Amy Schumer: I am an introvert

We creatives are often contemplative — inward looking. In the language of psychology: introverts.

Comedian Amy Schumer addresses what it means to be an introvert in her book The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo

Sure she blows air kisses to her fans for the first couple of chapters, to deliver the bawdy goods we expect from her.

(An open letter to her vagina; the tale of her only one-night stand.)(Yep, she’s only had one . . .)

Then she dives into what makes the book so compelling. Real issues, straight talked in her graphic style.

I’m cursing Schumer under my breath late at night . . . I’ve only had the book two nights and I’m losing valuable sleep because I can’t put it down.

Here are a few snippets from Amy Schumer on being an introvert: 

I am an introvert. I know— you’re thinking, What the fuck, Amy? You just told us you hooked up with a stranger in Tampa, and now you’re claiming to be shy? You’re not shy, you’re a loud, boozy animal!

Okay, fair enough. Sometimes that’s true. But I am, without a doubt, a classic textbook introvert. In case you don’t know what that word means, I will fill you in quickly. If you do know what it means, then skip ahead to the chapter about where to find the best gloryholes in Beijing.

Just kidding. I don’t have that info. Also, just fucking read my description of an introvert. Why are you in such a rush to skip ahead, you pervert?

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. It means you enjoy being alone. Not just enjoy it— you need it.

If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them— like the sun. They give you life, sure, but they can also burn you and you will get that wrinkly Long Island cleavage I’ve always been afraid of getting and that I know I now have.

For me, meditation and headphones on the subway have been my sunscreen, protecting me from the hell that is other people.

There’s a National Geographic photo I love of a young brown bear. He’s sitting peacefully against a tree near the border of Finland and Russia. The caption reads something like, “The cubs played feverishly all day, and then one of them left the group for a few minutes to relax on his own and enjoy the quiet.”

This was very meaningful to me because that’s what I do! Except in my case, the bear gets ripped away from his chill spot by the tree, and several people paint his face and curl his fur and put him in a dress so he can be pushed onstage to ride one of those tiny bicycles in the circus.

I’m not saying he doesn’t enjoy making people laugh, but still, it’s hard out there for a fuzzy little introvert.

. . . . .

Even as a child, I had always known something was up. I didn’t like to play for as long as the other kids, and I absolutely always bailed on slumber parties.

. . . . .

Sitting and writing and talking to no one is how I wish I could spend the better part of every day. In fact, it might be surprising for you to learn that most of my days are spent alone, unless I am on set, which is crazy draining for an introvert.

As soon as lunchtime arrives, I skip the food service tables and rush to my trailer or a quiet corner and I meditate.

I need to completely shut off. This time spent silently is like food to me. 

. . . . .

Once, [my boyfriend] Rick took me to his friend’s wedding. After about two hours of small talk and formalities, I went to hide in the bathroom. I had nothing left to give or say, and I felt the unbearable sensation that I was treading water.

It wasn’t until I became best friends with some fellow comics and performers that I realized being an introvert wasn’t a character flaw.

Even when we all go on vacations or on the road together, we take little breaks in our own rooms and then text each other to check in.

This quality is tricky when your job actually requires you to constantly travel and interact with new faces, new towns, and new audiences. You cross paths with lots of people in this line of work, and you feel shitty if you don’t give away some of your energy and conversation to every driver, hotel front-desk clerk, promoter, backstage crew member, member of the audience, waiter, and so on. And I do mean “give away.” Energy is finite between recharges. That shit runs out.

. . . . .

Now that I know I’m an introvert, I can better manage this quality and actually start to see it as a positive.. . .

It’s hard to be in the company of others for very long while being creative. . . . I feel lucky to have a huge group of people who let each other do their own thing . . .

. . . . .

Just because my job requires me to make fun of myself into a microphone and wear my heart on my sleeve for hire doesn’t mean I can’t be an introvert as well.

Believe it or not, I do have a complex inner life just like you, and I enjoy being alone. I need it. And I’ve never been happier than I was when I finally figured this out about myself.


On mindfulness and reverie: Mindlessness as a tool

We are everywhere exhorted to be mindful. It’s pervasive now, in the news, in every third blog post on every other site. In books on personal growth. You can’t speak spiritualese without an homage to awareness.

I too find value being attentive. The riches found in mindfulness are too great to enumerate here. Like anything else, though, it is a tool. Mindfulness is not the only tool. Mindlessness is also a tool, one of the greatest known to humankind.

Don’t be so mindful you exclude reverie from your life!

Reverie is where connections are made, fantasies are played out both darkful and lightful. Genius is incubated in reverie. Solutions are stitched together when you’ve abandoned your mind to play. Unseen pathways emerge . . . .

Creative incubation seems to almost exclusively occur when we are not being mindful. In my world synaptic sparks fly most when I am not focused, when I am not attentive.

It is when I am mindless that ideas mate and give birth to strange offspring. Some are useful, others are mere piffles. Some . . . some are electrifying.

Freeman Dyson helped unify quantum mechanics and electrodynamics while in his early twenties. After months of labor it was only during a vacation that the crucial insight hinging the two theories coalesced.

Here is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi — originator of the Flow concept — highlighting Dyson’s mental sabbatical as being a necessary factor for the great synthesis to occur. From Creativity:

It would be difficult to imagine a clearer example of the classical version of the creative process. It starts with Dyson, immersed in the field of physics . . . . 

