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Introversion and being an artist actually have little to do with each other. As much as people would like to pigeon-hole artists into the introversion category, I'm not convinced it's true. There are an awful lot of artists out there who prefer to just want to be out there with other people, attending shows, or generally being the center of attention. As it happens I'm not one of them. I get my energy from inside, mostly by being alone. This does wonders for my creativity because it gives me time to think, but I do agree that there is some link to creativity and introversion. One of them is the fact that artists need time to think in order to produce, but the other connection is a fundamental misunderstanding of both how the world works and what people have to offer.
I came across this video by Susan Cain called "The Power of Introverts". She throws a lot of good data out there, and I identify with it a lot of it. For one she says that up to 50% of the general population is introverted and that our society has changed from the contemplative in the 1800s to the personality in the 1900s and beyond. Even art collectors reward the extroverted artist these days; personality is so important with regards to making that connection to potential collectors because it gives the collector something else to hold onto instead of just the painting.
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The right and left parts of the brain may do certain things, but they don't operate exclusively. I took this right-brain vs. left-brain test recently and scored 16 out of a possible 21 (there are 22 questions, but one is the same with reversed answers). I'm borderline "moderate" to "strong" right brain, which means I'm supposed to be more creative in my life. There is some truth to this, but a lot of this is also complete bunk. Here's why:
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Count me as skeptical. But skeptical of what is something I'm not really sure about. Where does creativity come from? I have no idea, except I know that it comes from me. I guess maybe it comes from the universe, or the Universe, whichever you feel better about. Or maybe it comes from within. Or maybe it's put there, inside of me, but count me as skeptical.
Elizabeth Gilbert of Eat, Pray, Love fame says that it comes from some other world, and that's not a new concept. The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron is an excellent creativity book. I don't subscribe to the "it comes from God" pamphlet, but The Artist's Way is much more than just that. Cameron simply uses this as a platform to talk about her techniques, which actually work quite well - especially for writers. In fact, she even tells you that you can disregard this idea that creativity comes from God and use her techniques separately. But in the video linked here and below Gilbert says that maybe we should think about creativity coming from an unknown source (read: God) because it's too much pressure to handle when we do something great. Yes, many great artists have taken their own lives - either via the bullet or the bottle, or some other such method - and they've done this exactly because of this reason; that they can't handle the creativity. She might be right about that, which is again comes from an idea that's nothing new - that we can't be the creators of our creations. But I'm skeptical.
Everything that I've created has comes from somewhere, and to be honest, the more I think about it, I know it comes from me. To take it a step further, I think that anyone who claims creativity comes from somewhere else is a coward. I'm a little wary of going all the way to accuse everyone who believes this of being cowards because some people don't care where it comes from. They simply produce and that's it and accept that they aren't the original creator is simply a possibility because, again, they don't care. But for those who aspire to dive deeper then it is cowardly to blame and give credit to someone(thing) else. Why can't it be me? Why can't I be the one creating? Why is it that the idea must come from some place else? If I fail then I take the blame. If I succeed then I get the credit, even if I don't know how to handle it. In the end, it's mine and I must face whatever consequences that are suddenly thrust in front of me. If I create something that strikes a chord then it isn't a fluke - it's just that I created it and someone liked it enough and off it went. And if I can't handle the success then that's on me, too. If I choose to blow my brains out then that's on me. And if I decide to cut an ear off, or shoot too much cocaine, or jump off a cliff, or stand and be happy in front of my paintings at a museum and tell my grand kids about it when I'm in my 90s - that's all on me, too. I decide, and if I decide then I create. And if I create, then I live with it. It's mine, and I'm happy to live with that.
Here is Gilbert's video, which appears on NPR and is a part of the Ted Talks series: Your Elusive Creative Genius
To read Part I, click here: http://www.gregmasonburns.com/blog/art-and-productivity
In the first part of this series I mentioned how the artist can never shut off the artistic process and that he or she is just as productive as the normal corporate worker, if not more so. In Part II I'll talk about the real reason why the starving artist exists.
There is this myth that the starving artist exists because suffering creates great art. There may be some truth to this. It is generally considered to be true that Gabriel García Márquez used the last of his savings to send his final copy of 100 Years of Solitude to the publisher who helped bring him the fame that won him the Nobel Prize. There may be a connection between Márquez's poverty and brilliance because, as some would say, his poverty required him to produce results. Maybe poverty really does produce greatness at times, but I think on average this is just as I noted above, a myth. It wasn't Márquez's poverty that created greatness, but a societal misunderstanding of how an artist works that created his poverty. His genius was inside him the whole time. To suggest otherwise is both an insult to him and gives way to much credit to those who never rise out of poverty.
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This has been something on my mind for some time. I wouldn't call it a rant, or really anything new, but it is a reality and I believe an important point to share: that artists are as productive as corporate workers in spite of not being able to show anything at the end of a particular day.
Look, I get what you're thinking - how is it possible that an artist is working when staring out the window or sitting in a cafe watching the world go by? There's no way to put this on paper. The fact of the matter is that it's true, and not only that but in fact the artist is probably working longer hours than you are when sitting at your desk. The artist can't shut off. From the moment I wake up to the moment I close my eyes at night I am thinking about art, even when I'm teaching English to my business students. Even when doing that very logical activity I am thinking about my paintings, my projects, my ideas, my past, my present, and my future. Artists believe that there's art in everything, and that's what I see when go through my day. This is every day, seven days a week, 365 days per year. It never shuts off, and I like that. In fact I love it. It defines me.
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Greg Mason Burns is an American-born contemporary visual artist. These are his thoughts on life as an artist.