Saturday, November 15, 2014

creative gatherings: a guide for introverts {part two}

a common myth in our culture is that introverts do not like being with people.  introverts love (or dislike) other people the same as extraverts.  as we discussed in part one of the guide, being in large groups for prolonged periods of time is energy-depleting for introverts and we aren't naturally skilled at and don't enjoy small-talk or chitchat.   introverts feel the same human emotions of connection and belonging and have desires to be with people who share their passions, it just might be necessary for us to manage those situations a bit differently.

most creative retreats where artists, writers, seekers, poets, yogis, photographers want to gather are going to be brimming with introverts.   because an introvert's comfort zone is internal and reflective, we tend to fancy the arts, writing and other inner-focused or inner-sourced endeavors.  of course there are many creatives who prefer extraversion with whom we will be retreating or workshopping, but generally you can count on more introverts attending a creative retreat than, say, a noisy and crowded social event where the primary purpose is to mingle with mostly strangers.

but even though we can count on a large number of introverts being present with us at creative retreats, we still have to manage the social aspects of the gathering.  this starts way before we get there.  the good news is this requires a bit of research, something most introverts enjoy.

know your retreat
spend a good amount of time here to gather as much information as you can about retreat options so that you can make the best decision for you and your creative and introverted needs.  i recommend doing a lot of online research.  peruse the retreat website and participant blog posts about the retreat (usually there are links on the website).  how is the overall feel of the retreat described?  what kind of classes and activities are offered?  what are the images communicating to you?

email or call (who are we kidding?  email.) the retreat organizer to gather more information about the energy of the gathering.  how many participants will there be?  what do the social activities entail? what about the schedule, is there downtime/freetime space?  are there places and spaces and opportunities to seek solitude?

talk to friends or connections that have attended retreats.  i like to get an introvert's perspective and an extravert's perspective.

consider the type of retreat.  writing retreats (or gatherings where writing is a primary activity) are probably going to naturally support more introversion.

most retreats are going to have social and extraverted activities.  this is good!  it allows you the opportunity to flex your balance muscles and practice extraversion.

here is a list of retreats either i or a close friend have attended which create space for introverts and extraverts to gather harmoniously:

animyst gatherings
be present retreats
call of the wild soul retreats
creative joy and taos writer retreats
life is a verb camp (this one is on my radar for 2015)
lucky star art camp
squam art workshops

this list is in no way exclusive, there are many many retreat options out there.  research away!

think about your own privacy preferences when it comes to lodging
thoughtful organizers are going to ask for your preferences when it comes to arranging lodging. usually this looks like a question or questions on your registration form about your privacy/social preferences and whether you prefer a single room or to have a roommate.  i have experienced a variety of lodging arrangements at retreats: roommates, single rooms, and staying off-site.

don't automatically rule out the roommate situation.  i've been incredibly blessed with the luck-of-the draw when it comes to retreat roommates (hello sarah and mindy) and housemates and most have become lifelong friends.  you may have the option to request a specific person to be your roommate and the retreat organizer will manage the final arrangement, taking the other person's preferences into account.  you might also want to contact the organizer to talk about how they do their roommate matchmaking and how/if you can help them make a good decision for you.

it's a good idea to let your roommate know you are introverted and you both can come to an agreement about sharing space harmoniously.

a single private room in a house full of people is a good option.  i've chosen this option before and it provides for a good balance of social interaction with privacy.

recently i had the opportunity to attend a retreat while staying offsite.  i attended the regular workshops, meals and evening activities of the retreat, but then left the site to sleep in a private house (this might also be a hotel room). this option allowed introverted me to feel less chained to the site.  i tend to need more alone-time in the morning, so it also allowed me to delay socializing by having my coffee, thinking and morning meditation, then arriving on site shortly before workshops began.

the price i paid for this option was that i missed out on some of the (intoverted-preferred, more intimate) conversations and connections that tend to happen around the retreat site/house at night and in the early mornings. and i really did miss that.

consider how travel options might affect your introversion
the ideal travel situation for my introversion is to drive, by myself, to and from the retreat.  this solitary time gives me plenty of introverted downtime to store energy for the upcoming retreat and to restore energy after the retreat. another option is driving partway by myself and picking up a fellow retreat participant on the way.

flying is another common option for transportation  let's consider how flying generally affects introverts.  even though there are a lot of people in airports and on the plane, there is little social requirement to interact so introverts tend to be okay with flying.  however, you are always taking the chance of being seated (captured) next to someone who needs to talk to you throughout the flight.  when i don't want to talk, i put my earbuds in (before i enter the airport) even if they are not connected to my devise.  this gives most people the subtle cue that i am not open to conversation right now.  hint:  i do this while shopping as well.

if your anxiety increases with flying, consider that we tend to cling to our preferences (introversion or extraversion) under stressful situations.  remember, this is our comfort zone, so it's our automatic happy place.  if you are stressed or anxious for other reasons, your introversion may be exaggerated and interaction may seem more depleting than usual.  we become even more introverted and extraverts become even more extraverted.  carl jung called this phenomenon being "in the grip" of our personality; it happens with the other domains of our personality as well (the other myers-briggs letters).

get a job
where do you find introverts at a party?  in the kitchen.  introverts love to have a little job during social events.  kitchen jobs and other opportunities to help the host give us a break from the responsibility of group interaction.  there may be an opportunity for volunteering or even work-study at gatherings. ask your organizer.

make preparations for your return
before the retreat is the time to think about re-entry (that weird hard time between retreat life and real life).  once you've selected the prefect retreat for you, remember you are going to need time and space to recover energy after the retreat.  this is especially important for introverts.

part four of this guide will focus exclusively on re-entry.  but at this point, when we are choosing the retreat, we need to consider location and dates and our own schedule and real-life responsibilities and give ourselves some buffer time here.

part three will cover how we can care for ourselves during the creative gathering.  it will be up in a week or so.