In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Jean Smith, social and cultural anthropologist and social intelligence coach.
This podcast is BY FAR the one I’ve most hesitated to publish because… I get coached. I don’t get coached on something you might expect either - not a topic we normally tackle on the podcast, but one I’ve been really hoping to, because it undoubtedly effects pretty much everyone at least if you’re… single.
Have you ever been asked what your superpower would be, if you were a superhero? I always struggled to pick between being able to fly and being invisible. Typically introverted answers: picking the two superpowers that would let me escape extroverted situations…
More than being a fun game to play when you’re six, this is a great question to ask yourself throughout life. Your superpowers don’t have to be extraordinary or win you any awards, let alone save the world… they are simply the abilities you have that come easier to you than most, and that energise you more than most.
Individually, they may not strike you as special at all – in fact, until you hear this podcast episode, you might not be aware of them at all – but when you do identify them and start to harness them more, you start to see evidence of your true capabilities.
Introverts tend to be especially critical of themselves, because of our tendency to focus inward so much. Unsurprisingly, treating yourself too critically can easily reduce your self esteem. Low self esteem makes life a lot more challenging. In short: you want to bolster your self esteem, not tear it down.
It does serve us to be critical when it comes to honing our skills; being able to accurately assess where you’re at is one of the core ingredients to getting to where you want to go. But there will be nothing to assess and improve at without first acknowledging what your superpowers are.
Not sure what your Superpowers are yet? That’s OK: here are some ideas to get the ball rolling, based on what we know about the nature of introverts.
This is particularly helpful when it comes to communication with others. It means an introvert doesn’t give too much away and can be more deliberate and diplomatic in their speech.
It also makes us less quick to make judgements – which, when done without much thought, can land an extrovert in hot water.
However, overthinking can lead to unnecessary anxiety. Anxiety about speaking your mind can mean you appear closed off and distant to others and hinder real connection forming, which is vital for trust and forming long-lasting relationships.
What they say has gone through a natural mental filter, which tests how accurate, important and appropriate something is.
This means that a 1-to-1 conversation can be very rich and full of depth, leading to more meaningful friendships.
The downside to this is that it takes a while for our thoughts to mature and develop to a state where we’re ready to let them out into the world. This is definitely a drawback in heated, fast-paced debates.
It also means on the whole we’re averse to small talk - again, not the best at dinner parties or networking events.
You can pay attention to those you are speaking to. Which is great if you’re speaking to one person, but even at a larger scale this can be picked up. For example a lecture in a theatre will often be able to notice if there’s someone paying true attention to them: and this will mean a lot to them.
The problem is for introverts who in turn, also need to focus quite intensely in order to get a good understanding of something. This is particularly true for highly sensitive introverts who struggle to maintain focus in an overstimulating environment.
As a result of our focus, introverts also make for great at paying attention to others, making for great listeners. There is a difference between passive listening: which usually looks like someone who is purely being quiet out of politeness, and is really just waiting for their conversational partner to finish speaking. Active listening however looks like someone who has all there attention focussed on you, and who is getting ready not to just speak their own opinions or to steer the conversation in their own self serving direction, but to dig deeper into the last thing you said.
The downside is introverts can also pay too much attention to what others are thinking about themselves: which can cause stress and anxiety when doing something that exposes you to the public.
Compared to extroverts, who very much rely on the responses and feedback of others, introverts are less concerned with their outside world. This is particularly true for the more left-brain, analytical introverts (usually ISTJs, INTJs, ISTPs, INTPs - check out Marti Olsen Laney for more on left-brain introversion.)
This gives introverts greater ability to be selfless: to create from a place that is not driven by vanity or muddied by the opinions of others.
They have the ability to tune into their communication partners and this is done through intuitive strength rather than using any sleazy influence tactics.
Mirror neurones are a real thing: and both introverts and extroverts have them but could it be that introverts, particularly highly sensitive people, are more able to tune into them?
Empathy is a great skill, whether it comes naturally to you or you learn to develop it. It means people are quicker to trust you and feel less threatened by you.
Now we've talked about the generic introvert superpowers, let’s talk about your unique Superpowers - the ones that set you apart from the next creative introvert. You might have some or even all of the introvert superpowers, this isn’t where your Superpowers end. You have your own unique Superpowers, that distinguish you from the next creative introvert and that will make you the one fit for your life purpose.
Not sure what your unique Superpowers are? That’s understandable. One of the mistakes people make when identifying their Superpowers is that they immediately think of their abilities in areas that society tends to deem the most important. You might think of your academic history… and how difficult you found maths. You might think of sporting achievements… and remember you were always picked last for teams. You might think of your workplace history… and remember how you always got passed by for promotions.
In focussing on the big, obvious (and actually very insignificant) roles society has suggested you play, you end up missing the Superpowers you do have in other areas.
It’s these little moments that bring us joy, boost our energy and feel so easy to us that point to our actual Superpowers.
1) Have a Superpower brainstorm by jotting ideas down from the following questions:
• What are you really good at?
• What comes naturally for you?
• What activities make you feel energised?
• What quality do you bring to an activity?
• What do you get asked for help with by others?
2) Put your Superpowers to use
It’s one thing to have a nice list of things you can keep in your wallet when you need a pick-me-up (which I do recommend) but it’s another to actually put these to use as much as possible in your daily life.
Now you have your list (you can also add the typical introvert Superpowers too if they resonated with you) start to list real life ways you can use these Superpowers.
For example, if one of my Superpowers is being attentive, I know I can bring this to occasions when I meet new people. These aren’t usually the most introvert-friendly events, but if I know I have my Superpower in my back pocket, I have more reassurance that I can use this to my advantage.
Think about how these Superpowers can help you through day-to-day life as well as the more challenging occasions we might face. Try following the sentence structure below to work through each Superpower:
I can use the Superpower of ________ when I _________
Go one step further and think of an event or upcoming project where you can really put your Superpower/s to use. Make a point of using this as your intention in going into that event/project (often a much better way of setting goals than focussing purely on the end result.)
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Lucy Lucraft, fellow blogger, podcaster, travel lover and Brightonian.
Brighton Pavilion is arguably the most stunning landmark in Brighton, and honestly quite underrated. I remember visiting Brighton a lot as a kid, long before I moved here, and never once went inside the exotic palace, I only ever wandered through the gardens.
I admit I did finally go last year, but I’ve always meant to return for another look. It’s a luxury you have when you live somewhere: it’s not a one time thing. I’d like to think if I lived in Barcelona, I’d go weekly to the Sagrada Familia… just to see what else I noticed with each trip.
So mid-week, I took myself on a little field trip, partly as a reminder that being your own boss means you can do ridiculous things like that, and experience that strange mixture of guilt, appreciation and smugness.
That said, Brighton was mega busy - and all the kooks were out, despite it being a weekday afternoon. I’m talking someone walking a cat on a leash, two people in bare feet, sunglasses you’d only find in fancy dress shops and so on. Their idea of fun, I guess.
OK so the Pavilion. It isn’t cheap, at £13.50 for an adult. But when I think about the upkeep of the place, I don’t resent the charge too much. I think we’re spoilt in the UK because so many of our cultural attractions - museums and galleries - are free. You come to expect it.
A little history of the Pavilion, in the 1780s, George, Prince of Wales was recommended he take up lodging in the seaside town of Brighton. The idea was the sea air would do him some good - he was not a healthy dude.
He took to Brighton like many of us creative rebels do: enjoying the extravagant fashion, arts, architecture, drinking, womanising and gambling opportunities the city offers. Not much has changed then. Somehow, he was given the money to transform his originally humble lodging house into a modest villa, which he furnished with Chinese export furniture and beautiful hand-painted wallpapers.
In 1815, George hired John Nash to transform the villa, growing it to the ostentatious palace we see today. This guy did not do things by halves - George wanted somewhere to throw some seriously epic parties, and indulge his love for comfort and beauty.
There’s loads more to the history of the Pavilions, which I’ll link to here, but one thing I love and have to mention is that during WWI, it was transformed into a temporary hospital for Indian soldiers. I kind of love how George’s somewhat selfish and extravagant tastes and all the money and resources that were piled into this structure, all got put to work: it was finally used for something that did some good, something that mattered, something that saved lives.
