If you’re anything like me, your natural and most productive working state is slouched in a comfortable chair in a dimly-lit room, basking in the bright glow of a large computer display. You’ll probably have some mid-tempo electronic music pulsing away at a volume just loud enough to prevent conversation, as you work on your next ground-breaking world-changing creation.
That safe and solitary space is precisely where all my best (and worst) ideas come from; protected and isolated from the world, free to dream without interruption, judgement or criticism.
It’s perhaps unsurprising then that so many creatives are inclined toward introversion (or introverts are naturally inclined towards creative pursuits – same difference). That we don’t have to deal with all that other messy, uncomfortable and uncontrollable stuff is one of the main reasons we love the job so much.
But, of course, invention is only one side of the success equation; on its opposite is commercialisation. If you want your creation to make it into people’s hands, you have to switch off the trip-hop, open the curtains, turn around, face the world and sell the fuck out of your shit. In other words, you have to become an extrovert.
This can be a colossal challenge for people like me, and is why many creative agencies have tended to protect their creatives from the big bad world with a protective layer of suited extroverts tasked with the selling. It’s why so many good ideas lose the interest of their creators, why they get bastardised on their way to market and end up being kind of mediocre.
It’s perhaps also unsurprising then, that so many of the world’s most beautiful, pure and successful creations have their designer, inventor or creator standing very firmly and proudly behind them. Jony Ive, Mark Zuckerberg and James Dyson are all natural geeks who actively sell their ideas and obsessively retain total control because they know that’s the only way to make great things which many people use.
Becoming that kind of person is scary, but I have great news: it’s 100% totally doable. And it’s infinitely easier for an introvert to learn to turn on the extroversion than it is for an extrovert to develop the inward-looking inner voice so many creatives thrive on.
But how, I hear your inner voice squeak. Well, get yourself along to meet-ups and events and say hello to a stranger (they’re probably just as nervous as you). Offer to stand up and talk about what you do. Write a blog. Tell people what you really think. Take every opportunity to sell your own work face-to face. Have a proper meeting even though an email would do. Fight to be the one presenting your stuff to the decision makers.
Above all, say yes to the scary stuff which instinctively makes you want to retreat back to your safe place – it’ll still be there waiting for you when the scary stuff is done.
You’ll do things badly, feel uncomfortable, perhaps even suffer the occasional panic attack. But you’ll get better and better at it and, before too long, when your screen goes dark at the end of the night you’ll realise there’s an extrovert reflected back at you.