CIP #083: An Introverted Introduction
I thought it would be wise to share an excerpt from my very first book, The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms to celebrate it pre-launch. Well, it’s available for pre-order now and the reason you might want to order it before December 31st, is because of all the goodies I’m giving away to you early birds!
The pre-order goodies include:
- Access to the Creative Introvert Book Club: 6 live monthly calls with live coaching, Q+A and a read-along for each part! (value $600)
- Membership to the online community, The League of Creative Introverts for 6 months (value: $150)
- A copy of The Creative Introvert Troubleshooting Companion – a self-coaching guide to work through any last niggles you might have in creating a life you love, on your terms (value: $11)
“The woman leaned over, smiling kindly as she offered me a fruit pastille. I graciously accepted candy from a stranger, as though in doing so the sugar would somehow absorb into my bloodstream and make life sweet again, rather than simply causing an insulin spike.
If this isn’t evidence of the kindness of strangers, I don’t know what is. To really set the scene: this was a rainy day in the October of 2010. I was still proverbially wet behind the ears, having recently graduated from the University of Reading with a fairly respectable degree in Graphic Communication and Typography.
I was three months into my internship at a small digital agency in London’s West End, and I had stormed out of the office in tears approximately 45 minutes prior. I was still sobbing, red-faced, as I sat on the train, urging it to leave the station and take me away from the hell of London Victoria as swiftly as possible.
Come to think of it, the kindly, sweet-bearing lady didn’t have much of a choice. You can’t really enjoy your fruit pastilles if you’re sat opposite someone showing signs of hysteria, increasingly turning as red as her hair by the second. Might as well offer her one.
So… what was the reason for the waterworks and the storming out, two hours before the day’s end? There were a multitude of reasons, from unfair salary to a narcissistic CEO, but what persisted – and what sparked this book into being – was the dawning of a discovery I wouldn’t fully grasp for another three years.
I left that sadistic internship the next day – yay – but the underlying problem causing my chronic distress and dissatisfaction followed me into my next job. There, I found a much more fair, friendly and above-board company to work for. Yet whilst my circumstances improved on paper, the storm brewing inside me did not.
Let’s piece the evidence together and see if we can diagnose the Cat of circa 2010–2013 with the real underlying problem:
• The highlight of her workday is the first hour. Quiet time to herself before the remainder of the office (comprising 30–40 individuals at any given time) clocks in.
• After this, she starts to exhibit signs of quiet distress. Her brow furrows, and grooves get deeper throughout the day, until 5:30pm comes and she resembles a raisin you might consider putting on your cereal.
• She is in a state of constant lethargy, despite the fact she spends approximately 80% of her day sitting.
• The kindly co-workers around her, who mean well with their table football and darts, just can’t understand why she is spontaneously crying. Is it something they said?
When I looked at these symptoms in the thick of my malaise, I assumed that I was fatally flawed. A broken human who couldn’t hold down a respectable job that plenty of other young graduates would have given their left eyebrow for.
I actually never figured it out whilst I remained (miraculously) employed there. It took a leap of faith and a holiday to Japan for me to finally pack it in and save my boss and colleagues the discomfort of keeping Mount Cat from erupting.
My plan was to simply take a shot at this thing called freelancing, for the six months of savings I had. I can honestly say I had no idea what I was doing: I just had to test my hypothesis; that the 9–5 office grind was not a match for me. It turns out, I was on to something.
Overnight, I discovered energy I hadn’t had in over three years. I woke up without the need for an alarm (and several snoozes), eager to open my laptop, inspired to start creating and refining and emailing and tinkering each and every day.
So what changed? What was it about my newfound lifestyle and work day turned me from Sourpuss to the Cheshire Cat? Did I just hate people? That didn’t seem fair: I liked my colleagues very much. Plus, the more ‘difficult’ clients hadn’t disappeared: I was still dealing with some of the same people and arguably some even more prickly characters now.
Was I just spoiled with years of schooling and university that sheltered me from the grind of commuting each day to an office full of diverse characters and pressure to demonstrate initiative? But I’ve always been highly conscientious, hard-working and tolerant of rigid routine. Again, this didn’t add up.
Eventually, discussing my confusion with a friend, he casually diagnosed me.