Another notable event that needs to be seen to be believed is the impact the big storm we had in 1987 - the great chandelier in the music room was dislodged and basically fell through the floor. It looks surreal.
Which brings me onto my favourite room, which is without a doubt the music room. It has dragons carved everywhere you look, the ludicrous chandelier which has all been nicely restored, and this ornate and luxurious carpet which warrants a sign ‘please remove stilettos before walking on carpet’ which I love. It really is a feast for the eyes.
You also get a nice little history of the palace in video format, halfway through, which I love. For whatever reason I’ve never taken to audio guides - I can never get the buggers to work - and museum captions always leave me feeling a bit flat and uninspired. But video is usually really well done, so I appreciate that. Plus it’s nice to sit down.
I typically sped through the tour, and what took me around half an hour, could easily take you half a day if you did it properly - there really is a lot to see, and you can stop for tea midway.
I also love the gift shop which doubles up as a tea room - can’t have a spot of culture without some consumerism, right?
All in all, I rate the Brighton Pavilion a 7/10. A decent way to spend a bit of your day, not exactly adrenaline-pumping but good clean fun.
Let’s say you’ve been at this game for a while now. You might have even been listening to The Creative Introvert Podcast since it began, way back at the start of 2017. You might have even been doing some of the stuff I’ve been recommending. Taking action, journalling, finding a supportive community, showing your work.
But. Things aren’t moving as quickly as you hoped. In fact, they’ve stalled. They might look like they’re even moving backwards, like when planets go into what astrologers call ‘retrograde’. Planets never actually go backwards by the way, it just looks like it does from our perspective.
And that’s actually a great analogy here: I promise you, no matter what it looks like, you’re not going backwards. Everything that happens is more data. More information for you to use and move forward real soon.
But I’ll admit it might look bad.
You might have set a goal months ago, a SMART goal: it was specific, measurable, actionable, realistic AND time bound. Or so you thought. That deadline has come and gone and you haven’t achieved that goal.
No doubt, that sucks. As an avid goal setter, I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve missed the mark. And it sucks. It does. I won’t try and sugar coat that one.
The only upside - and actually, it’s quite a big upside - is that in every case, in every missed goal or disappointment - I learned something or I grew in some way - more confidence, more skilis, or just something totally batshit crazy came out of left field.
So yes, there’s the silver lining. But more importantly, what are those lessons that we can learn in our failures, disappointments and mistakes?
Here are a collection of my lessons, that I’ve learned from these times, and hopefully they can help you, should you find that you’re not making progress. You can return to this checklist and get to the root of the problem that’s playing out, and hopefully find yourself an antidote to your deceleration.
This is something that happens a lot to some of us creatives, particularly the highly imaginative, intuitive types. You might be an INFP on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. The Mystical Dreamer, if you’ve taken my Creative Type Quiz. You love big pictures. Thinking big lights you up - the details can come later, right?
Well… Sometimes, my fellow dreamers, we need to buckle down and actually look at those pesky details. We need clarity. I know that can seem boring, even redundant - I mean, we know the future is uncertain, don’t we? Doesn’t art, true creativity, originate from the darkness?
The problem with this blurry thinking - or feeling - is that it makes focussing taking action and measuring our results really, really hard. How can you tell you aren’t making progress if you don’t know what the fuck you want??
You don’t get into a taxi without telling the driver where to go. Or get into an Uber without setting the destination first, I guess. You certainly can’t yell at the driver for not taking you to where you want to go if they don’t know.
There are times for winging it, and going with the flow, but there are also times for getting super clear on what you want to do, be or have - and only THEN can you be a fair judge of where you’re at.
Check out episodes:
Frog? You want us to eat frogs!? Well, apparently they’re a delicacy but I do want to respect the vegans out there and stress the point that this frog is indeed metaphorical. It’s actually a reference to the book, ‘Eat That Frog’ by Brian Tracy, personal-development extraordinaire, who talks about an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it's probably the worst thing you'll do all day.
"The idea is to use ‘eat that frog’ as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day - the one you are most likely to procrastinate on, but also probably the one that can have the greatest positive impact on your life - Eat That Frog shows you how to zero in on these critical tasks and organise your day. You’ll not only get more done faster, but get the right things done."
You need to get suuuuper clear on your priorities here. And really, I mean priority - your ONE thing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, and again, but having one point of focus doesn’t mean you don’t do anything else - it just means it’s the one thing you don’t sacrifice FOR anything else. Got it?
So for the last 8 months my book has been my frog, and I’m happy to say is at first-ish draft stage - but I certainly haven’t been doing ONLY this.
What I’ve done is made it my daily priority. I’ve promised myself one hour, in the morning, in a coffee shop, 5 days a week. That’s it. That’s my ONE thing. The deal I’ve made with myself is that NOTHING can get in the way of that. And I won’t lie - it’s been tough. And it wa much tougher before I got clearer on this priority.
When writing a book was just one of my many dreams, it simply wasn’t happening. Of course more urgent or more exciting things took precedent, and of course the book got delayed. As soon as I committed to this small but consistent daily book-writing session, I started making PROGRESS.
So go on, eat that frog!
Oh boy this is a bugger. Self-sabotage. We all have our reasons as to why we sabotage ourselves: just know that this is SUPER common and SUPER annoying.
I cover this more in depth in episode #37: Self Sabotage, Excuses and Procrastination (Oh My) but since recording that episode, I’ve learned a bit more about my own inner saboteur, so I’ll share some more advanced level stuff with you now.
Like… What if you saw your inner saboteur as a friend? A shitty friend may be, but one with the best intentions. I like using the analogy of Chuckie in the Rugrats: he was such a wet blanket! And I always had to pretend to be him if we played Rugrats because of the hair.
As annoying as he was, Chuckie was only ever trying to protect his best buddy Tommy and the others. As creatives, we are constantly taking risks. We risk people judging us, we risk rejection, we risk wasting time, energy, money, resources, we risk letting ourselves and others down.
If I’m being really honest with you: these aren’t just risks. They’re CERTAINTIES, if you decide to play this game for real.
The more we play the game, the bigger the risks get. Wouldn’t it be safer, to stay at level 1? Chuckie would likely say yes. And I bet your inner saboteur has the smart idea to keep you at level 1, where it’s safe and you can handle the bad guys.
If you aren’t making progress, there’s a good chance you’re payng too much attention to your inner scaredy cat - and I want to encourage you to listen to your inner courageous cat! Yeah. May be make a wrist band: What Would Courageous Cat Do?
Of course, this doesn’t mean ignoring the voice that keeps you safe, it just means practising both. See what happens when you listen to the one that sounds brave, even a bit foolhardy. Just see what happens.
Again, even if you risk something and fall on your face, you’ll have learned something. You’ll know what didn’t work, and you’ll have a clearer idea of what to do next time. That is in fact moving forward, making much more progress than you would have done if you’d have stayed stuck where you were, with Chuckie your inner saboteur.
In the words of Julia Cameron,
"Crazymakers are those personalities that create storm centers. They are often charismatic, frequently charming… and for the creative person in their vicinity, they are enormously destructive.”
Crazymakers are the people in your life who, even if they also mean well, are just keeping you small, tired and fed up.
Naturally, if you’re trying to make serious progress in your creative career or any life area for that matter, and someone close to you isn’t… it’s going to be hard for them. You’re constantly highlighting where they’re falling short. And naturally, they’re going to want to take you down to their level, even if they aren’t aware of it consciously.
I had a crazy maker in my life once, and my biggest mistake was letting it go on for so long. In hindsight, I can see that she didn’t mean to be stifling, and I’ll admit I played my role in feeding her dependency. I let myself stay down, stay small, in order to accomodate her ego and be a classic people pleaser.
Can you relate?
If so, it might be time to start getting super clear on your boundaries. If your crazy maker is always dragging you out to the pub and encouraging you to stay out and get another round in, and then the next day you’re too hungover to get up early and work on that creative project… then you know what you have to do. Check your prioriities, and make it clear. Be honest with yourself, and with them.
