The Care and Feeding of a Creative Introvert – Skinny Artist

The Care and Feeding of a Creative Introvert

care and feeding of a creative introvert

An open letter to the extroverts we know and love

As introverts, we pretty much understand how extroverts feel and think, mostly because they are constantly telling us.

On the other hand, I know that introverts can sometimes be a little difficult to figure out, and being involved in a relationship with one of us isn’t always easy.

So here’s a helpful little guide to help you better understand the introvert in your life, or if you happen to be one, perhaps better understand yourself. Just remember that you’re not alone, and who knows, maybe you aren’t quite as weird as you think.

Dear extrovert,

Here are a few things that you should know about us. We would tell you ourselves, but that’s not really our thing…

We only talk when we have something to say

As introverts, we don’t talk to work out our questions, problems, emotions—we do all of that in our frantic little brain. This isn’t our way of shutting you out; we just have to work through and overanalyze every little insignificant detail before we are willing to talk about it, so don’t take it personally.

We’re not going to answer your telephone call

We’re not going to pick up the phone when you call even if we want to talk to you. I know it sounds weird, but we have to be prepared for your conversation. Don’t call us, we’ll call you…. actually, who are we kidding, we won’t, but we might shoot you a thoughtful email. We prefer face to face communication. Telephone conversations are exhausting to us because we don’t have any context clues. Let’s face it, the reason that IT introverts created social media/texting/email in the first place was to avoid talking on the telephone.

We’ll get back to you (eventually)

We usually like to think carefully about our responses. As introverts, we specialize in writing stuff. Lengthy emails, blog posts and even tweets are written, edited, and then edited again. You know that email you received last week? It took us three hours to write and edit before sending it. Even then, we sent a copy to ourselves so we could obsessively re-read it and second-guess ourselves about whether or not it was worded correctly. Each blog post we write has been revised a minimum of 34 times before we hit the publish button and then, at least, a few more times afterward. We like to think that we’re simply perfectionists, but it’s far more serious than that.

We are not holding out on you or deliberately hiding what we are feeling.

We understand that some of your fellow extroverts may occasionally use silence as a weapon or as a method of deceit, but that’s not really our thing. Just because we are not speaking, that doesn’t mean that we are unhappy, angry, or trying to hide something from you.  However, the more you dig and try to make us reveal something we would prefer to keep to ourselves, the more we will push you away.

We like to listen, but we also need some quiet downtime

Although it’s true that we usually prefer to listen rather than talk, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are available to listen anytime you may feel like talking. As introverts, we recharge our energy through our quiet downtime. This might include things such as reading, walking, watching television, meditating, listening to music, writing in a journal, or simply sitting alone with our thoughts. When we are engaged in these activities, please don’t interrupt us or think that we are bored and looking to be entertained by you. This type of downtime is necessary for us, and it will make us better friends and partners in the long run.

We’re not judging you, we’re thinking

We are constantly observing and over analyzing everything, just not you.  We are not sitting there judging you as you tell us about your latest breakup or run in with your former best friend from high school. Honestly, we’re probably only half-listening to what you are saying in the first place because we are so busy editing our latest blog post in our head or wondering if we should look over that email sitting in our draft folder just one more time before we send it out. We’re not mad or think that we’re somehow better than you; we’re usually just obsessing about something else.

We don’t dislike people, we just find them exhausting

We like to socialize and hang out with close friends, but we find it exhausting. We need downtime to recharge. Not sleep — we’re not physically tired, just mentally. Please don’t be offended that we want to be alone after spending time with you. It’s not you, it’s us. We need to have time to replay the entire event in our head and obsessively analyze every nuance of every word that was said. Even if you are the love of our life, we will still need some time away to recharge and organize our thoughts. We enjoy spending time with you, just not all the time.

Just because we’re quiet, that doesn’t mean that we’re shy or insecure

Many of us would much rather give a presentation to hundreds of people as long as we don’t have to mingle and make small talk with them afterward. There are many singers, performers, actors, who perform in front of a camera or a large audience without flinching (okay, maybe a little flinching) but just don’t ask us to go out with your friends afterward.