“You’re an introvert, then.”
“An introvert?!” I balked.
I could admit that I was a shy child, and had my own share of social anxieties, but on the whole I’d made huge progress in my social skills and increased my confidence over the years. I couldn’t be an introvert!
Then he explained what the original definition of introvert is, coined by Carl Jung, Swiss psychoanalyst, and later expanded upon by Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers.
The confusion I had over my work history – and much of my school years – started to vanish. When I understood this new (old) definition of what an introvert really is, a whole world of self-knowledge and understanding of others opened up to me.
An introvert, defined in this book is:
• Someone who gets drained by socialising in groups and recharges by being alone.
• Someone who processes information slowly and deeply.
• Someone who is NOT necessarily shy or quiet!
Newly armed with this information, my fascination grew. I started to understand why networking was so exhausting. I realised why in-house freelance contracts were not ideal, why I couldn’t stomach networking, why I grew tired long before my more extroverted friends at the pub. I started to shape my business around remote work and clients who could accommodate that. I started turning to more strategic ways of getting my work in front of people. I started letting my friends know why I had to pull an ‘Irish Exit’ so often.
The biggest relief was knowing: I wasn’t broken. I wasn’t a freak. I was in the 30-50% of the population who also fell on the introverted side of the spectrum. A real ah-ha moment came as I started to see a correlation specifically between the creatives I knew and my newfound self-diagnosis. I was finding that the vast majority of these creatives; illustrators, animators, writers, even musicians (who I had assumed were all extroverts if they performed on stage) were also introverts.
We lamented, over tepid pints of dutch courage, how much we wanted to relax into a hermit lifestyle and commit to our art. Self-promotion, social media, talking about what we do, pitching clients and agents… that was the drag, the painful side of our creative path we would do anything to avoid.
I felt this pain acutely. I also felt called to doing something about our conundrum. I committed myself to first working out an introvert-friendly way to make a career that suited my personality type and preferences, then to helping my fellow creative introverts. I committed to finding a way we could have our introverted cake and eat it too. In this case, our cake is creating work we love, and eating it is… well, making a living from it without selling our soul to our extrovert overlords.
This became my obsession, the one that kicked off the Creative Introvert blog, podcast, the League of Creative Introverts and the book you’re reading.
Are you a creative introvert?
There are a plethora of tests online that will give you your introvert diagnosis, but really it’s very simple. Do you identify with more than three of the following?
• You restore your energy when you spend time alone.
• You generally dislike being at the centre of attention.
• It takes you some time to get involved in social activities with a new group of people.
• You usually find it difficult to relax when talking in front of more than one person.
• You prefer to express yourself through writing or other non-verbal forms.
Well my friend, you’re an introvert in my books!
Misconceptions about introverts
Common misconceptions about introverts are that we’re all shy and socially anxious. Whilst these traits do overlap, and it is very common to be both an introvert and shy, I do want to clarify that these are separate traits. Even if you consider yourself shy, you probably recognise that your shyness is situational: it depends on the context.
Introversion however, is less fickle. I can’t control whether or not I feel my energy drain after a few hours in a large group situation. I can’t control how my brain processes information and how long it often takes me to find the right word when I’m speaking (especially compared to when I’m writing.)
In addition, this isn’t a book about becoming more of an extrovert: that isn’t my goal and I don’t believe it needs to be yours either. Nor is it a simple description of what it is to be a creative introvert, and an excuse to rant about our struggles.
Instead, you’ll be given tailored, experience-based and evidence-based guidance on building a thriving creative career, taking into account your introversion.
Now to define creativity… oh my.
This is a little trickier to pin down than introversion. Unlike personality tests, I’m less fanatical about ‘creativity’ tests that get you to think of multiple uses for a pencil, and decide your creativity based on that.
I’m a believer in creativity being in the eye of the beholder. You can feel creative in a niche area like flower arranging, whilst regarding yourself as unmusical, a terrible painter with two left feet. Creativity comes in myriad forms and outlets, and more than anything it’s a description of how we connect the dots, how we generate novelty, and how we play.
I’m not going to ask you to take a test to bolster your belief in how creative you are: I’m going to take a guess and say that you ARE creative. How you utilise that creativity and bring it to fruition is entirely up to you, and I would love more than anything for this book to reveal how you can best do that for your specific personality type, preferences, skills and desires.
