I’m someone who could be considered ‘in his head’ a great deal and definitely what one might call an ‘introvert‘. When Susan Cain’s book, ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking’, came along, I dove into it with some enthusiasm, possibly as a means to find some comfort in dealing with and understanding the ‘affliction’.
Susan and her book have made great strides in spreading an understanding and a well-researched insight into this important area of what it is to be human.
As the book shows, introversion is by no means an ‘affliction’ but a true blessing to those that possess the trait, and there is much we can learn about people through understanding it better.
Susan, an introvert herself, spent many years researching for the book, and this shows, as the book is rich in citation, reference and concrete facts. The book’s ‘manifesto’ serves as a neat little overview of some of what’s inside, including these points:
- There’s a word for “people who are in their heads too much”: thinkers.
- Everyone shines, given the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight, for others, a lamplit desk.
- Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.
- It’s OK to cross the street to avoid making small talk.
- “Quiet leadership” is not an oxymoron.
With Red Lemon Club’s mostly creative readership, and with the seemingly large proportion of people in creative industries likely to be ‘thinkers’ more than loud bubbly types (though don’t quote me on this, and it all depends on one’s environment), these insights might provide some interest, even relief.
Susan was kind enough to respond to a few questions surrounding the book, introversion and creativity.
What was the main purpose or drive for you when you set out to write this book?
This is a kind of civil rights mission for me. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men in 1950s America–second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent.
Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts.
You touch briefly on the link between creativity, creative people and introversion in the book. How far do you think this association really goes? Are all true creatives introverts?
Well, when psychologists look at the lives of the most creative people, they almost always find serious streaks of introversion. The people are usually extroverted enough to exchange and advance ideas. But they also crave solitude, and solitude is a crucial ingredient of creativity.
Unfortunately, we’re currently living with a value system that I called the ‘New Groupthink,’ which is the idea that creativity and productivity comes from an oddly gregarious place. The idea is that being social can help creativity — you have an important conversation and this gives you an idea about how to do things differently. This is true to some extent.
The problem is that we take that too far and try to structure things so that everybody is out and circulating all day long. We leave very little place for deep thought, for focus, and a work space where you can’t be interrupted. We don’t allow people to have solitude anymore.
And that’s what we’re missing — because solitude is equally a crucial ingredient of creativity. We need both — the solitude and the chance encounters.
What do you think this book can do for people who work in ‘creative’ professions?
The book is a gigantic permission slip to finally be yourself in a culture that has always told us that we need to be extroverted in order to be happy, successful — and creative.
How have you changed at a personal and professional level in writing the book?
The little voice in my head that said there was something wrong with being an introvert? That voice is pretty much gone now.
Any words of encouragement for the more introspective amongst us?
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” – Gandhi
More information about the book is here.
Your comments on the book and ideas in the post are welcome!