Are introverts creative? The surprising correlation between introversion and creativity.

Written by Cole Schafer

If you were a crazed fan that knocked on the front door of Stanley Kubrick's English manor home during the height of his fame in the 80s and 90s, you may have conversed with him without knowing it.

A lifelong recluse, Kubrick would often answer the door playing his butler, regrettably informing adorning fans that Mr. Kubrick was away working on his next film.

Kubrick was a creative genius in cinematography creating a body of work that spanned 19 films over five decades. Yet, despite this, he somehow managed to maintain an air of anonymity throughout.

So much so, that there was a brief time where a British conman––ironically named Alan Conway––impersonated the famed director to gain access to restaurants and high-society parties around London. It’s rumored that Kubrick wasn’t even upset about the impersonation but intrigued.

Catch me if you can.

There’s a surprising correlation between introversion and creativity that doesn’t end with Stanley Kubrick…

Cormac McCarthy, whose hands and literary wit crafted novels the likes of 'The Road', 'All The Pretty Horses' and 'Blood Meridian', refused interviews, declined speaking engagements and once no-showed at a literary banquet held in his honor.

Emily Dickinson lived most of her in her parents home with the vast majority of her time spent in her room, writing. When circumstances demanded she communicate with visitors, she did so through her closed front door. After Dickinson died at the age of fifty-five, her sister found a dusty trunk filled with 1,800 unpublished poems.

Not long after the publishing of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee had a brief stint helping her dear friend Truman Capote research his novel In Cold Blood before diving into total obscurity only to resurface again, decades later, with the sequel, Go Set A Watchman.

Then, of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention J.D. Salinger––arguably the most notorious creative recluse of all time––who upon completing his blockbuster novel The Catcher In The Rye, lived out the rest of his days in solitude in Cornish, New Hampshire. It is said Salinger worked steadily in a detached room hecalled the “bunker”. Salinger viewed publishing as “a damn interruption” and claimed that he wrote strictly for himself and his own pleasure.

Now, while it’s easy to view these creatives as socially awkward kooks, it’s worth considering that their introversion just might be the reason for their creativity.

Let’s talk to Jung.

Believe it or not, the concepts of “introversion” and “extroversion” weren’t really much of a thing until the turn of the 20th century.

A psychologist by the name of Carl Jung wrote and published a book called Psychological Types where he first popularized the terms “introvert” and “extrovert” describing the former as…

"An introverted consciousness can be well aware of external conditions, but is not motivated by them. The extreme introvert responds primarily to internal impressions."

Years later, a writer by the name of Susan Cain would take Jung’s theories on introverts and amplify them considerably in a book titled, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

In it there are countless praises that’ll make even the quietest of introverted hearts sing. One of them being…

“The highly sensitive [introverted] tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive. They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions--sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments--both physical and emotional--unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss--another person's shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.”

As an introvert myself, I can confidently say that introversion is a katana that cuts both ways. We witness each extreme when gazing upon the works and lives of Stanley Kubrick, Cormac McCarthy, Emily Dickinson, Harper Lee and J.D. Salinger.

In the case of Emily Dickinson, it is not at all normal for a person to be so cripplingly introverted that they insist on talking to visitors behind a closed door.

However, it’s also not at all normal for a person to write 1,800 poems (some of which would go on to land among poetry’s greatest) over the course of a relatively short life.

What introversion can teach us about creativity.

The same deep-seated sensitivity that makes it difficult for introverts to function in a world that demands we talk to others, is the same bewitching powers that allows creatives to produce the kind of works we can’t take our eyes off of.

Introverts make for better creatives––or perhaps have the propensity to be more creative––because much of creative work requires both solitude and deep focus.

An extrovert who feels most energized surrounded by people might find it more difficult to carve out time to be by themself.

Because of this, there are plenty of lessons to be gleaned from introverted creatives, particularly when it comes to solitude and focus.

The great crime novelist Raymond Chandler set aside four hours each day where he had to be completely alone. During his solitude he gave himself permission not to write if he wasn't feeling inspired. However, if he chose not to write, he had to sit in his writing chair and do nothing.

Eventually, Chandler would become so goddamn bored doing nothing, he'd to write.

Bill Gates would religiously take “think weeks” during his time at Microsoft, where he would venture off somewhere isolated and write, read and think without distraction.

Both introverts and creativity require focus and solitude.