I’ll link to my favourite episode on boundaries and handling crazy makers here.
Oooh, this is a harsh one. I kind of hated this lesson when I first learned it, and trust me I’ve had to learn it a few times before I softened to it and actually learned to accept it.
There are some things in life we think we want. And may be we do want them, a good amount. But. They come with sacrifices. Oh yeah - I might have forgot to tell you that one. This stuff we want? Our creative dreams and goals? They come at a sacrifice.
Which is totally fine, in fact it’s a really good deal, when we want something enough and we’re willing to pay the price. But… if the price is higher than our desire? Agh. You’ve got yourself a problem.
I experienced this in my bout as a pet portrait artist. You’ve probably heard bits of this story before, but in short: my dream, what I thought I wanted, to draw people’s fur babies for a living, sounded SO great!
Until I started doing it. I realised quite quickly that for me, it was destroying my love for what was my favourite past-time, like a sledgehammer to fine china.
I realised it was something I loved, but the price to pay - it wasn’t worth it. Whereas web design or writing or podcasting or teaching or coaching - well, those are things I love just as much, but the price I pay is lower, much lower in some cases, than what I paid to bend over backwards for my dickish portrait clients.
And that’s just me: we all have our price. What it costs me to stand up on stage and speak might be a way higher price in relation to it’s value to you, and you might find the price of dealing with your illustration clients way lower than I did. We ALL different.
The question you need to ask yourself in the most ladylike way possible is: WHAT’S YOUR FLAVOUR OF SH*T SANDWICH?
In short: do you want it enough, and if so - what are you willing to pay?
If you’re not willing to pay the price, don’t be surprised if your so-called dreams aren’t being realised.
I have one last analogy for you: we’re like thermostats. Not super original, but stick with me. We’re like thermostats in that we adjust: we have our goals, we make plans, and can only find out they’re stupid when we start taking action. At which point we adjust.
That’s what everyone who’s ever done anything interesting will tell you: they learnt as they went along. They adjusted. They course corrected. Sure, they did their research, sucked up some know-how, asked lots of questions but at some point: they said screw it, I’ll do it. Richard Branson ACTUALLY said that.
So may be you are making progress, you’re just in the adjustment phase. Stick with it, you. If you want it, it WILL be so, SO worth it when you get there.
Heads up: before you get excited - or confused - I did NOT go to Glastonbury Festival, the massive music festival was not on this year. My plans instead were to visit Glastonbury, the town, in rural Somerset UK.
Reasons? Well, I’d heard on multiple occasions about how great the town is for just tourism - it’s quirky, a bit like the place I live in Brighton, and it has some really old things to look at - really old. Plus, some pretty amazing myths and legends to go along with them.
Glatsonbury isn’t super accessible by train so I wasn’t in a hurry to do this one solo. Fortunately, I have two very dear friends who were willing to come, and let me hitch a ride.
So we set off, Brighton to Glastonbury. I wouldn’t normally share much about the journey, but this one was special: we saw donkeys on the roadside! A lot of them! And they were super friendly and let us pet them. This isn’t typical in the UK, but we were driving through the New Forest, which has wild horses, ponies and donkeys - and they’re all there for your roadside entertainment. Pretty neat.
We rocked up at our Airbnb, which is possibly the quirkiest one I have EVER stayed in.
One of the best things about it is where it’s situated: right next to the entrance to the path that leads to the Tor: a very, very old tower that sits on a hill overlooking Glastonbury.
We headed up there just in time for sunset and it was glorious. There were some other people there too who had the right idea, but just a small number - enough to appreciate the company and feel connected to them somehow. Not like your typical tourist site, I’ll admit.
There was someone drumming quietly, someone charging their wand and someone casting an actual spell. Yeah. That really happens.
The next morning, we went on a tour with a nice old Irish man, John. He took us up 3 hills: Brides Mound, Wearyall Hill and the Tor, again.
I enjoyed learning about the local legends, and have since decided to take more interest in Celtic mythology.
Then we had lunch, at Excalibur - a very health savvy serve-yourself place. Amazing actually, great raw cakes too.
Then we went around the amazing shops - literally, heaven. A whole shop for essential oils and smelly stuff, esoteric book shops, hippy clothing and all the crystals.
We bought some bits for dinner. The truth is, Glastonbury is still a small town and after a while you realise your options for fine dining are limited. But that's OK, it was nice to make the most of the Airbnb for a change.
Then we went off to our evening entertainment: a healing session with the Pleiadians, a group of aliens channeled by an attractive nordic man, Michiel Kroon.
He also channeled Archangel Michael, I guess they have the name in common.
We sat in a circle, and I felt comfortable and welcomed, I loved that we were encouraged to make the most of the essential oils and palo santo that sat in the centre of the circle. I mentioned it in previous podcasts like the time I went to Peru and the breathwork experience, but as an introvert: feeling welcomed, comfortable and well looked after in a group environment is so, so key to my enjoyment. Good facilitation in groups is NOT easy to come by, so I really appreciate it when it's done well.
But the messages themselves from the apparently channeled entities were, in my opinion, distinctly average. I didn’t get much… though my imagination was slightly sharper than usual. And I did feel very open hearted and able to do 'the thing' of breathing love in and out, which I haven't experienced before. So that was nice.
We picked an oracle card at the end, from a deck Michiel and his girlfriend designed. Mine had two beings on it: a man and a woman, Ether + Matter. The idea was all about integration, which you might know I’m obsessed with, especially when it comes to this woo woo stuff, or any life-coaching stuff. I love theory, but I love action more, and belive integration is the bridge between the theory and action. So I guess that was a nice little moment of synchronicity.
Headed back, very sleepy.
Next day, we went out for breakfast - a vegan fry up. It's interesting hanging out with two vegans for the weekend - it almost makes me think I could do it too... Almost. Then we went to Chalice Well, a truly gorgeous place. Very peaceful.
Then shopping! To balance out all the spiritual stuff, I guess. I bought a mood ring and a keyring in Chalice Well, a wallet, some incense, essential oil and palo santo. Can’t go wrong with smelly stuff.
Oh and a book about yoga journalling.
Then we went to the Abbey, which is OK. We laughed a lot at the egg stone, and meditated for 5 minutes. Very good vibes. I remembered how much I enjoy travelling WITH people. It slows me down, and helps me appreciate where I'm at. When travelling solo, I have this tendency to rush through everything - may be because on some level I feel a bit awkward? But with friends, you can really acknowledge the experience, and see things you otherwise wouldn't have noticed.
Then we went to a centre that had some relation to the Maitreya - allegedly the second coming of Buddha AND Jesus. Mmhmm. The healing protocol was to sit in a comfy chair, underneath a pyramid shape with crystals strapped on and crystals in your hand and headphones on listening to the Maitreya’s puja.
Sounds bonkers. I know. And trust me, I did not expect ANYTHING. But… Almost as soon as I sat back, I literally felt like I was being charged. Like, I could actually feel it. I convinced myself there was a mild electrical current running through me via the crystals - my friends afterwards told me that was not possible. Regardless of what was going on, it felt… heavenly.
I've since done a fair bit of research and unfortunately the guy who runs it - Buddha Maitreya the Christ - or... Ron Spencer - and you'll find buried amongst the bullshit, some reports that suggest he is indeed a dodgy cult leader who will take your money, has been known to take advantage of his followers sexually and probably isn't mates with the Dalai Llama.
As for pyramid power - this too is unlikely to heal you, or make razor blades sharp again... but, I must say I think it's a great idea to have a place like that in a busy shopping area set up so people can come, sit back and relax for a change. And it's free, so it really isn't a bad thing. I'd like to see more places like that, like introverted little hubs in busy public areas. But y'no, without the cult stuff.
We headed back for dinner and went to our final dip into the esoteric: a goddess circle. Featuring the goddess Freyja and the Völva, which is some kind of Norse shaman. I don't know if the lady who gave the workshop or whatever you want to call it was a 'Völva' herself... or just a pleasant lady who had a nice voice and a wild imagination.
