How the Environment Influences an Introvert’s Creativity

As a child I had the blessing to have a room of my own and an understanding mom who by most part, left me alone to draw, daydream or nap. Often she would engage in cooking delicious meals and baking, leaving the house filled with the sounds of her activities. Once I withdrew into my room with the door closed, the silence was heavenly. It remained this way until adulthood. And then I got married, and moved in with his family.

I would not say that both homes are exact opposites of each other – very different perhaps. For one thing the television seems perpetually on and at a rather high decibel (at least to an introvert’s ears) and so are their talking voices. The home is smaller than my childhood’s and so even with the door closed I can hear the tv and conversations taking place outside within close proximity. And of course, the hubby who likes to blast open the room door every so often to “flit-about” and then go out again.

I must admit, I would like very much to blame my lack of writing output to my surroundings. The effect had been insidious and so gradual that as my mind went blank, so did my desires, urges, promptings and habit to journal. I wondered why and attributed it to perhaps change in interests. But today I got a full day back in my parents’ home and finally was able to get this out. So here’s a list of how-to-kill-an-introvert’s-creativity-fast (or the opposite of which is how the environment nurtures an introvert’s creativity); from personal experience of course:

Noise and Interruptions- 

This is the number one anathema for introverts trying to churn out creative works. Although some might enjoy working from a public cafe amidst some white noise, I am talking about the noise that grates your senses and makes your back prickle. It includes the obvious ones such as drilling, dogs barking, mahjong, and noisy next door neighbours. They are also frequently the ones that are out of our control. I would also like to highlight the less obvious yet devious ones such as poor sound proofing. You hear them at low levels – the sound of the television playing outside the room and the conversations, the sound of footsteps from the upstairs neighbour, some complaining going on outside that is maybe related to you. Or if you are sharing the living premises with roommates, then perhaps they might do their chores outside your room door.

On the surface it does seem very little – something you can choose to ignore since it doesn’t seem to disrupt much. The thing is, introverts have too much going on in their heads to accept any kind of noise and interruptions. As soon as they are conscious of something else outside of their head (ie. a human presence, negative energy), the flow of thoughts stop. Period. Yet, your body might have been maintaining a kind of peaceful energy prior that keeps you from realising the extent of the interruption. But when you try to pick up your thoughts it somehow feels disjointed. Some of my long posts have been created in one sitting, and once in a while when I happen to read them, the insights seemed like it came from another frame of mind.

Bright Light – 

It falls together with noise under the category of stimulation. I suggest a dim room with a lit candle. Draw the curtains in the daytime and switch off the ceiling lights at night. I find candle light gives off a comfortable amount of light that doesn’t vie with my computer monitor and calms the space. A dark room reduces the amount of distraction, especially if your room isn’t at all spanking neat. You might want to choose a study table light too; a light to shine focus on your task at hand.

Breaking Time into Short Periods – 

Ideally the best would be long periods of solitude. I am frequently transversing between two homes, and in between there are chores. The anxiety of breaking away from writing in order to meet a specific time can really cut creativity. It takes a disciplined mind and well-scheduled habits over time to avoid having this drag you down. And I am far from it.

Waking Up to an Alarm Clock – 

I guess this is a luxury that most people don’t have. If the body were allowed to wake up naturally from sleep, it has a higher chance of dream recall. Dreams make good fodder for journalling – and ideas.

Sitting Anywhere to Write – 

When you think of a freelance writer, you’d probably imagine this idyllic scene – the writer gets a burst of inspiration, and reaches out for her notebook that is always close by. She opens her Macbook and sits down by the steps of an art museum and starts typing away.

In reality I think this only works for short bursts of writing, and then what probably follows in a couple of hours is an achy back. In this case, think ergonomics, like a comfortable office chair. Don’t let the feeling of soreness distract you. Believe me, soon the feeling can override whatever ideas you have in your head.

I have placed a stronger emphasis on the home environment since all my writing is done there. The suggestions are mainly for introverts like me who are highly influenced by external stimuli. Some might also say that where there’s a will, there’s a way. But why make the elusive writing process harder for yourself? Perhaps making a few changes will help getting into the flow again. I hope for those whose brain suddenly went dry and are clueless right would find it helpful.

May your writing flow always.

A Drop-in for 2017

It’s been quite a while since the previous post. The idle soul hasn’t been that idle recently, what with mood swings and such, finding employment in less stellar economic times and preparing for a change of residence. I thought of my blog every now and then, and thought it had been a long while since I dropped in to write.

