Monday, November 23, 2015

257: Art and Introversion

EVERY once in awhile I read a book that clarifies my thinking with such astonishing force I shudder to think of my future in the absence of such information. I found Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe PhD to be such a book.

I've read other books on introversion, some highly touted, but this is the best and clearly defines the parallels between the creative and the introverted personality. Of special note was the chapter on Time Poverty (I love the term) which outlines why artists tend to be indifferent to schedules and the obsessive hyper-activity of American culture.

Modern society says that time is money–an expression that celebrates money, making money more important than time. The introvert mode of thinking first is not valued, because time engaged in thinking is not a tangible product. Current American culture is so addicted to frenetic motion that the productivity of introverts–crafting a thoughtful way forward–is completely disavowed. In Introvert Power the author writes that "for an introvert, ample time provides a cushion around activity—the mental space we need to reflect, to make meaning, to find inspiration. [If] there were lots of 'time between time,' introverts would thrive."

The author continues: "…excessive doing leaves the mind vacant, clueless, and increasingly dependent on, well, 'doing.' We sit down to think, we become anxious, we pop up again and get busy to restore the feeling that we’re going somewhere. We have no idea where, but at least we’re going there."
This painting was painted at a plein air festival where I was
 under extreme pressure to create salable paintings. During such
events introverts feel they have to behave like extroverts. Such
strategies rarely work. I will explain how introverts can succeed
under such foreign environments in a future blog.

The book explains how the futility of misspent activity drains the productivity of introverts. For extroverts activity might spur thinking and solutions might occasionally spring from the work. But for the rest of us that is rarely the case. Yet we live in a world almost entirely designed for the proper functioning of extroverts.

The author suggests that the creative process from the introvert perspective is more akin to desire with birth as metaphor, rather than death-like terms such as deadline, and killing time.  The author says, "The paradox is, when we use the desire model instead of the death model, everything is easier. Desire, when properly nourished, works like pregnancy and birth: once it gets going, there’s no stopping it. But birthing requires the capacity to hold, to tolerate the growing pressure of what’s inside and to patiently wait until it’s ready. This holding capacity is the hallmark of introversion."

I recently read the biography of Lucien Freud (Lucien Freud: Eyes Wide Open) and was surprised he painted only two to four paintings a year (although some of them were quite large). Freud toiled insistently, resisted the pressure from galleries to crank out best sellers, thereby slowly building a completely unique body of work. The biography clearly demonstrates that Freud was an extreme case of introversion.

Reading the two books in close succession proved the necessity to slow my creative pace until it matches inner  rhythms–without reference to outward demands of galleries or painting events.

I know that is where the best work will emerge.

Brad Teare –November 2015


  1. Thank you Brad for your great book reviews! Just from what you say about "Introvert Power" is sending me on an immediate hunt for this book. Took me 60 years to discover that I am an introvert and that trying to live as an extrovert for so long completely burned me out. But hurray for the healing power of artwork that enables one to totally revel in one's introvertness!

    1. I know what you mean, I would have thought I would have figured out I was an introvert and what that meant much earlier. But better late than never! Thanks so much for your comment, Gayle. Good to hear from you.

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Thanks for your comments!


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