't introverts because they don't have to literally draw or write everything out..."
And I'd say that what I DO have to do, is to process everything internally first. So it's not like I just get to skip that processing step, it's that the processing happens with myself (usually on a piece of paper, actually, but a PRIVATE piece of paper!). It's like, I talk things out with myself.

I love to process stuff with other people, but it's usually when I've thought and thought about it first. I've had to learn, when asked a spur-of-the-moment question in a real live conversation, to say "you know, I'll think that over and email you a response", because otherwise I flop about trying to keep talking while also thinking it through. (not attractive)

I'm also in a relationship with a thriving extravert, +Diane Gilleland! Luckily, he has a job where he's with people all day (and I have a job where I'm not), so when we come home, we're at the about-same level of wanting-to-be-with-people.
+Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard Thanks so much for the Jonathan Fields link! I adored this idea:

"There’s so much mythology built around the need to “get out there and be a blazing ray of light” as fundamental element of success. I’m guessing that’s due, at least in part, to the fact that, classically, the people most of us associate with massive success are the ones who are the most fun for the media to cover. They get the most ink, air and screen time, so they’re the most in our faces."

...And the comments are sure reassuring - so many people's experiences feeling so familiar.
Ooh - and I meant to add: I experience the same "turbo state of ON-ness" as Fields and many of you are describing. There's nothing more alive for me than the experience of speaking or teaching a live class. But within a couple hours afterward, I'm toast.
+Diane Gilleland I think that introverts like to share. When someone asks me about crochet or drawing, I light up and then I can't stop talking! But I normally don't talk about what I do unless I'm asked. I guess that's the "dislike self-promotion" part.
Another INFJ here. Pretty much the only time I enjoy being in a social group of more than 5 people without having to totally switch "on" is during knitting circles.

But if any of you are struggling with accepting your introvertedness I recommend reading Introvert Advantage. It was like having a big sister repeatedly saying you are awesome, just different from the majority.
+Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard , that's really interesting about completion. I could totally see you in a collective making environment of some kind, though.

+Linda A. YES! I always have to be asked, too. In fact, one of my ongoing dismays in the face-to-face world is how seldom, seemingly, most people DO ask about each other. I have to say, I leave many face-to-face interactions feeling like I listened a lot, but also feeling a little disappointed that I was never invited to contribute. (And I totally realize that this is my own issue - I should just learn to speak the heck up and tell my own story! But it's not easy.)

+Thea Orozco Thanks for the book recommendation! Wish-Listed. :-)
I'm a major introvert. I don't think I realized how much until I started working from home. I love it! Spending the whole day by myself focusing on my own projects is such a gift. I love to spend time with people, but I really need to balance it with alone time. I've noticed that many creative people are this way. I know that I work best when I'm not being judged on the process. I don't do well when I have to "perform." Being a stay at home artist, I have the chance to work on things at my own pace by myself. Then later, I can share them with the world. It's awesome.
I'm definitely an introvert and the book is on my reading list!

Funny how I've never considered how being an introvert shows up in my creative work. I suppose, most of my work is done solo... that's something. The Internet has opened up a lot of possibilities though. I feel like it offers on-demand and sort of controlled interaction. Having to excuse oneself, isn't as noticeable or seemingly anti-social as exiting stage left from a cocktail party... ;P
+Jenny Chang , it really IS a gift, isn't it? The biggest form of "payment" I get for my self-employed life is the ability to direct my attention where I want to at least 90% of the time. And that has such a positive effect on my brain's receptivity to new ideas.

+Linda Tieu , Heh! I love that! And I wish it were more socially acceptable to bail on cocktail parties. :-)
Each time I've taken the Jung Typology Test I've gotten different answers! Except for the Introvert. 100% every time.
I think we definitely need to change the false notion that marketing is extroverted... that you've got to be out there, mingle with all, and outgoing to get people to talk. Maybe that's why marketing is so difficult for many creatives? Because many creatives are introverts?
+Jennifer Forest , that's a great point - there are times, especially in self-employment, when it's wise for your business to access a little extrovert energy. Though I'll say this: I'm dedicated to finding introvert-friendly ways to accomplish the same goals whenever I can. There's just no way I'll ever be comfortable attending a networking event, for example. But I can always identify the people I actually need to connect with, and reach out to them individually.

+Linda Tieu , YES. Very likely! You might like +Tara Swiger's book on marketing called Market Yourself - it's extremely introvert-friendly.

On the Meyers-Briggs types, I took several freebie versions online yesterday, and the consensus score was INJF. My F sometimes came out as a T, but following +Alice Merlino's advice, I read the individual descriptions, and the F fits way more.
Chris M
So interesting! I've been wanting to read this book.

I haven't read the comments yet, so pardon if this is repetitive.

I've heard that introverts are not necessarily shy, but that they gain energy from solitary pursuits, whereas, extroverts gain energy from social pursuits. That's why many introverts can be good performers. It's a way of distancing people and being in control, while at the same time expressing one's self.

I do feel that I'm an introvert, in that, being among a group of people for more than a few hours can sap me of my energy and make me want to escape. However, I'm also an entertainer. So I often have a love/hate relationship with the blogging community. I genuine like people, but become easily tired if I feel certain behavior is expected of me.

How it affects my work is probably in terms of my working better on my own than in a live workshop. I've taken many of them, and while I enjoy the community, I also find that the work I produce is not of the quality I desire. However, when I'm working alone I can put the lessons I learned to full effect. I also am not someone who can create well with much music or commotion going on around me. I do like to watch a film I've seen before, just for background noise, knowing that I don't have to attend to it. But if I hear music, it will easily affect the mood of what I'm trying to convey.

Fortunately, this discussion isn't about neurosis. I'd have more to say.

Off to read comments, now!
Chris M
Okay, how do I recommend this discussion to my circles?
+Chris M, that's a really interesting idea:

"That's why many introverts can be good performers. It's a way of distancing people and being in control, while at the same time expressing one's self."

That really resonates with me. One of the things I like about public speaking is that the rules of that game are very clear: the audience wants you to be interesting, and they'll communicate to you (through facial expressions and body language) when they aren't getting what they want. It's always very clear what I need to do for them.

...But boy, does that get less straightforward in your average cocktail-party situation! :-)

Oh - to share this discussion you can click the "Share" button below the original post (it looks like a curving arrow). Then select the Circles you'd like to share it with, and add any comments you like to your share.
Chris M
Thank you. I have few of these, so I'll put this on my list of things to repeat at parties.

I'm an INTP & have been wanting to read this book for some time. How many of you have read it & what do you think? I'm sure my INTP nature plays into my crafting- INTP's are the type that tends to be able to concentrate for the longest amounts of time. Hah! It's probably why when I started crafting (knitting, sewing, crocheting) I made all my own patterns. I love being analytical. 
One more thing, I've found the best Myers-Briggs personality descriptions to be on Like others here, I was only able to narrow down my personality by reading a few descriptions. 
Thanks for the link, +Mari Miller ! I'll check out those descriptions. And I'm still enjoying the book very much!
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