Towards the end of the year (2016), it always starts with the onset of winter days, the cool air that smells of ages past that drifts into your window, that reminds of lost days. And then Christmas comes, when the world seems to rush into a buying frenzy, while you’re at a standstill, not knowing what to do. Present exchanges among colleagues, while you’re unemployed. Large group meet-ups, while you feel like you drift alone. Then comes Chinese New Year, and you find that the year had already passed you by.

I have always been a seeker, trying to find what makes me tick so that I can capture the “ideal” job. I have read topics such as Astrology, Numerology, Enneagram, Myers-Briggs, Destiny Cards, Mayan Astrology, Psychic Readings, Handwriting Analysis, Face Reading, Bazi Profiling etc; just so that I can compile a list of my strengths and work it out from there. But I think I overestimate the endurance of human memories. No matter how much information I compile and think that I know about myself, each time I jump into a topic, the older ones get left behind. I also underestimate the wisdom contained in these studies – they have been giving me similar messages but I choose to ignore them. You hope that you can find a place in society, working productively in a day job but realise you are not meant to be a “fitter” in any way. Too restless with routine, too blind with details, too emotional and non-logical, too sensitive with dynamic environments.

When you stop finding excuses for your failures, that is all there is – an underlying sense of greyness, bleakness following behind your footsteps. I had been engrossed with the Myers-Briggs a second time recently. This time reading about my functional stacks in addition with my INFP profile, and the ideal careers that can go with it. Same-old, same-old. I probably need to work with who I already am and the characteristics that I keep denying aren’t me.

On a side note, I thought about going to Lynda Woolf for a reading again. (Bad habit of mine to turn to readers when I feel lost in my life) And when I googled her name, I suddenly saw my blog entry “My Experience with Psychic Readings” pop up in the first page and had a shock, since Google sorts its results by an algorithm that includes variables such relevance, quality content and page views. Now I am pretty amused by the stats, as to date that article alone has 24 page views and with no updates, has generated an average of 1 view every few days from search engines.

Chinese New Year is around the corner, therefore I will take the chance to wish all my readers a happy holiday.

Refuse Verbal Abuse

Today I was on the escalator up the train station and accidentally blocked someone who was going up with me. I had moved out of the way but then as he tried to maneuver himself out of the way he stepped into my path again. In the morning rush, it pissed him off and expressed it simply in my face, “F***.” I tried Steve Pavlina’s advice in his article, “Dealing with Difficult People” and pictured the “F***” as a present which I then refused to take with me. Strangely for the first time, it worked to reduce the effect on my mood for the rest of the day. Most of the time, such events upset me greatly and leave my thoughts replaying over and over again. If you have time, try a quick read.

Sunsets

Who wouldn’t be moved by a beautiful sunset? Apparently there are many, like my extroverted husband for example. His manner of appreciating sunsets is somewhat different. He might look at it for a while, maybe even take a photo on his iPhone, then return to whatever he was doing before. Seldom does he linger over it like I do, watching the nuances of sunlight change the colour scapes. Neither does it cause waves of emotion in him as it does for me.

I think beauty touches introverts to the core because we take time to feel it fully and process it. To me, sunsets contain the magic of each day – the painter God at play.

Sky

Why I Chose iPhone

Recently I had a chance to change my phone. With glee, I browsed the models in the store after my prior decision to switch away from iPhone. In the end, the model I chose? An iPhone.

Seemingly playing around with the current phone models won’t necessarily make for a good review, but a few details eventually led me back to the iPhone. So you might ask why I wanted to veer off from iPhone from the first place. iPhone was really the vision of Steve Jobs. Without having his vision, it seemed to me that further generations of this phone might just be superficial. Yet, other phones have not caught up yet with the iPhone it seems. Here are the reasons, and I admit mine were rather the mosquitoes than dragons.

  • Searching Online – If you wanted to Google for a single term such as “Introvert”, it is fine for all phones. What if you wanted to add on, “and Extrovert”? Most phones require you to re-enter the whole string of terms again.Only iPhone allowed me to stop the search and add on additional search words on top of the ones I already typed. I do searches all the time on my phone – reviews of items to buy, places to eat, movies to watch. It makes no sense for me to re-type everything if I am making 30 searches a day on my phone.
  • Intensity of Colours – I did consider a Samsung phone as the closest competitor and the brand to switch over. But staring at the screen display left me a bit queasy as the colour intensity was overwhelming overall, without leaving the eye some rest. I don’t think reducing the light controls of the display could solve it. There have been phones that blatantly copied the display of iPhone, but a quick search online showed they did not have the performance of the iPhone.