We will tell you when we have something to say, but please don’t interrupt us.

Yes, I realize that we sometimes pause awkwardly when we are gathering our thoughts, which annoys the bejeezus out of you, but that doesn’t mean that we are waiting for you to finish our sentences for us. Honestly, it’s pointless to try and guess what we are going to say because we usually don’t know ourselves until we say it. The more you interrupt us, however, the less likely it is that we’ll try to talk to you.

We’re not mad/upset/depressed/grumpy/moody just because we’re quiet

Please stop asking us “What’s wrong?” or “Are you okay?” just because we aren’t bubbly and enthusiastic. We’re not necessarily upset; we’re just quiet. I realize this can be confusing because the only time most extroverts stop talking is when they are either sad, asleep, or dead. Having said that, unless we are bleeding or lying unconscious on the ground, please don’t ask us if “we are okay?”. Sometimes silence is just silence.

We love a good party… as long as it’s a party of two

If you really want us to avoid you, just keep asking us to go to that overly crowded club, concert, or sporting event. They say that extroverts actually feed off the energy of a crowd. Well if that’s the case, they must be taking it from all of us poor introverts because after an hour or two, we are ready to go screaming (quietly) towards the exit. If you want to hang out with us, take us to a quiet restaurant, a museum, or to a local park. We love a good conversation, but only if it’s the two of us.

We are enjoying ourselves, it just doesn’t look like fun to you

I get it. Most of the things that we do for fun as introverts may seem incredibly boring to you if you are an extrovert, but this is how we recharge our mental batteries.  I understand that things like reading a book, hiking in the woods, visiting a museum, or watching a movie, may seem boring as snot to you, but this is our idea of quality time.

We value our privacy (no snooping)

Please don’t ask to see the pictures on our cell phone or rummage through our CDs, DVDs, or bookshelves without asking. To introverts, these things are extensions of who we are. We choose them very carefully, and we often become overly attached to them. Sometimes, however, they may reveal more about us than we are comfortable sharing with others. Don’t worry. We are not trying to hide things, deceive you, or be weirdly secretive—we just need our personal space.

If you have a complaint, tell us in private

We are sensitive enough to criticism without having to absorb and respond to it in front of others. If you insist on criticizing us or making an example out of us in public, we will quietly plot our revenge and chances are, you’ll never see it coming.

We hate surprises

We pride ourselves on our ability to plan, evaluate and see things from every possible angle. This not only helps us to make better decisions, but it allows us to prepare ourselves mentally for what’s going to happen.  This is the reason that we hate any type of surprise, even if it’s a good thing. By the way, under no circumstances should you have anyone sing “Happy Birthday” to us in a crowded restaurant….. ever

We don’t need dozens of friends to be happy

As introverts, we usually have a small handful of close friends. For whatever reason, extroverts see this as sad and will do whatever they can to get us “out there” to meet new people.  The truth is that we have friends, and we like being with our friends, but we just can’t handle a lot of friends because it becomes overwhelming and exhausting trying to keep up with them all. We are not lonely, but we are often very choosy about who we will hang out with.

Don’t interrupt us when we are working (even if it looks like we’re not)

When we are busy working, even if it may look like we are daydreaming — please don’t interrupt our thought process. While you multi-task activities, we are busy juggling thoughts and ideas inside our head. They are precious and fleeting, delicate creatures that once scared away, are often difficult to find again. Just give us a heads up when we need to wrap things up and allow us the time to organize, record, all the random ideas swirling around inside our heads before we stop.

We may envy your social skills, but we don’t want to become like you

We live in a culture that seems to idolize people who are loud, aggressive, and surrounded by swarms of people–but that’s not who we are. As introverts, we have our own ways of doing things. That doesn’t make it wrong or a problem to be fixed. We are who we are, and quite honestly, we kind of like it that way.

What would you like to tell the extrovert in your life?