Regardless, I did not like this. Mostly because the facilitation was terrible and I just didn’t get anything from the guided aspect. It was unhelpful - and I went away with little other than a vague interest in learning more about the legends of Freyja but not exactly happy with the method of delivery.
I don’t know what to take from the experiences this weekend, but I do know a lot of it comes back to being true to myself and pursuing my desires with boldness and sheer trust. Did I get that from the Archangel Michael, the Pleidians, someone claiming to be the Buddha reincarnated or a Norse goddess? OR did I get it from really great chats with some of my favourite people, in a beautiful part of the world?
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Alex Mathers, of the Red Lemon Club.
I'm SO excited to share this week's guest for you, because he's probably someone who I have to thank most out of virtually all my guests, even though they're all kick ass.
At the height of my artistic discontent: I had just graduated, and whilst I did have a lucky job at a web design agency, I was feeling creatively unfulfilled I found Alex's work and spent hours trawling through his portfolio magazine site, Ape on The Moon.
Soon after, I got my first hints of what the possibilities of freelancing could be from the Red Lemon Club, so a BIG thanks goes to our guest today, Alex Mathers.
"Do what brings you to life, not just what you love."
~ Alex Mathers
One of the most common challenges I come across in speaking to a range of creative introverts in my coaching , or in my online community or just out and about: is lack of support.
It's actually the one that's surprised me most, even though I can 100% relate. It surprised me, because I assumed for the longest time, that as introverts we don't need support.
We are intrinsically motivated, we are captains of our ship and we have no need for crew mates.
How wrong I was.
For one, our need for support starts from the day we're born and whilst it lessens greatly throughout our life, I don't believe we ever fully lose the need for external support. How much of it we need can vary greatly between people, and my assumption here is that it all stems from those early years.
Did we get the support we needed in those early days, enough that we felt reassured enough to go out in the world alone, and tackle it with confidence? Or were we taught the world is a dangerous place? And maybe we became too reliant on external support?
These are arguably issues that only a therapist can truly cover, but on a lighter note, I think we can cover a lot of ground today, especially in how support systems can help us in overcoming inner resistance to creative work.
Ok so, lets start with some of the stories we're told as creatives, ones that may have come from people who care about us and want the best for us,but arguably have no fucking clue what they're talking about.
When I was wee, I knew from around age 4 that drawing was my thing, and that there were people out there whose job it was to be artists and make pictures for a living. So that's what I wanted to be, an artist.
But then I was told that artists mostly don't make very much money, and some go crazy and cut off their ear.
So, I decided that I could be an illustrator, like my hero EH Shepherd. But then I was told that lots of people want to be illustrators,and that print was dying and there were only so many things out there to be illustrated.
In fact, if I wanted to get a job, I had better learn how to design websites.
Whilst everything kind of worked out, and I still enjoy designing websites from time to time, I do wonder what would have happened if I had followed my dreams and become a real artist.
Sure, I picked up illustration again at a later age, but by this time I lacked confidence in my abilities in the competitive industry. What might have been possible had I had the support from those around me? Family or teachers who cared about my wellbeing, but couldn't give the support I needed because they lacked faith, maybe because their dreams hadn't been supported either.
So maybe you've experienced this in your own creative career. May be it's from friends, family, teachers, professors. People telling you that what you want to do is too hard or too risky or too competitive.
And maybe they have a point. The best jobs in life are more difficult to get because other wise everyone would be doing them! But why in goods name can't you be one of the ones who gets to do it?
And before you start giving me reasons why you can't, let me stop you there. Yes, there will be sacrifices. Yes there will be bumps in the road. But it's in these moments that you most need support from those around you. You can borrow their faith in you, and use it to push through those days of doubt.
I didn't realise how powerful this was until I had my first ever coaching session. This was with a gentleman named Martin Stellar,whose interview you'll find back on episode 08 of the podcast.
Basically, I had no idea what to expect from this basic stranger,nor what coaching really was.
But the thing that convinced me that coaching was incredibly useful for creatives, and the thing that stuck with me, was Martins belief in me.
Again, he didn't really know me, but regardless, he gave me such faith in myself and my ability to follow this journey, this journey to my wildest dreams, and I believed him. I still do. And when i am having those moments of self-doubt, I think back to those kind words. More so, I think back to the feeling behind it, which magically carried through Skype,and which I felt too.
Note that I'm not suggesting all you need is someone to tell you you're great no matter what
There's a difference between mindless support that grandma gives you, and the support from someone who believes in you, but who'll call you on your bullshit. Who, in times when you're scared of taking the next step, who won't tell you "that's ok honey, go lie on the spa and I'll bake you cookies" but who'll tell you actually, you CAN do that thing you're scared of because I believe in you.
Or yes you can do that scary thing because I've been there before and yes I was scared but I went and did it and didn't die.
Ok so, what does this mean, do you all need to work with a coach who'll give you on-tap support and encouragement?
But there are other sources of support I recommend you explore.
Ok, ok, I know: you're an introvert ! Community sounds like a whole lot of people. Technically, it is. But it doesn't mean you have to hang out with them all at once.
I feel like I've taped into an incredibly supportive creative community here in Brighton, and have felt that way since about 6 months in. It's now been two years, and I still don't go to many events with lots of strangers, instead, I've got a shortlist of besties who I can see, mostly only one or two at a time. People I can rely on to help me if I need some moral support, or just to bitch about the perils of self employment. Or people who can recommend me to their friends, who might also be creative introverts.
Now, this is a different community to what I was used to back in London. Friends there, as much as I love them, know a different version of me. One that's mostly unconnected to my work, and who I'm not interested in discussing my work with, and vice versa.
What my point is, is that you might need to go out and make some new friends. Some creative cronies. Not that you need to abandon your old buds,but that in a fresh friendship, with someone with similar goals to you, that can be all the support you need.
So, I won't lie, the idea of making new friends sounds awfully un introvert friendly, but trust me, if I can do it you can do it. (See? Support!)
Meetup.com was my saving grace.I'll be honest, existing meetups were not my jam, so I started one, 100% on my terms on a Saturday morning, which attracted people like me. Fellow creative introverts who weren't going there to pick up a date, but who wanted to spend their Saturday morning on their creativity, rather than in their bed, hungover.
Of course, you don't have to go anywhere physically, especially if you don't live in a particularly diverse city, you might be lucky enough to live out in the sticks somewhere.
In this case, I'm going to recommend really investing some time and some faith into online communities.
I'll be honest, free groups or forums are naturally going to attract more. ..crazies. just like online dating, I think we all know there's a difference in calibre to the relationships formed on a free platform that on a paid platform, there just is a different level of commitment and emotional investment in the paid options.
Of course, is be remiss not to mention my own online community, the League of Creative introverts,who are a stellar mix of supportive, generous, big hearted souls, even if I'm biased,and who know the value of getting support as well as giving it.
More info about the league can be found at thecreativeintrovert.com/lci
l also want to let you know, that nothing can beat inner support. We really do require both inner & outer support, and neither one can make up for the lack of the other.
So, how to cultivate inner support? Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to yell words of affirmation at yourself in the mirror. This inner support is quiet, really quiet. And subtle. It's the little voice that sparks the brilliant, bold idea in the first place. The problem is, that we stop listening to it when our fears, or our inner critic shows up. lt doesn't help when external critics show up either.
But we can come back to that little voice, and coax it out with gentle reminders like remembering past accomplishments. Things you've overcome, fears you've faced. And this is also why I recommend scaring yourself - just a little bit - regularly to build up that resume of challenging things you didn't die doing.
It's why I get on stage as much as someone lets me. It's not for pure pleasure, or even the adrenaline rush: it's for my Fear CV. The thing I can whip out when I need a bit of support. It means I have an ongoing, always growing, reminder of what I can do: and a hint of what I could do.
My final words are that is ok to admit you need a bit of support and encouragement from time to time. Following your dreams isn't the easiest thing to do, in fact it might very well be the hardest thing you'll ever do. And you don't have to go the journey alone.
