It’s not always in the most beautiful or meaningful places, but does it really matter where we are when the chase begins? What’s your dream?
The Creative Introvert
In 2005, Steve Martin adapted his book ‘Shopgirl’ to a film of the same name. It is a rare story where the principal narrative is a portrait of a female introvert that ends in joyful triumph and not self-inflicted tragedy.
It embraces the simple truth that introverts make brave decisions every day in order to shape their own destiny.
Mirabelle Buttersfield (Claire Danes) is a young woman in her twenties who by day works at the glove counter at Saks Fifth Avenue. By night she is an artist, heading out to secluded places to take flash-lit self-portraits. She transforms the images into pieces that depict her cocooned in blackness.
Mirabelle lives in a simple apartment with her cat, who seems to reside under the bed most of the time. Like her, the cat is mostly silent. Mirabelle’s life revolves around a daily routine of quiet industry behind the glove counter, quietly taking an anti-depressant, and diligently going about trying to fulfill her dream to become a full-time artist.
Her life shifts as she encounters two new people in her life. Ray (Steve Martin) is at least thirty years older than Mirabelle, quietly spoken and wealthy. Apart from the obvious, Ray is drawn to Mirabelle’s introversion, he is a quiet man himself, and as he pursues her he realises how much he also enjoys her company, her quiet intelligence, and sense of humour.
The other, Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), is her contemporary. He is awkward and erratic and has no clue how to behave on a date. After a couple of awkward dates with Mirabelle, Jeremy seeks to find his destiny on the road with a rock band. While he is away he is encouraged by the lead singer of the band to improve himself with self-help books and tapes.
Mirabelle meanwhile has developed strong feelings for Ray. She experiences the thrill of having a gown custom-made for her. His gifts are lavish and thoughtful but there’s an unspoken trade-off. The gifts are supposed to compensate for Ray’s lack of commitment. Despite this Mirabelles relationship with Ray briefly flourishes and she feels so wonderful she decides she no longer needs her medication. After days of being in bed and not answering her phone, she confesses to Ray that she has stopped taking her anti-depressant. He immediately takes her to her doctor, brings her back to his hillside home above the city lights, and gently tucks her into bed. We see from this that Ray has genuine affection for Mirabelle. But it isn’t enough.
It soon becomes clear to Mirabelle however that there is no long-term future in her relationship with Ray. To be fair, Ray has been honest all along about his intentions with Mirabelle. The problem is he has been honest with his therapist, not with Mirabelle. Her world comes crashing down when he casually lets slip his plans to get married and have children. The implication is clear – he doesn’t see those things happening with Mirabelle.
Despite the loss of her relationship with Ray, Mirabelle soldiers on. She leaves her job at the glove counter and goes to work in an art gallery, taking a step closer to the life she wants.
In the meantime, Jeremy returns from his travels with a new outlook on life. He has a crisp new white suit, a gift from the lead singer of the band he toured with and it is symbolic of the confidence he now has. He’s a man who now understands what he wants his life to be.
He and Mirabelle meet again and she can see the changes in Jeremy. His newly discovered maturity signals to Mirabelle that perhaps he is a worthy partner.
The next time we see Ray he is outside the art gallery where Mirabelle is holding the first showing of her work. They greet each other with genuine affection and then part as Ray (in voiceover) acknowledges sadly, that in the end he was not worthy of her. He watches as Mirabelle turns toward Jeremy who is literally waiting with open arms, the perfect counterpoint to Ray who always kept her at a distance.
Mirabelles triumph isn’t that she is finally in a serious relationship and no longer has to go it alone. Her triumph is that she made it on her own.
It was her tenacity, perseverance and quiet self-belief that propelled her on after a devastating fall. Mirabelle is an introvert heroine for the ages, a woman of character and strength who didn’t change herself to achieve her dreams.
I think we need more stories like these.
Have you seen Shopgirl or read the book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
In the 2009 documentary The September Issue, there are two scenes in which Grace Coddington, then Creative Director of US Vogue magazine, gives us a rare insight into how she views the world. In the first, she is en route in Paris. She speaks about working with the photographer Norman Parkinson early in her career as a fashion editor.
“He taught me to always keep your eyes open, you know, never go to sleep in the car or anything like that. Keep watching because whatever you see out the window or wherever, it can inspire you.”