Please take a minute to share your thoughts with the rest of us in the comment section below…

[Note: This post is an excerpt from my new book “Quiet Impact” which is about successfully navigating life as a creative introvert]

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book "Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work" is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.

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(15) comments

viola

I loved this article! I need to adjust it a bit to suit MY circumstances but most of it is on the money for me!
I will tweek it and send it to you so you can understand why I needed to tweek .
Now I understand that I am not the only one who feels like this and need to be, within calling distance, among others….every once in awhile…. this tends to heighten my creativity rather than drain it.

Reply

    Thanks Viola for your kind words and I think you’re right that sometimes we need to remind ourselves that being a creative introvert is not necessarily a problem to be solved. Like anything else, there are good things and bad things to being an introvert, but I think once you are able to understand what introversion is (and is not) I think it’s something that we can use to our advantage, especially when it comes to living a more creative life.

    Reply
Kaylee

Love this article! It was written to perfection. I can relate in so many ways. Enjoyed reading it, thanks.

Reply

    Thanks Kaylee for stopping by and letting me know that article connected with you. I really appreciate it!

    Reply
Lorrie

Yes, yes, yes…I wish I could hand a copy of this to people around me. Thank you for an excellent and insightful article on introverts.

Reply

    Thanks Lorrie and you’re right, it would be nice if we could secretly pass this on to the people in our lives who really need to read it ;)

    Reply

Hilarious! And so, so true! Nailed me on most of what you wrote. Just last night I wrote a friend a long-ish email that took me three hours to write and edit – then I really did copy myself so I could re-read after I sent it! Then I agonized about it until she responded. (It was some serious stuff we needed to talk about.)

Reply

    Thanks Erika and I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who does that. I think sometimes just knowing that there are other people out there who understand and go through these same type of things can make us feel slightly less weird. Perhaps we need to start an introvert secret society or something, although we could probably never get anyone to actually show up to the meetings ;)

    Reply
      sbeauty7

      Great!! This article is awesome!, it described me better than I know myself. Thanks for the help at trying to figure out myself. I have always though I was the one with a problem!…. It makes a whole difference knowing the reason why I act the way I do, and that am not alone. But most importantly that it is not an issue but a blessing!!! Thanks a million!!! will definitely share it.

      Reply

Oh, I love this!

I wish I could hand this out at work. It would be very helpful!

Thank you :)

Reply
Garrett Lester

I feel very lucky to have stumbled across this website. Thank you very much for taking the time to write this. I enjoy reading articles about introverts, but this was by far the most informative and clarifying. It continues to amaze me how closely words can resemble a mirror, especially words this relatable. I saw myself in many ways while reading this excerpt and expect to see myself much more if I purchase your book, which I am inclined to do. As an aspiring writer, I can always use new ways to improve my creativity and understanding of who I am. It is now a little clearer to me that I am not alone in the world of an introvert, even if it’s nice to be sometimes. Thank you again for your work!

Reply

    Thanks so much Garrett for your kind words and also for taking the time to share them :) I think sometimes one of the best things we can do to inspire others is to let them know that they are not alone on this long and often lonely creative journey. I wish you all the best with your writing and be sure to let us know when your book comes out!

    Reply
Sudeep Singh

Very precisely described. Each chosen words so adequately resembling ME. Glad to read “ME” by MYSELF about MYSELF through this article. I always wonder why I am like this. Got a little insight about we;-) our behavior pattern. Thanks. Will definitely share this with selected pal associated with me.

Reply
Laurie

After I read this my first thought was to start a club called “Wives of Introverts”. That right there pretty much explains the difference between extroverts and the introverts we know and love, right? Thanks for the article. I have 20 people I need to send it to right now!

Reply

    Thanks Laurie for stopping by and you’re right there certainly should be a club or support group for dealing with us. At least most of us are fairly good listeners, which speaking as someone who’s married to an extrovert, seems to be part of the job requirement :) Thanks again for your kind words and also for taking the time to share the article with your friends and family. I really appreciate it!

    Reply
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