Creative introverts just do it longer

Creative people are just wired to live in the question, not answer it.

Creativity requires what Jonathan Fields describes as "a tolerance for ambiguity," which means that it's important to live long enough in the question to get beyond the initial, and sometimes hasty, response, to the second or third or fourth answer.

An introspective tendency is both good and bad. As an introvert, I'll spend a long time thinking about what would boor most people - the shape of an object in my wood shop, the singular nature of the first person experience or, recently, solving a particular problem in code and circuitry related to a discreet question nobody had thought to ask - there's a reason for that! - about how to carry out a certain automated process in "nearspace." Step two: learn how to write code and build circuits.

On the down side, the fun of entertaining many possible solutions or of finding a particularly elegant solution can come at the cost of a missed opportunity. It might be a great quality for a sculptor, less so for an attorney or an entrepreneur, which is to say that if you prefer to process inwardly, the networks are neural, not on LinkedIn.

Recently, Keith Sawyer has been critical of Susan Cain's observations in her book, "Quiet," about introversion and creativity. Sawyer argues for collaboration as the source for the novel, which, speaking as an introvert, sounds like an extrovert's description of the creative process: it surely must involve a bunch of people. Sawyer has done exhaustive research and I'm sure he's right in the sense that creativity-through-collaboration is part of a much larger mystery of the creative process in general. We all have contributions to make. Unfortunately, organizations, which increasingly depend on innovation and creativity to even have a chance in global markets, have a hard time managing that process for the same reason people do. Everyone wants creativity, but they don't want the doubt and ambiguity that can be its wellspring. Doubt is the introvert's Siren. I suspect that introverts who buck expectations and rise to positions of leadership have carefully managed that push to choose, and why so many of them excel, instead, in the lab or before a blank canvas. Alone, they have time to work through all the energizing options, to offer the best part of themselves in the process of discovery. Working in a group, they need especially loyal and patient collaborators. 

I'm not a leader. But I'm learning to complement my love of possibility by making "little bets" - that's a Peter Sims shout out - which, I've found out, can also lead to fertile and rewarding territory. It's important to get out of my head from time to time and just put one foot in front of the other.

Douglas Eby's blog post "Are Introverts More Creative?" suggest to me that some people are just wired to live in the question, not answer it. That's a good thing. I'd be willing to bet the same is true for a lot of people who attend the IdeaFestival.

Stay curious.


Pictured above are Efren Ramirez and Jon Heder from the 2004 movie “Napoleon Dynamite." It was an inspired choice by Eby.