There are many, so many, who have gone before you, and are going with you, you just need to look for them and ask, do you reckon we can do this? I do.
I went with The Little Mermaid. Why?
Partly because a friend reminded me of it not long ago and partly because it was in my top 5 films throughout my childhood. I’d say top 3 Disney.
Whilst I don’t think the animation is on par with Beauty and the Beast or as funny as Toy Story or as heart warming as The Lion King… boy I love Disney... For whatever reason, I was just a massive fan of The Little Mermaid, may be because Ariel was the only Disney character repping for the redheads amongst us.
I also identified with Ariels love for collecting trinkets and crap. I was not a minimalist kid. I dreamed of having my own cavern of hoozits, whatsits and thingumabobs.
So i settled in on a rainy afternoon and stuck it on. Amazingly, i remembered every word from every song well, at least the ones I understood. There's nothing like watching a film from your childhood to realise how little grip on language you had back then. I think as a kid I just got the gist of films, missing a lot of the clever writing and subtle exist and racist slurs the folk at Disney were making back then.
I totally forgot that Ariel exchanges her voice for her human body and Ursula sings a song about basically men not being interested in women speaking anyway! Yeah so Ariel isn't exactly the best role model when it comes to Disney princesses and i can't help but wonder what effect that had on me...
Oh and I also remembered how much Ursula scared me! She's a baddie alright.
Anyway, it was a beautiful way to spend a rainy afternoon.
In fact, this is definitely one i can recommend to you, dear reader. Why not go back to your childhood this weekend and watch a favourite film?
Do you have a favourite Disney film? Or maybe it was love action, with puppets like Labyrinth from Jim Henson? Let me know! Let's geek out on 80s and 90s kids films.
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Leslie McDaniel, a certified professional coach who helps INFJ women bring their vision to life.
She believes that few things are more powerful than someone at ease with her strengths, gifts, and quirks as she confidently lives out her purpose. With a unique combination of creative skills and experience, Leslie brings a multi-perspective approach to helping others with the accountability and support they need to move forward. Her knowledge as an MBTI®-certified practitioner helps INFJ women understand their personality, celebrate their strengths, and claim their potential. Leslie serves other INFJ women through individual coaching and her weekly email, The INFJ Life.
Edinburgh by coach from Brighton. A 4am start and a 15 hour journey, door to door. Ok let me explain my choice for transportation for this city break.
I could have got a train (half the time) or flown (a 10th of the time) but no, I chose the coach. A choice that most people don't make, if they can afford a bit of extra cash. And while I'm not exactly rolling in it, I probably could have splashed out a bit more than the mere £30 return the coach costs (which is a ludicrous bargain my mind is still boggling over.)
No, my reasoning was: I actually wanted to go on a coach trip.
I see these National Express coaches coasting up the - er - coast on a daily basis, and they always look so big and exotic... and convenient: no hauling myself through airport security, or switching trains in London. The coach stop is less than 10 mins walk from my house, and leaves you in the heart of Edinburgh... just, 15 hours later.
So, much to all my friend's dismay, I opted for my coach journey.
The early start - yes, 4am - wasn't too hard for me. It was only an hour or so earlier than usual - yes, I'm that person - plus I like early starts if I'm going on holiday. It reminds me of the one big family holiday we went on. I was 6, we drove to Italy (ahh now I understand why I'm a sucker for a long uncomfortable journey) and we had to wake up at 3am I think. I ate my rice krispies too fast and puked in the car.
OK so, coach!
It was 2 hours to London Victoria, on a very quiet, fairly comfy, air conditioned coach. Then there was an hour wait at the Victoria coach station, which is a bit of a hell hole, but I was happy enough with my oat milk cappuccino (word to the wise, there's a Pret a Manger, Cafe Nerro - my choice - and a Starbucks at the coach station. But I'd definitely recommend bringing your own food - the one food shop there is ludicrously overpriced and understocked.)
Then at 8am, I was on the coach. Yes, time went slowly. I alternated between writing my book, listening to podcasts, reading The Untethered Soul and staring out the window. I really do get my best ideas when I'm on transport.
Somehow, I survived. There was a stop in Leeds, which was a bit depressing - like I said, coach stations just aren't glam places to hang out - and I had a little Chinese boy next to me for the rest of the journey. He entertained me, patting his brother on the shoulder to get him to turn around, then giving him the finger. Smart kid.
I got a taxi to my Airbnb, because, rain. Ahh rain - this was another reason I was determined to come to Scotland this summer. I really wanted a break from the heat down south - and I got it! Very satisfying, knowing it was 10 degrees cooler where I was - a much more temperate climate for gingers, I believe.
Ok so my Airbnb was lovely, one of the sweetest hosts I've ever met, though that night I basically zonked out shortly after arriving because coach travel - somehow - is tiring.
I’m going to come out with a possibly controversial statement…
Worrying helps our creativity.
Ok... think about it like this: most breakthroughs, whether they were in technology or art or anything else for that matter, came about because we were worried. We were worried we’d starve, worried that the other tribe would conquer us, worried that the Gods would be angered by our actions and so on. The main difference between overthinkers and the rest of the population – is imagination.
Now imagination doesn’t lead directly to creative flourishing. For us to make use of this gift, we need to combine our imaginative inspiration with action.
And here’s where it gets tricky.
Taking action, especially when we’re worried and all we have is ourselves and a blank canvas or blank page in front of us is… bloody hard.
Our worries can be a blessing and a curse.
Unless… we tackle them head on, removing the resistance and allowing us to crack on with our creative work.
I really did hope I’d stop moaning about the heatwave long before recording this podcast. I now can’t remember a time when I wasn’t uncomfortably warm.
And I resent the fact that I’m now doing the stereotypical Brit thing of talking about the weather, but there IS a reason for it: because, it was the prompt that encouraged me to push this bucketlist Year of Fun activity right up to the past week.
Originally, this was on my list of things to do in this YOF, but I wasn’t expecting to hit the sea until later in the year, when our dear channel gets acceptably warm, having had the summer to heat up.
This week reached all new highs in sweaty bettyness, and on Thursday afternoon, I finally caved and dug my swimsuit out from the depths of a chest of drawers.
Over the top went some easy to remove clothing, and a pair of slip on trainers for dealing with the stoney beach. I’ve learned that flip flops are NO GOOD when it comes to stones, the blight of the Brighton coast.
I left my phone, headphones, everything I’m normally comfortably distracted by at home, and padded down to the sea (all of 5 mins from my door) with keys wedged in swimsuit and towel on arm.
Even this part felt uncomfortable for me. For so many reasons I imagine, even though rationally I realise this is not something that’s meant to fill someone will anxiety.
For one, I felt semi naked without my backpack and phone and all that. I just didn’t want to bring anything that could be swiped on the shore while I went solo into the sea. I also felt weird doing something I haven’t done in like… 5 years? And even then, that was on holiday - not on a weekday afternoon.
But rational Cat told me to quit whining, it’s a holiday for someone somewhere, you’ve finished your work for the day according to your Asana calendar, and you live 5 minutes away from a sea you haven’t stepped foot in for the 2 years you’ve lived in Brighton.
Oh I should tell you the other reason I was probably quite anxious: I can’t really swim. OK I could swim if my life depended on it - I hope - but I’ve never been a strong swimmer and certainly don’t like being out of my depth.
I have ambitions to get over this story I’m telling myself that I have very dense bones that sink like lead, and that it’s genetic (my entire family are aquatically-challenged) and I guess this is the first step I’ve made in a long time to getting myself a new story.
So I made it. I awkwardly hobbled into the sea, across the cursed pebbles, hat and sunglasses still on because there was no way my face was going anywhere near the surface.
And it was really fucking cold! I had heard it was heating up unusually early this year thanks to the heatwave, but this was like ice water in my opinion.
And I won’t lie: it was… OK. I happily discovered the stones gave way to sand once I was in beyond my waist, and the surreal quality of staring out and seeing nothing but sea and sky around you, bar some annoying kids who were having no problem swimming - well, it was quite fun.