If anything you’ve read so far about introversion and creativity resonates then there is a good chance this book is for you. The clincher is this: have you experienced challenges in your career ambitions? It might be communicating with your boss or coworkers. It might be feeling exhausted in an open plan office space. It might be clarifying your target market and building a coherent body of work.
All of these challenges – and many more – you might face as a creative with a degree of career ambition will be explored in this book.
The difference from other career advice books is that this will take into account your introverted nature. It will take into account your preferences for alone time, rich conversation with one person at a time and other subtleties that make being an introvert different. You’ll learn how to use your introverted strengths in your creative career and mitigate the blind-spots that you might experience.
If that sounds like something that might help you, then this book is most definitely for you.
How to make the most out of this book
This book is divided into six sections: the key areas I’ve identified in working with hundreds of creative introverts in coaching and teaching settings.
1) Prepare: Learn what you need to be at your best
This section shows you how self-knowledge, mindset and positive psychology are foundational to creative career success. Without this foundation, taking action and applying all the nitty-gritty strategy will likely fall flat; you’ll run into all sorts of sticking points and tie yourself in knots, if you don’t have these firm foundations.
You’ll find out what you need in order to thrive: to be at your creative best, both internally and externally. There will be multiple quizzes so you can identify more about your own personality type and we’ll explore the various routes to learning more about yourself, and how to apply this knowledge.
2) Plan: Get the clarity to move forward with confidence
Next, you’ll learn how to break down the daunting tasks of planning a career shift, starting a new project or building a creative business from scratch. You’ll be guided through a process specifically tailored to creative introverts: including a new take on business planning that is not going to induce sleep.
You’ll gain clarity on what kind of life you’re carving out for yourself, and how to remove the overwhelm from that grand concept, breaking down any size of dream into practical, actionable steps. This section will include helpful worksheets which can be filled in online or downloaded to print.
3) Produce: How To Actually Get Things Done
If you’ve ever struggled with the procrastination gremlin, you’ll be relieved to know that the battle ends here. You’ll learn strategies and tools you can use in any situation to finally get it DONE. Regardless of your old habits and limiting beliefs, this section will help you find a way to make strides in anything you set your mind to: on your terms.
4) Promote: Time To Get Your Art Out!
This is the section that many creative introverts will be most challenged by: but I promise you that this is where the biggest rewards lie. You’ll learn how to market your work without feeling sleazy or pushy. You’ll learn how to identify, attract and sell to your dream clients or customers and get the exposure you so deserve. Plus, you’ll do it all in a way that suits your introverted nature.
5) Progress: Taking Stock and Correcting Course
Throughout this book you’ll find an emphasis on experimentation. This section is where this scientific approach comes into its own. You’ll learn how to run your own experiments that will show you exactly what you’re doing that is working, and what you need to tweak. The point is to have fun: this is more like the Mento and Diet Coke type of experiment than the Hadron Collider type of experiment.
6) People: Introverts Need Them Too
Just because we’re introverts doesn’t mean we can do this all alone. People are on every corner of your creative journey, and learning how to manage these relationships effectively is going to be the make or break difference in your success. This section delves into collaboration, communication and energy management.
Note: This is not a straight-forward how-to guide book. I encourage you to find your own formula. All I can give you is ingredients (Tips + Tools) and recipes (Action Steps) that myself and others have tried, and have found helpful. This is a bit of a ‘choose your own adventure’, in that I want to give you as many options as possible to find what works best for you with your personality type and preferences.
This was the good news I so badly wanted to be true when I started to understand myself better: that just because something that works for someone else didn’t work for me, does not mean I’m a lost cause. It just means there is another way to get there. This book aims to show you the other way.
If you’re ready to get started and finally build a successful creative career that fits you like a tailor made glove, then let’s get going!”
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This podcast is made possible only by means of my generous supporters on Patreon. Thank you! Supporting the Creative Introvert podcast also gets you lots of goodies, from a Monthly Ask Me Anything to a copy of my soon-to-be-released BOOK, The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms. Hitting milestones also funds future projects, and ideas guided by you, my supporters.