The scene then changes to Grace on location at Versailles. As she looks out over the landscaped gardens she says that she is still a romantic and that perhaps she has been left behind.
When I first saw these two scenes together in the context of the entire documentary, I recognised the characteristics of the creative introvert – the passionate attention to detail, the preference to work alone or with only a few people, and the need for quiet concentration and contemplation. A few years later I was gifted a copy of her memoir and it completely cemented my initial impression.
I’ve since come to regard Grace Coddington as the quintessential creative introvert and a personal benchmark when it comes to achieving great things with integrity and, no pun intended, grace. I also love her sense of humour…be sure to visit Grace’s website and see what I mean for yourself.
So, if you’ve read this far, I will assume you want to read more, so I will, of course, indulge you. Here are some of my favourite quotes from Grace’s memoir:
When the September Issue was in production, Grace was placed in the spotlight, and she wasn’t happy about it. In her memoir, she wrote of having cameras intrude on her day-to-day work at Vogue.
“Perfectly nice they were, but I told them I wasn’t interested and I didn’t want them anywhere near me because it was too distracting. I hate having people observing me; I want to swat them away like a swarm of flies. My office door remained firmly closed.”
On attending the collections:
“Sometimes I think I’m the last remaining person who goes to the shows for the pleasure of seeing the clothes, rather than desperately wanting to be there for the social side – which is the part I always had to be dragged to, kicking and screaming.”
“I used to see every show in the New York collections, but these days I’m much more selective, partly because the experience has become so trying… As you dodge the movie cameras on your way in, there is usually some starlet of the moment surrounded by photographers and planted in the middle of the runway, hindering everyone else from getting to their seats. I can’t stand it, so I usually put the blinkers on and rush straight through.”
On her legacy:
“For me, one of the most important aspects of my life work is to give people something to dream about, just as I used to dream all those years ago as a child looking at beautiful photographs. I still weave dreams, finding inspiration wherever I can and looking for romance in the real, not the digital, world.”
One last thing, if you’re not familiar with Grace’s incredible body of work, Google Grace Coddington Vogue editorials and breathe it all in.
You can also buy Phaidon’s incredible book Grace: Thirty Years of Fashion at Vogue here.
If you’re a creative who is also a visual person, have a physical showcase of your ideas and designs can help clarify your vision and fuel your creativity further.
Using a display system that fixes easily to a wall or ceiling can give you an overall view of your concepts and finished ideas. You can also switch out images that no longer fit your vision.
We’ve gone on the hunt to find affordable and flexible ways to display your creativity with style. Find one that you LOVE? Simply click on the image and you’ll be taken to the online store selling that item.
I had an important conversation yesterday. It was challenging, insightful, and completely absorbing. By the end of it, I had a solution to a problem that had been bothering me all day and I felt a weight disappear from my shoulders.
The conversation took place in my shower and it was entirely in my head.
There’s a GIF that I absolutely love. It’s of basketball player Alonzo Mourning sitting on the bench at a game having a conversation in his head. I love it because you can ‘read his mind’ by his facial expressions alone. There is disappointment, a revelation, then acceptance, and all of this happens in a matter of seconds.
If you’re an introvert, your internal dialogue is likely to be running hot all of the time. You might be rehearsing conversations you’re anticipating, brainstorming ideas for a project, solving a personal problem or perhaps simply daydreaming.
Liz Fosslien and Mollie West, in their article ‘6 Illustrations That Show What It’s Like in an Introvert’s Head’ for Quiet Revolution, describe the thinking process for introverts;
As introverts are thinking, they reach back into long-term memory to locate information. An introvert will often compare old and new experiences when making a decision, which slows the processing down but leads to carefully thought-out decisions.This means that introverts have an active dialogue with themselves and usually walk around with many thoughts in their minds.
There’s been a surge in interest in recent years about the benefits of mindfulness. I don’t question the benefits when it comes to helping manage anxiety and depression. An internal dialogue can easily turn into negative self-talk. Learning how to steer your mind away from that is an important skill.
Like a lot of people, I find mindfulness difficult because I find it almost impossible to reign my mind in. It’s something you need to practice, a lot. The thing is, I like to wander off and have a chat with myself. Some of my best creative work has come out of a wandering mind, especially in those moments as you’re drifting off to sleep. You’re still chatting with yourself, and then, there it is. The idea. The one you’ve been waiting for.