I stayed there, moving my arms around like a weird fitness video from the 80s, until I got bored enough and headed back to land, emerging from the sea like a cross between Ariel in the Little Mermaid, and swamp thing.
After drying off, I headed back to my laptop, enjoying the buzz my nervous system got, and felt slightly less hot and bothered, and a gratifying sense of accomplishment for finally tackling my sea anxiety.
I think if I keep this habit up I’ll find it more fun than fearful, we’ll see.
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Danny Gregory, co-founder of Sketchbook Skool and author of nearly a dozen internationally best-selling books on art and creativity.
I personally came across Danny from his podcast Shut Your Monkey, in which he interviewed fascinating artists, psychologists, authors, all kinds of folk who gave me the inspiration to push on with my creative work.
I'm be giving away a copy of my favourite book from Danny, The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are to one lucky listener.
Here's what you can do to enter to win:
I’m back to the somewhat New Agey Year of Fun experiences this week, this time with a Sound Bath.
OK for those of you unfamiliar with this sound-bathing thing, like I was until very recently, I’m going to read what’s on the website of the place I visited, The Tree of Life, Hove.
"Lay back and relax as the beautiful sounds and tones of Gongs, Himalayan Singing Bowls, Crystal Singing Bowls, rainsticks and other therapeutic percussion instruments wash over you whilst you rest on a comfortable yoga mat with cushions and blankets. Therapuetic Sound Baths are proven to relax on a deeper level than other relaxation methods.
Bringing calm to the body and mind, and helping brainwaves lower to levels that are similar to meditation or those experienced just before you fall asleep. The sound can induce a state of deep relaxation and allow you to rest there with the effect that cortisone (i.e. the stress hormone) reduces, blood pressure and heart rates are lowered, potassium & sodium levels in the body are rebalanced and cellular regeneration can take place which, in turn, helps our autonomic nervous system to restore.
After the session, you are invited to share your experience with the group if you wish.”
Sounds pretty harmless right? It’s actually got some science to back it up, too.
The theory goes: brain signals are transmitted through frequencies, kind of like music through a radio. Studies show that these signals, or “brain waves,” correlate to particular states of consciousness such as focus, relaxation, meditation, and sleep. Generally speaking, slower brain waves are associated with more relaxed meditative states, while faster ones correlate to alert and active states.
Scientists are now discovering that brain waves can be modified by externally produced sound frequencies through a process called entrainment—when the frequency of one object synchronizes with the frequency of another. This means sound can be used to tune brainwaves to specific frequencies and achieve desired states of mind.
This likely doesn’t come as a massive surprise, given that you’ve probably had the experience of listening to music and feeling calmer or listening to another piece and feeling pumped up and ready to dance, run or my favourite: mosh.
As for serious psychic healing or anything that mentions clearing space or raising energy or anything else that sounds vaguely woo, while I’m open to it, I’m not making any claims about that here.
But for an hour on a Sunday morning to lay down in a nice-smelling room with several other people and listen to some calming gongs, I thought it was worth a punt.
So I get to the Tree of Life Centre, somewhere I’d passed many times but had yet to venture into, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was nicer than I thought, cosier, less clinical, woo without the need to overdo it.
The lady at reception was lovely and welcoming,also turned out to be the Sound Bather - Ruth. I’d say she was responsible for 80% of my comfort - I really loved her balance of gentleness without any of that hippy guru, holier than thou bullshit. She explained a little about what to expect, and didn’t force any esoteric ideas onto us, just hinted at them, which was perfect.
Everyone was already lying down on their yoga mats when I entered, which was nice because I didn’t have to make eye contact with anyone, always a plus.
We were given a pillow, blanket and bolster so I was very comfy. And we were given a headsup: if any of us start to snore, then give permission to be woken up. The woman next to me said ‘Just wack me’ which instantly made me warm to her.
I said ‘me too’ but really I knew it was highly unlikely I’d be so mellow I’d fall asleep - and actually I doubted whether anyone could.
So the sound bath began. Ruth started with singing bowls, I think, and made her way to the gongs, which were… unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Truly.
After about half an hour, I realised I couldn’t feel my body. In a good way - I was so chilled I couldn’t imagine moving. Which wasn’t ideal, because the nice lady next to me DID fall asleep and DID start to snore. Quite loudly!
So the battle in my head began over whether or not to wake her, at least for the sake of the rest of the group, or to let her be, given that waking a stranger seems harsh unless you think they’ll miss their stop on the bus or train.
I gave her a 3 snore rule, so whenever she made 3 loud snores in a row, I’d gently tap her. Which required me to stir from my glorious stupor, but I learned a lesson: don’t take the place next to snorey mcGee again, no matter how nice she seems.
One more thing to report: visions. Yes, actual scenes happening in front of my closed eyes. OK - it wasn’t ayahuasca-like visions, these were just games our eyes play on us when we’re very relaxed and have nothing else to look at. You might have seen similar when you’re drifting off to sleep.
They’re basically geometric patterns, as well as a strange tunnel-like phenomenon that, depending on what you read, is either a result of awakening the third eye OR a well-known result of phosphenes, an effect that occurs through activation of retinal ganglion cells in a very similar way to how they activate as a response to light. Can also happen when you’ve had a blow to the head, have low blood pressure, stand up too fast or rub your eyes really hard.
But yeah, you could say it’s your third eye chakra opening too.
The bath ended with a rainmaker and rattle, which was less pleasant than the gongs, but I got used to them. It was a nice way to bring us back to the room, and reality I guess.
At the end, Ruth asked if we’d like to talk about our experience, and after a few silent beats (something I cannot STAND) I had to raise my hand. I mumbled something like ‘it was my first time and I’m really surprised by how great it was!’
Not so useful I’m sure, but it was something.
After that we made our way to our feet, slowly, and headed out.
This was the perfect balance of group activity, without any necessary interaction, and it left me in such a good mood all day long.
Part of my fascination with the term ‘introvert' as I define it is how it describes how I understand where we, as introverts, get our energy from.
Now I’m far, far from scientific when it comes to these energy matters. And that’s OK: any scientist who’s worth his salt will admit he or she still doesn’t know all there is to know about matters like energy.
As a general rule of thumb, an introvert gets their energy from spending time alone. Solo activities, low stimulation, with plenty of time for some introspection.
An extrovert on the other hand will get their energy from spending time in the company of others, sharing ideas and absorbing a stimulating environment with lots of excitement.
The unfortunate part about this simple definition is… it leaves very little room for the grey area: the spectrum of introversion—extroversion that we all fall on.
You’ve heard it before, let’s hear it again: “There is no such thing as a pure extrovert or pure introvert. Such aman would be in a lunatic asylum.”
Thank you Dr Jung, that’s quite a relief.
So why does it matter where you fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum? If you’re 51% introvert, you’re an introvert!
Not so fast.
This is one that might strike some of you as a bit… odd. I mean, your idea of Fun might be very far from planning the logistics of a holiday and actually indulging in the research involved in making the most out of a short break.
Truth be told, I was at a bit of a loss of what to report on this week, as it’s been… rather uneventful. I mentioned my energy slump last week in the Museletter, that all of July and a little of June - which I had, mostly, attributed to the heatwave here in the UK. It was strange: I knew it wasn’t a depression, I’ve experienced much darker times before; this was just a mild resistance to doing. Which for me, someone with a tendency to be a bit of a workhorse and actually derive joy from that, now that I love what I do, came as a bit of an upset.
I kind of didn’t know what to do with myself, that’s the best way to describe it. But on Monday this week, I finally broke through my fog of apathy, and got my mojo back. I was motivated to work again, I felt like I was making some progress on my book, I rearranged my room and I found my energy last long into the evening, no temptation to vegetate in front of youtube.
Ok so that said, I’ve actually just been a bit of a workhorse this week. And even though that has been fun for me, I doubt it’s going to make for much of a YOF podcast I’m afraid.
Which brings me onto planning a holiday. I have to admit facts: I just love this part of travelling. Sure, getting to see and experience a new place is the best, but I often wonder how much of the fun is simply in planning and anticipating it, for me.