Having found his problem  to reconcile the two leading theories in the domain  he goes through a six-month period of consciously directed, hard preparation. Then he spends two weeks relaxing, a period during which the ideas marshaled up during the past half year have a chance to incubate, to sort out and shake together. This is followed by the sudden insight that occurs unbidden during a night bus ride.  

Innovations and truly useful ideas seem to thrive best when our minds are tuned way low, tuned out even. Be mindful, yes, but for god’s sake don’t forget to be mindless too.

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Maya Angelou’s Epiphany

Confiscated from:
Epiphany: True Stories of Sudden Insight To Inspire, Encourage and Transform
By Elise Ballard

Maya Angelou during an interview with Elise Ballard:

The truth is everybody probably has 250 epiphanies. The way you’re changed at ten prepares you to be changed again at fifteen, but you couldn’t have been changed at fifteen had you not had that change at ten. You see what I mean? Epiphany builds upon epiphany.

When my son was born, I was seventeen. And I came home from the hospital and my mother put him in the bed with me. I was so afraid I’d roll over on this beautiful baby. But she said, “It’s all right. You’ll be all right.” I thought I might smother him or something. I was just scared.

Sometime in the middle of the night, my mother awakened me, and she said, “Don’t move. Just look.” And I had put my arm up and put my hand on the mattress, and put the blanket over my arm so that my baby was lying in a tent.

And my mom softly said to me, “See baby? When you mean right, you do right.”

A few years later, when I was maybe twenty-two or so, I was studying voice, and the voice teacher lived in my house and rented from me. He taught a number of accomplished actresses and singers, and they all studied in my house. So I knew them slightly. But they were all white, and they were accomplished, and many of them were forty years old and had been written about in the San Francisco newspaper, where I lived at the time.

Once a month, the voice teacher asked us to come together and read from a book called Lessons in Truth. We all would read a page, or a half a page, whatever he assigned. And at one point, I was reading and read the line, “God loves me.”

And he stopped me and said, “Read it again.”

So I read it again: “God loves me.”

He said, “Again.”

And suddenly I became embarrassed. I was young and black, and everybody else was white and accomplished. And I felt he was really embarrassing me. Putting me on the spot. So I read it with ferocity  forcefully: “GOD. LOVES. ME.”

And, at that moment, I knew it. I knew it!

I thought, “God? That which made bees and mountains and water? That? Loves me? Maya Angelou? Well then, there’s nothing I can’t do. I can do anything good.”

Even now, telling you this some fifty years later, it still brings goose bumps to me. I could weep with joy at the knowledge that I am loved by Love itself.


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Lila: A Sanskrit word both creators and soul surfers will relish

Often we borrow words and themes from other languages because they encompass more than a direct translation might. Even though we may not grasp the meaning entirely, something of the essence of it comes through when we appropriate it into our language.





Menage a trois

Now consider this word . . . that Stephen Nachmanovitch speaks about at the entrance to his book Free Play:

There is an old Sanskrit word, lila, which means play, richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation, destruction, and re-creation, the folding and unfolding of the cosmos. Lila, free and deep, is both the delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God. It also means love.*

See what I mean? There is a lot packed into that little travel bag. And yet . . . like the best infomercials . . . there’s more. (!) There’s also this connotation . . . .

Lila may be the simplest thing there is  spontaneous, childish, disarming. But as we grow and experience the complexities of life, it may also be the most difficult and hard-won achievement imaginable, and its coming to fruition is a kind of homecoming to our true selves.*

Pronounced lee-lah, “lila is a way of describing all reality, including the cosmos, as the outcome of creative play by the divine absolute” . . . to confiscate a line from Wikipedia.

Now . . . when you take our own word play and play with it a bit in your mind, it’ll never be the same if you incorporate a dash of lila in it. Playfulness as creation, both personal and cosmic. Playfulness in the sense of frolic and experimentation. Play, pure and light and creative.

Play! It’s where the absolute meets the ephemeral.

It’s a spirited term for a spirited era.

. . . . . . . . .
* These two quoted passages are from Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch.
. . . . . . . . .

For you 

Evan Griffith
Click here for (occasional) notes at the intersection of creativity and spirit. Once a month, maybe.

This post is excerpted from this little book. Check it out:
Burn Baby Burn: Spark The Creative Spirit Within


Creativity as a calling: Elizabeth Gilbert

Confiscated from . . . 
from an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert 
author of Eat Love Pray

I think creativity is entirely a spiritual practice. It has defined my entire life to think of it that way. When I hear the way some people speak about their work, people who are in creative fields who either attack themselves, or attack their work, or treat it as a burden rather than a blessing, or treat it as something that needs to be fought and defeated and beaten . . . .

There is a war that people go to with their creative path that is very unfamiliar to me. To me, it feels like a holy calling and one that I am grateful for.

. . . . . . .

With the exception of the experience of four months of meditating in India in an ashram, there has never been anything in my life that’s even approximated the sense of the miraculous I feel running deep in this work . . . . It’s beautiful.


Steven Pressfield on shadow careers

Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. That shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk.

If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.

Are you pursuing a shadow career?

Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies that you know you have inside you?

Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music?

Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk becoming an innovator yourself?

If you’re dissatisfied with your current life, ask yourself what your current life is a metaphor for.

That metaphor will point you toward you true calling.

Steven Pressfield, from Turning Pro.

If you seek to begin something  or to fully embrace something  that feels like your mission in life, The War of Art and Turning Pro are essential reading. Pressfield writes with short intensity, in power bursts as if through a jackhammer. Each segment is a page or two or three at the most. The above was such an example.