To me, mindfulness feels like being told to stay in one room, when all I want to do is explore the whole house. I want to understand the context in which the room exists in. An internal dialogue is my way of exploring the house.
To date, my internal dialogue has remained just that, internal. Perhaps one day I will have my conversations with myself out loud. My hope is that when people look and wonder who I’m talking to, they’ll also notice how shiny and full of volume my hair is.
That’s the thing about talking to yourself in the shower – there’s plenty of time for deep conditioning.
Over to you! How do you feel about your own internal dialogue or self-talk? Feel free to share in the comments below.
In the online issue of the Scientific American, Gareth Cook asked Susan Cain (author of Quiet:The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking if there was any connection between introversion and creativity. Susans reply was this;
Yes. An interesting line of research by the psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Gregory Feist suggests that the most creative people in many fields are usually introverts. This is probably because introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.
The creative process for an introvert can begin long before they put their pen to paper, their fingers on the piano keys or their brush on the canvas. Creativity is born of inspiration, reflection, and then execution. And repeat. Even when a piece is created, it can be dumped completely or changed as continual reflection takes place.
The creative process for an introvert is a thoughtful, constant and solitary adventure.
Are you a creative introvert? Feel free to describe your creative process in the comments below.
Every introvert who creates knows that when we write a song, paint a picture, or bake a triple-layered chocolate cake with Italian meringue buttercream we are exposing the deepest part of ourselves.
We are holding out our hearts and saying “This is part of me and I’m offering it to you.” This is a fundamental way in which creative introverts communicate with others.
Do you express kindness and love to others through your creativity? Feel share to share in the comments below.
“Creativity takes courage.” – Henri Matisse
Far from that old stereotype of the insular and inarticulate introvert, it’s my view that many of us are actually all about self-expression. Furthermore, we use our creativity to communicate with others. Every introvert who creates knows that when we write a song, paint a picture, or bake a triple-layered chocolate cake with Italian meringue buttercream we are exposing the deepest part of ourselves. We are holding out our hearts and saying “This is part of me and I’m offering it to you.” This is a fundamental way in which creative introverts communicate with others.
So here’s to all of the quiet creatives who work, unseen and unacknowledged, at perfecting their craft.
Is your home or work office/creative space looking a tad drab? Align your space with your personality and make it a true reflection of your personal style. Get a surge of motivation by reinvigorating your creative space with a quirky accessory or two, a chic print, and a hint of luxurious copper or gold.
Here are some fabulous ideas to get you inspired! See something you love? Simply click on the image and it’ll take you to the store selling that item. Enjoy!
If you are a creative that works alone most of the time, you’ll likely have hit the creative wall more than once. A popular saying springs to mind – no one is an island. Much to my chagrin, even I have to acknowledge that not having someone to bounce ideas off can be limiting so it’s essential to have some strategies you can call on to break the creative drought.
Here are some tried and tested methods of mine that you can easily add to your arsenal.
- Wash your hair. It’s a metaphor, trust me.
- Crank up the tunes and move. Chair dancing is perfectly acceptable, if not preferable. Also, put your tunes on shuffle. Surprise yourself.
- Go for a walk. A tricky one for introverts I know but it’s fine. Pop on the headphones, walk fast like you’re on your way somewhere, and you can significantly reduce the possibility of a complete stranger wanting to chat with you.
- Jumping on Pinterest is particularly helpful for those of us who respond to visual stimulation. An image can easily spark an idea.
- Accept you have a creative block and move on. Letting it sit unattended for a few hours can result in a breakthrough when you’re not thinking about the problem at hand.
- Go for a drive. The act of concentrating on something hands-on that also requires you to focus on others around you takes you out of yourself, and away from fixating on ‘the problem’.
- Go to a public space, get a coffee and do some people watching. Take headphones and your device of choice with you to avoid unwanted interruptions.
- Cook/bake something that you know well and take it to the next level. Getting creative in another discipline can inspire creativity in another.
- Have a good cry. Go ahead, no judgement.
- Take a nap. This is my go-to solution if washing my hair doesn’t work. I also use naps to ‘reset’ emotionally. Naps are seriously undervalued in my view.
- Do some housework or your taxes. The act of getting a different area of your life in order and the satisfaction gained can be stimulating.
Over to you! What breaks the creative drought for you? Feel free to share your strategies in the comments below.