In a couple of weeks, I will spend four days at a music festival sleeping in a tent, attempting to cope with a bombardment of people, noise, and shall we say, the “earthy” facilities.
I will be performing there, as I have done a few times over the past ten years.
It’s one of the most energy-draining weeks of my year. It completely beats every ounce of energy from my being, and I end up a useless shell of a man for a long time afterwards.
I know what you’re thinking… why the hell do I do it!?
It has been extremely useful to discover why events like festivals leave me drained and shattered. Over the past three years I’ve learned more about my introverted and highly sensitive temperament, which has given me a new understanding of how I function effectively.
But while having a sense of context for how I know I will feel, I won’t stop doing it unless and until I no longer gain the deeper, big-picture creative energy that I get from doing work like that.
The black and white notion that tells us “people/social situations drain us, spending time alone re-energizes us” is not as clear cut as it might initially seem.
Relationships Underpin All Human Experience
I spend a lot of time working alone, and I do so very happily. But as someone who comes out as 100 percent introverted on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (click here to take a similar personality test — it’s free) even I have moments when extended creative periods on my own deplete my energy, leaving me craving and even needing the company of other people to get me going again.
Humans are relational by nature. Everything we do happens within a social context and no choice or decision, however small, is ever made completely free of an impact on others.
It’s really important for us to remember that even if we mainly renew our physical and mental energy during time spent alone, we will still need stimulation from other people and situations from time to time in order to ignite a deeper creative spark. I sometimes find it useful to think of this in terms of the potential “return on energy investment.” Because even though it might not feel immediately obvious, splashing out and spending your energy on certain things/people can have enormously positive implications.
“Writers are first and foremost observers. We lose ourselves in the watching and then the telling of the world we find. Often we feel on the fringes, in the margins of life. And that’s where we belong. What you are a part of, you cannot observe.” Lisa Unger
I believe that all creative types are first and foremost observers. We see the world around us and feel a deep longing and compulsion to transform little aspects of it.
The link between creativity and being an observer is why it is such a natural fit for many introverts and highly sensitive people. As observers on the fringes of life, it is often true that we seek creative ways to express, communicate, and bring change to a world in which we don’t always necessarily feel at home.
Creativity happens when we soak up the energy of the world around us. It can be painful. It may be overwhelming. It will more than likely temporarily deplete our physical and emotional reserves. But it is necessary because we find a deeper energy that we can use to create, grow, and develop ourselves and our work. And it all starts at a point of observation.
The Baby and the Bath Water
It’s important to acknowledge that not all relationships are created equally.
Yes, there are people who will suck your basic energy and your deeper creative energy — those who are not good for either. They are the people who leave you feeling drained, uninspired, and without motivation to do what you feel put on this earth to do. And it’s important to recognize these relationships so you can minimize the effect that they have on your life.
But there are other people. Positive people. Those who inspire, challenge, and provoke us to do our work, to become the best versions of ourselves, and to constantly seek growth and development. They are the people we need to make plenty of time for.
And it’s not just people either.
There are also activities and places that, while they might drain us of our immediate resources, they bring life and long-term nourishment to our lives.
For me this happens when I attend the festival I mentioned, or certain conferences; when I go traveling, and when I watch a live sport in person. While I find them largely overwhelming activities to do for long periods, after the stimulation hangover clears a few days later, I am usually left feeling renewed, creative, and more inspired than I would if I hadn’t done them.
So be on the look out for the things and people that bring you deeper soul-quenching energy, and make time for them. No excuses. It’s a vital part of our life-long creative process.
If you are like me, as an introvert, you may well enjoy extensive and deep conversations with certain friends or family members — those with whom you tend to “put the world to rights.” And if you’re anything like me, these conversations are draining. Yet they also nourish me and serve a deep need for that kind of interaction.
It’s important not to allow how we think we should manage our energy dictate how we spend it 100 percent of the time, because we can end up allowing the baby, and lots of creative inspiration, to slip out with the bath water. We must genuinely consider the implications of how we manage and budget our energy, especially if we want to properly “lose ourselves in the watching and then the telling of the world we find.”
Over to You
Are you a saver or a spender? What and who do you spend your energy on? Do you find yourself energized more deeply as a result, or are you left drained and uninspired?