8 Contradictions of a Creative Introvert

A creative introvert

As a creative introvert, my art is a part of me, yet I don’t want to be seen.

I have always been a creative person, immersing myself in art, music, theater, writing, and the like. Encouraged at an early age to foster my love of drawing, I ultimately ended up majoring in studio art and as of now I mostly concentrate on acrylic paintings and nature photography. For me, solitude is crucial for my creative mind and, as an introvert, I thrive in my alone time to be a creative thinker. I am always dedicated to my innovative goal, not the “fortune and glory” of my ingenious acts, so to speak. However, sometimes my life as a creative introvert is full of contradictions — no matter how hard I try to market myself in an extroverted world, I always seem to fall short. 

As I have slowly grown to understand my introverted self, promoting my creativity and being comfortable with it has improved over the years. Along the way, I have discovered when — and how — I am the most satisfied and successful with my creative endeavors. 

Sometimes, I can laugh (or even cry) about my contradictions as I take a deep breath and step out of my comfort zone to market my art. Truthfully, I don’t mind keeping my creative mind to myself, but occasionally, there are times I wish my creativity would just magically get out there and sell itself! Here are eight contradictions I’ve discovered as a creative introvert.

8 Contradictions of a Creative Introvert

1. It was my idea, but someone else was recognized.

I don’t know how many times I have come up with a concept, only to have a friend or colleague run with it as their idea rather than putting my own mark on it. Most of the time, I don’t mind, as I am not motivated by ego or a desire for the spotlight. Plus, conditions must be right in order for us introverts to speak up! But, occasionally, it gets under my skin. 

I don’t want to win a prize for my efforts, but I do want to seem like I am understood as a creative individual and that my ideas have value. Because I am naturally quiet, certain peers take advantage of my calm nature, possibly without realizing it, or perhaps feeling as if they are helping me out by expressing my idea for me. Honestly, I don’t need anyone to share my ideas; I am comfortable enough to spill them to the world when I feel the time is appropriate. If you stop talking long enough, you just might hear me!

2. Glad you like it, but I can’t take a compliment.

So, I created this masterpiece of a painting and I’m glad it’s being appreciated by others. I want people to admire and be inspired by my work. I do, I really do. But seriously, my little self can’t process compliments and flattery. Drawing attention to myself and being under the spotlight is not my cup of tea. This involves my creativity, my efforts, and little ol’ me being noticed… not to mention possibly myself (or my creativity) being put under a microscope. So although I want you to notice my work, I don’t want you to know that I know you noticed. Got it? OK, let’s move on…

3. Happy to help out, but don’t put me on the spot.

Did I grimace because you asked for help drawing something? It’s probably because you asked in front of other people and wanted the job done right then and there… and while others watched! I enjoy helping others and sharing my creativity, but my creative thinking takes time for me to process. As an introverted artist, I can’t think of anything worse than being asked to draw something on the spot or being “chosen” to do a task because I am the only “artist” in the room. I visualize things in my head and need to take my time creating art because I carefully review options in my head, sorting out what will work for me and what won’t, down to the tiniest details. Oh, and I’m very sorry, but I cannot do it on command without experiencing a bout of anxiety. (Sidenote: I’m terrible at Pictionary.)

4. Ideas are plentiful, but others can’t see my vision.

Usually, my creative ideas stem from thoughts and mental images of a finished product that rolls around in my head and changes drastically as I problem-solve with my inner monologue. In my head, the details for the project are perfect. But it can be crushing if I am creating something for another person and I can’t get my vision across through my description or the person obviously had a completely different idea and their blank stares are boring through me as I stumble to explain. Please, just trust me and my creative visions and I won’t let you down. (And what do you mean you “don’t get it”?)

5. My art is a part of me, but I don’t want to be seen.

As a creative individual, this is probably one of the hardest things for me. My art is very personal, whether it is a photograph, a painting, or a writing piece. When I put it out there, I get nervous that others will not understand me or that I have revealed a little too much about myself. I am a private person and I never desire to be an open book. (My fellow introverts, I’m sure you get it!) Each piece of art I create is a little part of me that I give away freely, and sometimes my oversharing leaves me wondering if I should have. I mean, less is more, right?

6. I know what my art is worth, but lowball myself.

Art takes time and thought, and is valuable because it’s created with one’s own hands and mind. I am often asked to price my photography sessions or sell my paintings, but I find I lowball myself when it comes to setting a price. This isn’t because I don’t value my own art or don’t think my art is worthy of a competitive cost. I believe it comes down to feeling judged by others: If I set the value to a certain level or just the mere thought of dealing with people about setting a price for something, I view it as personal. It is hard for me to separate emotional value from monetary value. Oh, and there might be a little bit of overthinking and analyzing in the mix.

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7. No, I don’t want to, but of course I will.

In the past, I struggled with boundaries and saying no to people, especially within my workplace. I would have people seeking out my artistic skills at the last minute for really simple things. Little “simple things” that added up. I used to do all of the little creative tasks I was asked to do by others, but it left me feeling frustrated, especially if I would put things I needed to accomplish aside to do something for someone else. Again, I don’t mind doing things for others and sharing my artistic knowledge, but learning to say no was a life-saver: The added pressure and new timelines interfering with my own goals inflicted unwanted anxiety to my perfectionist nature. Whew, I put enough pressure on myself without others adding to it.

8. I want the job, but wait: People are involved?

I can’t hide the fact I would rather work alone, but sometimes my artistic projects involve people, especially my photographic adventures. There was a time I was heavily involved with portraiture and wedding photography, and it was draining! Directing a shoot and quietly composing the photos in my frame are two very different things; my anxiety right before a photoshoot is always through the roof! Giving myself a pep talk before every shoot is daunting, so now I am careful to choose photography jobs that I am comfortable with. Plus, I tend to focus more on photographing places and things rather than concentrating on the third aspect of a noun. Hey, I never have to tell my flowers to strike a pose!

Creating for Myself Is the Most Important Thing of All

My creative contradictions can sometimes leave me feeling lost; I am all over the place with my creative powers, but not necessarily stronger in one area. I love photography, painting, writing, and have even been known to pick up an acting job here and there (I know!). I take pride in sharing my creativity with others, but I’ve learned I definitely have some boundaries I have unintentionally set (or maybe intentionally for a few). Sometimes, I may come across as standoffish when asked to share my talents. But I really don’t mean to; I just need time and space to process requests and I don’t mind working with people if the conditions are right. 

I enjoy the creative process most when I have complete control over the thought process, product, and outcome. In other words, I like working for myself. I have come to the conclusion that maybe marketing my creativity in an extroverted world isn’t the best way to go for me when I don’t absolutely have to. I am the most satisfied spilling my creative juices whenever the creative mood strikes me, and I have found success in a multitude of ways and media. 

Through the years, I have learned I am the happiest creating for myself and following my own artistic standards by exploring my own interests. If someone else along the way likes what I have created, wants to purchase my art, or is inspired by my work (and I hope they are — from afar, of course), it’s an added bonus!

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I am a graduate of the University of Mary Washington, where I received a degree in Studio Art and a Masters of Education in diverse student populations. I hail from Virginia and am a member of the James River Writers. When I am not writing or teaching art, you can find me photographing various things. You can learn more at Manfrejl.com.