So, for today’s YOF I'm indulging myself in my love of planning , and I invite you a long for the ride. May be it will be of some use to you if you get stuck in planning holidays especially if you’d like to take a solo trip and have some concerns about that, and I can indulge the rest of my fellow trip planning geeks who might just get a kick out of hearing someone else’s approach.
I selected a rather lovely, quirky cafe/antiques shop out in Portslade. It’s quiet, friendly and has lots of interesting things for me to look at - it kind of makes me feel like I’m already away.
I actually booked my transport a while ago, but for me this usually looks like opening up an incognito tab on Chrome (or private browsing mode in whatever browser you use) so that cookies are’t stored and airlines can’t advertise flights to you for the next 6 months. This may be added paranoia, so feel free to ignore that step.
I like using Google flights these days, but Skyscanner or Kayak also do great jobs of scowering the internet for cheapest flights. I like to view flights for a whole month or for a big a time period as possible, so I can nab the cheapest deal, but a lot of this is dependent on your schedule. I find that travelling in the week is cheaper, but it’s also the quietest time to see most places and for a city break, you might consider that if you want a slightly quieter trip.
I’m a big proponent of Airbnb, I’ve never had a bad experience personally, and I’ve been to over a dozen places using their service. For my trip, which is 3 nights in Edinburgh, a new city to me, I had to allow for a slightly higher price than normal because I’m going during the Edinburgh Festival - yeah, the festival.
I was super surprised to find places that looked pretty decent for under £40 a night, which is kind of insane considering the price of hotels at this busy period. Anyway, I read my reviews (that’s my number one tip for Airbnb - make sure you pick places with lots of 5 star reviews, and read a good number of them to get an idea of what to expect) and booked away.
If you have any qs about booking with Airbnb as a solo traveller, feel free to shoot me an email. I’ve also got a promo code for you in the show notes, should you want to save some cash with your booking.
This is my favourite part: deciding what I want to pack into my visit.
Because this is during the Festival, I know I’ll have lots to see that I wouldn’t at another time, but some of the things I consider when picking my tourist activities are:
This is one of my favourite parts of travel, and something I have to indulge in.a bit when I’m away. I think it’s one of the best ways of getting to know a place: through it’s cuisine. I like to try and pick at least one classic traditional place, so for Edinburgh… you know there’ll be some haggis involved.
And I like to pick a few spots which are quite casual: somewhere I can go and not feel too weird that I’m on my own. Dining alone can be a big fear for some people, and while I don’t mind it, I’m not exactly going to book a table for one in a fancy French restaurant only to be surrounded by couples. Or worse, a family restaurant surrounded by screaming brats.
TripAdvisor is usually where I go for ideas on restaurants, but I don’t recommend this for London because I’ve had a look and the top 20 or so are not where I’d recommend people go. I think some cities have learnt to game the system, paying for reviews etc, and London is clearly one of them.
Ok, both consumable so far but hear me out: finding great cafes is a serious speciality of mine, and I’m always blown away by the places I find abroad. Again, it’s lovely to get an understanding of the local culture, while chilling out and doing some reading about the place or just giving your feet a rest.
So I’ll be looking for some of the most hipster looking places, I won’t lie, and a good place to try to find these are actually blogs. So I tend to search google for things like ‘top coffee spots in Edinburgh’ or ‘best cafes in Lisbon’ or wherever you’re going. There’ll be a bunch of travel bloggers who have compiled decent lists with photos and so on.
So one thing I love to do when I’m away, especially if it’s a city break, is to make sure I squeeze in some time in nature. I discovered this love in Japan, when I became mildly obsessed with finding the small but perfectly formed green spots in Tokyo, a city you might think is all concrete and glass. Actually, it has some incredible parks and gardens - some are huge too - and I had some of my best times just exploring in those.
So I’ll be looking for green places, botanical gardens, parks and so on.
4) Places of Worship
Oh how I love a good cathedral! This is likely some subconscious Catholic bias I have, which I haven’t shaken, but I’m open to all sorts of religious structures. I loved the temples in Japan, I loved the synagogue in Budapest, and I loved the strange mosque/cathedral hybrid of Cordoba.
I love to find some real silence in these places, and have a little moment when I’m not thinking about my next meal or where I can charge my phone.
OK, this is something you might wonder why an introvert is putting on their list, especially one who is chasing to travel alone, but I have learnt that tours - yes, group tours - really make a trip into a memorable experience.
I don’t exactly make friends for life on afternoon tours of a city, but I’ve had some great encounters. If you’re planning a longer trip to a more exotic place, then I really recommend a tour group, at least for part of it. I went to South Africa in a group tour, and Japan, and I can’t imagine enjoying the places as much without the people I met.
It’s also a great way to learn about a place. I find my mind doesn’t really take in info from guide books and travel blogs that well, but having a real live person in front of me who I can ask dumb questions to, is amazing.
Now, other than national treasures that you’ve already heard of or somewhere you’ve been recommended, I think leaving the rest of your schedule open to chance is the way to go.
You might note I personally don’t include museums or art galleries, and might think I’m off my rocker given that I’m a self-professed visual creative and lover of art and cultural type things… but… I can do that stuff AT HOME.
There are still places on my doorstep I haven’t explored as much as I’d like, but the idea of walking through a museum just to see a painting of a place in another part of the world, strikes me as a bit disrespectful to the place I’m in.
It may be a strange philosophy, but I feel like museums and galleries are for locals, who ought to expand their knowledge on where they’re currently living, and tourists ought to see the parts of the city that usually only the locals see.
Each to their own, that’s just my approach.
OK That’s a wrap, I’m all planned up now - and I will have an update on what I actually end up doing in Edinburgh in a few weeks time.
For now, take care and I’ll catch you next week!
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to someone I’ve actually met in REAL LIFE, which is always a treat, a fellow seaside dweller and creative introvert, Rachel Shorer.
Rachel writes and performs as a way to channel her tendency to overshare about her personal life and rant about stuff like feminism and culture. She’s about to go on a tour of women’s living rooms with her spoken word show 10 Mistakes Every Girls Makes in Her Twenties. She’s also working on a first novel, The PeaceWeaver’s Wordhoard, which I’m personally, very excited for.
I'll be honest: I was a bit reluctant to record today, partly because I'm simply not in the mood, and partly because I was feeling some guilt around the actual subject of today's Year of Fun.
I think I've gotten into the habit, particularly in recent YOF episodes, to pick things i think will be in some way beneficial to my personal growth - they might be a bit challenging, or require me to fly to Peru, you know: run-of-the-mill personal growth stuff.
But today I had to be honest and say: I have not done anything remotely growth related, I wasn't pushed outside my comfort zone, I wasn't made to purge lemongrass water... I just had a nice trip up to London with my friend.
And then, upon explaining my conundrum to someone else last night, I realised that actually: this is exactly what the Year of Fun is about, at least in part.
It's about me doing things for the sheer fun of them, it's about challenge too, but it's totally OK not to feel adrenaline every single week.
I went to a cat cafe. This is Lady Dinah's cat cafe, one of the first - if not the first - in London, somewhere I'd been meaning to go to since it opened.
I'll admit I have been to cat cafes before, one in Japan, one in Budapest. But I'd never had a full on afternoon tea in one.
Two of my most favourite things: cats and cake!
So the place itself is in East London, fairly easy to get to. We waited for a wee bit before being led to our table - they're quite specific about timing so you have to book in advance.
The cafe is spread over two floors, and has a kind of Blue-Peter chic quality to it, which I think is trying to be like Alice in wonderland style but may be not quite nailing it.
There are meant to be 14 cats according to the website, but I don't think I saw more than 5 or 6, and mostly they were asleep. Which is what I expected, having been to similar cafes before and wondering if they had drugged the cats slightly to make them more docile.
But we know cats like a good sleep.
The afternoon tea arrived quickly, a bloody good spread. We had a tier of little rolls with tuna and egg salad, then the scones which were perfect and warm, and then a tier of cakes and macarons.
The cakes were so-so but the scones were perfect, and that's what counts.
The service was great, you get free refills on any drinks you want so I feel like you just about get your money's worth.
