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Introversion

The Creative Superpowers of Introverts and Artists

Reclaiming your imagination and introverted core.

Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up." —Pablo Picasso

Like the main character in The Little Prince, we all start out as introverted artists. At the beginning of that charming tale, a little boy delightedly creates a drawing of a boa constrictor swallowing an elephant, expecting his audience to be both frightened and wowed. So proud of the inner world he is mastering and making, he is soon disillusioned to find that adults, the arbiters of the external social world, only see a hat. Crestfallen, he concludes:

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”

Like true introverts, so many of us find it challenging to explain to our "sensible" and extroverted counterparts—inside and out—just what it is we are making, how we operate, and why it is of value. Whether we are introverts or not, many lose touch with this artistic birthright, our wellspring of creativity and imagination. As Picasso suggests, we simply forget.

Back to our story. The boy learns to put away his artistic pursuits and his liveliness for sharing his internal world and instead pursues a career as a pilot. As an adult, attempting to run away from who he is, he ends up stranded in the Sahara when his plane plummets to earth. Symbolically out of fuel, it is here where he reconnects with his introverted core, which arrives in the form of the little prince.

So many of us are "lost artists" and go through this very same process, becoming alienated from ourselves, depleted of energy, and assuming we are failures. In a culture that tends to prize extroversion (and the personae we create to navigate the complex social world) and a sharp distinction between reality and imagination, it's difficult to stay tuned to this introverted core and its special virtues.

Like the boy, we bury and suppress our most valuable talents and compromise our creative foundations.

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” —Pablo Picasso

Fortunately, we've seen a renaissance for introverts and a reappraisal of their true worth and contributions. Susan Cain, author of Quiet and one of the "most popular TED talks of all time," has brought introverts out of the shadows. No longer Clark Kents with geeky glasses, introverts are now seen and celebrated for their perceptiveness, sensitivity, deliberateness, and yes, their creativity and artistry. Their superpowers are now being shared with the world!

Introverts are also being disabused of the notion that their regular need to commune with the internal world, i.e. their solitude, is a problem. Truth be told, it's quite the reverse. When introverts—and our artistic core—are not honored, we easily slide into depression, anxiety, or social difficulties. Creatively underemployed, we have nowhere to go other than stagnation and deflation.

Reclaiming our introverted core is pivotal to our work as artists and is the main source of living creatively!

Happily, this is being championed at the very roots of our culture. Recently, I was heartened to see an episode of Daniel Tiger—Mister Roger's new animated incarnation—championing the cause of healthy solitude, reminding kids that "sometimes you want to be alone, you can find a place of your very own."

When we reconnect to our introverted artist in adulthood and bring it together with our extroverted capacities, we can truly bridge the world of reality and imagination. In so doing, we will come full circle and realize the wisdom in Picasso's droll paradox: "It takes a long time to become young."

References

Alcée, Michael (2017). Introverts, College, & The Mind: Solving Our Mental Health Crisis From the Inside-Out [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkkGPyc3ZmA.

Alcée, Michael (2018, July 24). The Truth About Introvert Anxiety and Depression [Blog Post].Retrieved from: https://introvertspring.com/the-truth-about-introvert-anxiety-and-depre….

Alcée, Michael (2019, February 15). 'Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood' Celebrates Introversion in a Brilliant Way [Blog Post}. Retrieved from: https://www.romper.com/p/daniel-tigers-neighborhood-celebrates-introver….

Cain, Susan (2012). The Power of Introverts [Video File]. Retrieved from: https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.

Cain, Susan (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking. London: Penguin Books.

Saint-Exupéry, A. D., & Testot-Ferry, I. (2018). The little prince. Ware, Hertfordshire: Wordsworth Editions.

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