By now we’re all well aware that many of the most brilliant creative minds in history have belonged to introverts. What we don’t often take into consideration is how much our world has changed, and with it, the manner in which we create. Gone are the days when a creative person could expect to achieve success by locking herself in a room composing poetry or slinging paint around at some forgotten seaside village. No more are the mysteries of gravity unraveled by a single man sitting alone under an apple tree. Whether through filmmaking, music, or science, today’s creative types must learn to master the art of collaboration if they wish to be the best at what they do. For an introvert, this can be terrifying.
For the longest time, I wanted to be a musician. I made straight A’s in high school and excelled in AP Chemistry, but if anyone had asked me what I really wanted be when I grew up, I’d have one answer: rock star. That’s right. I wanted to be David Bowie or Siouxsie Sioux. The only problem was that I wasn’t really doing anything to make myself a rock star. Sure, I took guitar lessons and wailed like a banshee when alone in my car, but I didn’t actually join a band. That would have been far too scary. Instead, I decided to focus on writing.
I went to film school, and while there, I found another guy who happened to play guitar. He was nice (I mean exceptionally nice), and we talked about forming a band. Perhaps because he was so nice, unthreatening, and encouraging, and it was my dream after all, I decided to go for it. We eventually gained two more members, made a CD, and even performed live. While I never expected to actually make a living as a rock star, I somehow got to fulfill a small part of my dream.
I no longer produce music anymore, but I’ve gone on to pursue something equally fulfilling — independent filmmaking. I wrote and produced a couple movies and also a web series called Introverts about people just like me. How does an introvert join a rock band? Or produce a film or work at a fast-paced media company? Here are a few lessons I’ve learned in my humble experience as a struggling artist:
1. Find your people and get to know them. It can be hard for an introvert to open up to anyone, let alone a complete stranger. The good news is, though it may be challenging at first, if you work with someone long enough, they’re no longer a stranger. It really helps if you find respectful, encouraging people to coax you out of your shell. Of course you can’t find the right people if you don’t try, so get out there and try working with someone new. And if you don’t like them, you can meet new people.
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2. Even collaborators get some time alone. When I was in a rock band, I wrote most of our song lyrics, yet I simply couldn’t write anything meaningful in a room full of people. Fortunately, I didn’t have to. I met with the band once a week, and when I wasn’t with them, I grabbed my notebook and scribbled my heart out. I was able to do the hardest work when I was all alone, so when I met with the group, I felt prepared. The same goes with producing a web series. It may sound like a terrible job for an introvert, but much of the work goes in before and after production. Between writing, planning shots, picking out props, sending emails, and editing, I often find myself spending too much time by myself!
3. Criticism is part of the process. You’re probably already fretting, “What if I pour my soul into a work of art, and people don’t like it?” Of course someone won’t like it! You’re going to be rejected, some of your work will be terrible, and at least one person on YouTube will probably tell you to kill yourself. Should you abandon your creative energy and pursue something like accounting instead? No! Unless you want to be an accountant. It’s a perfectly noble career. Just don’t risk not expressing yourself because you’re afraid of rejection. People you work with are supposed to criticize you. That’s how you get better. So try not to take it personally. Be grateful that they’re taking the time to help, and decide how you can use their notes to get better.
Creative work can be tough, even for the most outgoing, well-adjusted people. If you do feel the urge to create, be it through writing, music, technology, or those weird rock sculptures on the beach, don’t be afraid to bring in some outside help. I’m sure you can create something worthwhile completely on your own, but given the choice, wouldn’t you rather be The Beatles than some guy with a guitar? Okay, that some guy may happen to be John Lennon, but he certainly didn’t suffer from the help of his friends.
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Image credit: Shutterstock/Enrique Arnaiz Lafuente