So yes, these are the 2 main reasons I chose an iPhone over the others.

Work in Small or Medium Companies

Having a satisfying job is still an ideal for me, but perhaps it was never meant to be a corporate job. I am still finding out, but here’s some experiences to share, having worked in both:

Small Companies –

Usually you are expected to multi-task. I made the mistake of joining one, hoping that as it grew, I could work with a narrower job scope with a larger volume. I loved working with Excel spreadsheets to produce sales reports, managing inventory levels and processing orders. I had also hoped to be able to meet colleagues who could guide me and then hone in on these skills. However, my full job scope really included customer service, packer, logistics for local and overseas import and exports, tea lady and all the above.

In reality, small companies seldom grow fast enough; not even if the CEO is Steve Jobs. Most like it would take another 10 years (maybe 5 years if it were Steve Jobs) and many, many uncomfortable changes in the meantime. I am talking about snap decisions and having to react quickly on day-to-day matters. Small companies also have small staff numbers. If you were really lucky, you might chance upon an experienced staff who could guide you along. So if you do want a stable job with a narrow focus, start straightaway with a larger company that has already built up the volume to sustain itself – and also some longtime staff.

Medium-sized Companies –

We are talking about 50 – 200 people here. They have a reasonable sized manpower, meaning you have a chance to work in a team to handle sufficient volume of work and a narrower scope. They are also in the midst of transitioning from a medium to a large sized company, hence you can expect many company level changes along the way, like system upgrades. These companies might be still keeping SOPs or procedures that worked for small companies but aren’t working well for them at their current size.

While the above might seem generalised as the size required really depends on the type of industry it is functioning in. These are issues you might want to consider before choosing the size of a company to work in.

How to Tell When You are about to Astral Travel

There was a period of time when I got very interested in astral travel and wanted to try it for myself once. I read all literature that I could obtain from the library and online, including classics by Robert Bruce.

The main thing about astral travel is to relax yourself until your body falls asleep but your mind remains awake. First of all you need to relax your body by breathing or meditation. Then you would need to bring your mind into a deeper state of relaxation. One of the techniques they taught was to imagine yourself walking down a staircase or sitting in an elevator. The details of the visualisation is not as important as the sensation of moving downwards.

Guess what, it was much, much harder than it seemed. I spent many nights, lying in bed from 10pm till the wee hours of 3am before I simply fell asleep. One issue was that my mind was simply too active to relax sufficiently. My consciousness would stay around the top of my head as my thoughts wandered. Focusing on relaxing myself only gave me insomnia. Another issue was that I was simply too tired on certain nights to remain awake for long.

But after many trials, I did eventually succeed once while fully conscious. I used one of the techniques described in the books, which was to pretend I was pulling myself up on an imaginary rope above me. And after that one time, I would once in a long while feel myself astral travel while waking up from a dream.

So what did I see that night? The experience only lasted a few seconds because I was simply too excited. On the other times, I am not sure if I was psychically too dense, most often I was in pitch black darkness. I can feel the sensations of flying around on those times, like a particle in a box moving very fast in Brownian motion. On times when I did “see” something, the scenery was suspiciously foreign, as if in a dream and there was nothing I could verify with upon waking up. I have yet to last more than a few seconds so far though.

So if you are trying to astral travel, how do you know if you are succeeding? If you could reach the deeper layers of consciousness, you are on the way. It is strange to describe, but it feels like a subtle click of a switch in the mind. One moment your consciousness is at the top of the head, next moment you seem to fall asleep and lose consciousness but feel a quick click and you are aware of yourself again. Only this time your body feels heavy, and there is an inertia to move. Your consciousness, instead of at the top of the head, feels like it has sunk towards the back of the head.

At some point, you might feel a slight vibration in your body. My method to test if my soul was ready to astral travel would be to try raising my arm first. If it takes much effort to swing it upwards, you are probably trying to move your physical arm. If it swings up and down easily without much effort, it is likely to be your astral body.

Alright, this is a weird post even for me. As with all things, do say a prayer of protection for yourself before you actually try to astral travel. I feel it is much harder to stay out of the body than to go back in, so I do not have any worries about not being able to go back. Ever since, I no longer feel the desire to explore astral. Nowadays if I feel myself vibrating, I simply go back to sleep or wake up instead. I would prefer to spend my energy cultivating my intuition or gut feel.