And that was that. I snapped a couple of pics of some sleepy kitties on our way out, and we headed across the street to the pub. A very fun afternoon, and a reminder that it's OK to do something fun, just because.
Full show notes here: https://wp.me/p5bc9S-2p8
You might have heard/read the adage ‘What gets measured gets managed.’
It’s the idea that we can’t change or improve something unless we’re keeping track of it.
The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did before, and you'll improve the those areas - almost miraculously, without any extra effort.
And it doesn’t mean only things with numbers can be measured: there are ways of turning more qualitative, subjective aspects of life into a measurable format.
This approach to personal development or creative business progress isn’t going to appeal to every introvert, I know. For ISTJs and ISTJs this approach might come naturally - but for other types like INFPs there might be some resistance to this more left-brain tracking habit.
But bare with me! This tracking business is seriously powerful - and it can be fun, if you decide to make it so.
I know I know! ANOTHER workshop. With a spiritual ilk. Is this the Year of Fun, or am I just having an existential crisis?
Hopefully I justified my reasoning for these group-based activities a bit more last week, but if not: I'll elaborate.
When you work from home, when you revel in your alone time, and actually get a lot of that solo time... it's very, very easy to get stuck in the trap of introvert isolation.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, introverts need people too! And I don't just mean coffee dates with your closest friends or collaborators, which I do get plenty of.
I mean being in a group of people, small enough to hear everyone's name, but big enough to not remember them all, this kind of group exposure is really beneficial to all of us - not just the most gregarious extroverts.
May be it's because I was raised a church-going Catholic and regardless of my beliefs (or lack thereof) now, I still have something in me that craves elaborate ceremony and ritual in a communal space... but I actually think it goes deeper than that, and more universal.
Our ancestors did not operate alone. They lived in communities. They worked together, ate together, slept together. In a community, we feel safe. If we found ourselves alone - particularly for an extended period - we were likely in danger. We might have done something wrong and our tribe abandoned us - now, we're at the mercy of nature and sabre-tooth tigers.
It seems plausible to me that we still retain some of that primal fear and discomfort, regardless of whether you're an introvert or not. And yes, I think my tolerance for alone time is WAY higher than my extrovert counterparts, but it isn't limitless.
These experiments I've been having with groups have shown me a lot - not just about whatever subject we're focussing on - but about myself, and how I perceive others and how I judge myself in relation to others.
So even after one of these gatherings, I get a LOT to reflect on.
This particular gathering I found by searching the local events for group meditation. As you might know, i've been on the mindfulness bandwagon for several years now, but am the first to sa: I'm CRAP at it.
Like, really. And I know I know, you can't be crap at meditation, we're all learning, it's a process blah blah blah.
But I really, really suck.
OK, that said, I know it's value. I know what I'm like when I go without it for a few days, and I dread to think what I'd be like if I didn't at least attempt to practise.
This particular event checked all my introvert-Goldilocks boxes.
Sweet. I also invited a friend along for extra accountability and bail-proofness.
I didn't know much about the style of meditation, I knew it would be Buddhist but that was as far as I could tell. And that the word 'embodiment' was used, which is a word I've heard and sounds like something I could use to combat my very dominant head.
It was held at Anahata Health Clinic, a big yellow building in Brighton, and I was pleased to see a big open door. I often struggle to find entrances to places, so that put me at ease.
I walked into a room where a few people were kind of pottering around, making tea, rolling out mats and placing oddly shaped cushions and foam blocks around at random, and while everyone seemed equally friendly and non-plussed about my entrance, no one was clearly the lead teacher or facilitator, nor were they clearly attendees.
Needless to say, I felt a bit lost as I carefully placed my lunch contribution. It's a nice feature of some other Buddhist events I've been to: a shared lunch after practise.
I brought lentil chips, hummus and olives, because that was all I found in a nearby health shop that seemed appropriate.
At some point the very lovely Sheila entered, welcoming me warmly and showing me around the... small room. I instantly warmed to her and she only continued to go higher in my estimations throughout the morning.
Once we were sat around, myself and my accomplice chose to plonk down on those nice, firm meditation cushions, while others did the same or sat on chairs or lay on the floor.
This in itself I LOVED. There was a lot of encouragement from Sheila to DO WHAT YOU WANT. That there is no one right way and wrong way, and that particularly with the exercises we'd be doing, it's mostly about getting yourself comfortable.
I think this in itself is a great little lesson about paying ATTENTION to what YOU need. The rebel in me gets rubbed up the wrong way when I'm told to sit up straight and not move a millimetre, but at the same time the good-girl, type-A perfectionist strives to do what teacher says to show that I can.
It's a push pull that's caused me a great deal of stress in my life, and one I'm quite ready to drop in favour of MY needs.
OK so the exercises. I won't bore you with the details, but I'll link to some of the resources Sheila mentioned in the show notes. The aim with these were to get a sense of embodiment, and I take that to mean, getting more in touch with and aware of our physical bodies. As I've mentioned before, I have a real hard time with that, as someone whose mind is constantly whirring and who often forgets she has a body, let alone is able to use it.
We did one practise that involved alternate nostril breathing, which normally annoys me, but I for some reason found it really helpful with Sheila's instruction. I also liked her secular approach: whilst she acknowledged the idea of channels running down our back, which sound a lot like the Chinese meridian lines, there was no forcing this - it seemed like she was using it as a way to just get us to use our imagination to be a bit more aware of our bodies.
That was exactly what I needed. We ended with a visualisation I chose to lie down for, which involved us sinking into the ground, which I suppose if you have a fear of being buried alive might have been unpleasant, but I quite liked it and felt very chilled and content by the end.
The class FLEW by. I also loved the fact that Sheila acknowledged she forgot to get us to introduce ourselves (which is something I despise anyway) but did this at the end instead - which, actually works a lot better because after a couple of hours of meditation together, you feel a whole lot more comfortable with your group.
Then we had lunch together, I chatted to my friend and a couple of the other lovely attendees, and we said our goodbyes.
This was a really nice way to get my community fix - and to get a really good meditation practise that I would simply never make time for at home.
Dana helps driven entrepreneurs make more meaningful use of time by offering simple, easy-to-implement productivity hacks. At Branding Outside the Box, Dana draws from her experience helping hundreds authors launch their unique brands.
Another group activity today, this time: a Yin yoga workshop.
Why all the group activities, you might be wondering? After all, isn't this an INTROVERT'S Year of Fun?
It's true, as an introvert I do value my alone time. Oh boy do I value it. And if I don't get enough of it, yes, I become a grumpy, tired and all around unpleasant person to be around. Which works out because then I can have my alone time again.
But one thing I have become aware of in this Year of Fun (also, can you believe we're nearly half way through?) is that I ALSO get a lot from group activities.
That is, I get a lot from certain group activities. In fact my range of pleasure from group activities is incredibly limited, but it's also incredibly intense.
Like a laser beam of fun, rather than a ceiling light.
One thing that made me realise that I ought to give more group settings a try is being in ceremony back in Peru. I LOVED that intimate group setting.
Just being in a circle in a dark room that smelled nice probably did a lot for me.
However, you're also probably aware by now of some of the groups that haven't been to my liking, notably the intense and arguably unfriendly Charleston gang, as well as the happy clappy hippies of the holotropic breathwork. Not for me.
So this week I decided a yoga workshop, a yin one at that, would be more to my taste.
For one, it was an activity I was already familiar with.
For two, it was going to be in a small group, I had guessed less than 10.
Plus it checked off my classic introvert-friendly time limit of 2 hours. Perfect.
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Caroline Van Kimmenade of the Happy Sensitive.
I’ve talked a little bit about being a hsp or a highly sensitive person on the podcast before, and you might be familiar with the term yourself. You might even consider yourself to be one - while not all introverts are HSPs, there is a good majority, something estimated around 70% of all introverts.
And you might have read the classic book by Elaine Aron, who I believe introduced the world to the term, or at least popularised it. But my go-to girl for practical advice and reassuring words is Caroline Van Kimmenade, also known as the Happy Sensitive.