Artist as Introvert and Extravert
reserved, reflective, energized by solitary activities, internally-oriented, preference for less stimulation
outgoing, talkative, energized by social interaction, externally-oriented, preference for more stimulation
Artists are often thought to be introverts, working long hours in quiet reflection, keeping to themselves, and gaining energy and creative ideas from their time alone. Though artists’ personalities may lean more toward introversion, personality traits are often thought to exist on a continuum; they are not all-or-nothing traits. Instead of being introverted all the time or extraverted all the time, artists often bounce between the two. We have to. It is the nature of our business.
When we work, we're introverted. We sit in our caves and ignore the world around us. It's safe and comfortable there, and in turn, it is our favorite place to be. The problem with this is that if no one sees us, no one will know us. We're basically creating in our own bubble and limiting opportunities to get our art seen by others.
If art is a hobby for you, something you like to do on the side, then this is a perfectly fine environment for you to stay. But if this is your career, and you want to thrive in the business, you need to put yourself out there.
Therefore, as naturally introverted as you may be, you have to conjure the extravert within you. It can be uncomfortably stressful for artists to even fathom leaving the doors to their homes.
Tolkien had a great quote, “It's a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
You have to go out into the real world and interact with people, post on social media, sell work online, and though it may be dreaded, work a convention. Yes, a convention with all those people, all those judging eyes, all those questioning...questions. Your stress level will literally be 11.
The thing is, with the proper training and focus you can mold yourself to operate between the two like a Jedi Master. So how do you summon your extraversion when needed?
Understand yourself. Learn about your personality type. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain offers useful insights. What do you need to recharge? What environment helps you be most creative? What helps you produce? What situations are challenging? What’s too overwhelming? Recognize your need to recharge and have downtime.
Think about the qualities of extraverts that you admire. If you’re not sure, draw on your introverted powers of observation. For example, you may notice that extraverts seem unafraid when encountering others--that they smile, make eye contact, and say hello warmly and confidently, or that they post works-in-progress, express opinions, or share things they like regularly on social media. Identify some specific behaviors that you would like to work toward.
Practice, practice, practice. Push yourself a little outside your comfort zone. Start small and expand from there. You can start practicing those simple behaviors (for example, those above). To keep yourself on track with this practice, set a new goal each week. You might throw in some spontaneous, bigger challenges too--you might surprise yourself with your ability to handle it!
In conversations, remember that introverts are usually good listeners who can process information. Don’t forget that this is a great asset when talking to others. Ask questions, give your feedback. It's also okay to take a moment to breathe and collect your thoughts. Not every second needs to be filled with talking.
Plan ahead for challenging situations. Have some conversation topics, your elevator pitch, and some questions prepared beforehand.
You have to learn to leave behind the comfort zone in your batcave and focus on working outside of that realm. Trust me, you'll find new comforts as you start gaining small victories.
In all honesty, I'm nervous before every show. Crowds make me uncomfortable. Interacting with people overwhelms me. I learned to enjoy the crowd behind my table, to see them as individual people, one by one. Since the easiest thing for me to do was to talk to them about the things I love, that’s where I started. Then, I asked questions and listened to them talk about their interests. I’ve been taught to close a sale in under two minutes, but sometimes this isn’t possible and getting to know the customer is better for long term fans. Doing this makes for surprising connections that can be really rewarding. Sure, not every attempt goes so smoothly, but I try not to focus on those--you can’t win them all and I’ve come to understand that the unsuccessful attempts, the awkward moments, and forced conversations are actually normal too. But since I reach out to as many people as I can, the positive experiences have overtaken the others in my mind, and it has become easier over time. Doing this helped bring out the extravert in me, even if it means I have to recharge after the show. And doing this, helps me connect with potential fans and make sales.