Creativity can feel like a wonderful — albeit flakey — friend who even an introvert would love to hang out with all day.
“I’m a creator.”
It’s happened many times before. At the end of a long day, I meticulously set up little tins of vibrant paints, neatly organized in a line parallel to a stretch of long, white canvas. Or, if I was in the mood, I’d heat up some hot cocoa, plant myself at my desk, and hover my fingers over the keyboard, staring at a cursor blinking at me like a judgmental eye. Over and over, I’d mutter that magical phrase, trying to jumpstart my mind: “I’m a creator.”
Blank canvas, blank document, blank mind. Not a smidge of inspiration.
In many ways, creativity can feel like a wonderful friend who even an introvert would love to hang out with all day, every day. They’re smart, colorful, and oh-so-much fun. They are also, unfortunately, incredibly flakey. Sometimes it seems like they want to spend time with you — after all, they’ve been chattering about that idea all day, until you’re as excited about it as they are!
But the moment you’ve got a pencil in your hand, your creativity is mysteriously nowhere to be found. Your mind is no longer buzzing with thoughts. You feel tired, empty… and blank.
What’s an introvert to do?
How Introverts Can Get Back Their Creativity
Here are four strategies that have helped me, as an introvert, to get back in touch with my creativity. I hope they help you, too.
1. Let your subconscious take over.
Introverts are often described as thoughtful, dreamy, and artistic. While this is true for many introverts, for some, reckless creativity doesn’t come easily. As an INFJ, one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, I have a perfectionist streak. I like to have a plan that stretches from the start of a project all the way to the end. No surprises for me, thank you very much!
I’ve learned that sometimes you need to let go of your logical, conscious brain. INFJs (and other intuitive types) are known to analyze seemingly imperceptible clues and piece them together into a bigger picture, a fantastically useful skill that I like to call “intuitive logic.” From novel-plotting to mapping out an artistic endeavor, intuitive logic is a powerful ally to the creative mind when used correctly. Intuition digs up the half-formed thoughts and feelings we experience throughout the day, and logic organizes them into something beautiful.
The problems only begin when we try to convince logic to do intuition’s job, which can result in uninspired work that won’t capture your attention — and just won’t be very much fun to create!
The best way I’ve found to use intuitive logic to my advantage is to simply let go of my conscious mind for a little while. Set up a laptop, sheet of paper, or whatever tools you need, and tell logic to take a hike.
Everyone’s mind works differently, so it may take some experimenting to figure out the best way for you to relax and open your creative mind. Maybe journaling in the morning is the best way for you to stretch your mental muscles, or perhaps reading something inspiring gets your creative juices flowing. Personally, I’ve carved out a corner of my closet just for a quiet space where I can meditate periodically throughout the day.
Feel free to experiment! Simply allowing our subconscious mind to reign supreme for a while can result in some admittedly unorganized, messy, beautiful gems. This is best achieved in a relaxed, open state of mind similar to focused meditation.
One of the best parts of my day is an hour or so before I go to sleep, when I put on some headphones and sit quietly, just to give my mind some time to run wild. After a while, or almost immediately if I’m lucky, my subconscious mind starts to naturally form some half-baked ideas that I can write down and think about in more logical terms later. Make sure to record whatever ideas your intuition dreams up so your logical side has some great thoughts to develop later on.
2. Get away from people.
Most of us live in a world constantly surrounded by people. From attending school to going to work, constantly having to come up with something to say can be exhausting, and exhaustion is no friend of creativity! When you’ve been struggling to smile for hours on end, it can be tempting to come home, grab some junk food, and collapse in front of a screen to shut your mind off for a while. Quite a while. Before you know it, you’ve wasted hours of precious time you could have spent creating, and you’re hardly more refreshed than you were to begin with.
The solution? If you want your creativity to excite you again, take a step back from society. A healthy, happy mind is a creative mind, and you won’t accomplish much if you’re suffering from social exhaustion!
Mute your phone and social media accounts. Tell your friends that you’re unavailable to talk for a few hours. Delegate a specific amount of time just to slow down and consider your next creative project. Stare at a wall if you must! Just taking some time away from other people can be wonderfully renewing to the mind of an introvert.
3. Don’t overthink it.
The best part about getting to be creative is that there are no rules whatsoever. None. As introverts, we live in a world defined by extroverted social rules and expectations — when to engage in small talk, whether it’s rude or not to wear headphones in public, how much classroom participation is needed to squeak by, whether or not your sister-in-law would be personally offended if you chose to text instead of call her… the list goes on.
But in your creative world? Not a single rule to be found! So, even if you’re staring at a blank page or canvas, or ruminating over a design flaw, relax! There’s not a single thing you can do wrong because there is no such thing as “wrong.”
Consider this: If you knew not another soul in the world would ever see your work, would you change what you’ve created? If so, it seems you might be focusing your creative energy on pleasing others rather than fulfilling your own needs.
Try creating solely for yourself before you worry about whether or not others will like what you’ve done. After all, there are over seven billion people on the planet — it’s impossible to please everyone, so if nothing else, make sure you’re creating something you love. Every decision is up to you, and as long as you’re giving it your all, you can’t fail.
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4. Take a page from the extrovert’s book.
When the world is a tiring, disappointing place, we introverts know that all we need to thrive is to turn within ourselves. Your creativity is no different. It is there, waiting for you.
But as patient as we introverts tend to be, we can’t wait for inspiration forever! Creativity is a choice and an action, not just a feeling. Creative projects are often highly personal, so putting your work out into the world can be a terrifying prospect.
If you need some encouragement, start by sharing it with someone you trust, like a close friend. Although showing something so deeply intertwined with your inner world is tough at first, a little support from someone you love can go a long way.
Sometimes we need to take a page out of the extrovert’s book, and just go after it! The confidence you can build from stepping out of your creative comfort zone can even apply to other areas of your life. I’ve found that once I started pushing myself to share my work on the internet and social media (a concept that would have horrified me in the past), suddenly, difficult social situations seemed much less daunting in comparison.
Introvert, remember, the world needs your creativity. Not everyone will understand or accept your wonderfully creative, unique mind, and that’s okay. As long as creating something you love brings you happiness, you can’t go wrong.
You’re a creator.