In the coming days, most people will be confined to their living spaces. Those who are familiar with late-night social outings will suddenly wonder how they are supposed to survive with nothing but four walls, silence, and a few screens.
Guess what? We introverts do this almost every day by choice.
I’m not worried about extroverts staying in touch with people. I’m worried about when the world gets quiet and dark. There are no clubs. There are no movies. There are no appointments. It is the angels and devils within.
Solitude can get scary. What can you learn from an introvert on how to thrive inside?
Change How You Watch Television
Here’s a simple test for discovering who is extroverted and who is an introvert. Think back to the last Super Bowl party you attended. Which people were standing and talking over the commentary? Which people were trying to pay attention to the game?
There you go.
If you’re an extrovert, you can’t talk over the television now because you are all alone. What to do? Actually watch it.
Study the themes of a show. When you watch Friday Night Lights, and Coach Taylor says to his running back Smash Williams “go all the way,” what does that mean? We know what it means literally, but what does it mean in the broader sense of the show? What does it mean in light of Smash wanting to go pro? What does it say about the relationship between the two characters?
When you watch Outlander, and Jamie tells his godfather he is released from his oath, ask yourself questions: why is it morning? Why is Jamie wearing brown? Why did they have the conversation in the woods? Why is Murtaugh the godfather so loyal to his godson in the first place?
When you watch Frasier, and the three leading men of the show are standing on the balcony, why does it make you feel so happy? Why do they drink scotch together? What turmoil has gone on in the previous 21 minutes that makes this resolution feel so sweet?
(You probably don’t watch Frasier any more, but this show is a lullaby to my wife. We watch them on repeat.)
Television can help you move forward creatively. Go to Netflix like you’re going to class. You’ll be amazed at what you learn.
Reflect on Your Life
We introverts do this to a fault. Still, you can learn a lot retracing the path of your life.
This is harder than it sounds. If you aren’t used to writing about your life, you’ll think back and wonder: “What have I done with my life?” You are where you are because of what you’ve done in the past, but it doesn’t feel that way. It probably feels like you just woke up today and found yourself in the middle of a global crisis. Most days are ephemeral, forgettable.
My friend Barry Davret taught me a trick for a better recall of life. Each day, he writes down a single memory. If he’s having trouble, he’ll cast his mind back to a specific time. “What was I doing in the spring of 2008?” he wonders. That simple prompt brings back a flood of scenes he’d long forgotten.
Each time you look back, it can give your life purpose. A wave does not suddenly crash onto the shore, there are nearly infinite factors that go into creating the surge.
It’s the same with your life.
Read a Book Out Loud
We introverts often have to rely on tricks to start a simple conversation. If you’re an extrovert, it’s likely that talking comes as easy as breathing. So what should you do when there’s nobody to talk to?
Read a book out loud.
I discovered this by accident recently. I read Treasure Island for the first time. The first 18 chapters passed normally, meaning I skimmed through the chapters quickly and kept all the voices in my head. Boring. Maybe the Muppets version had set my expectations too high with the musical numbers.
Then, I decided to read chapter 19 out loud. Test out this trick by reading the following passage out loud yourself, slowly and purposefully:
“Gray, the new man, had his face tied up in a bandage for a cut he had got in breaking away from the mutineers; and that poor old Tom Redruth, still unburied, lay along the wall, stiff and stark, under the Union Jack.
If we had been allowed to sit idle, we should all have given in the blues, but Captain Smollett was never the man for that.”
When I read this out loud, suddenly the whole scene burst into my vision. I could smell poor, dead Tom rotting away under the British flag. I see Gray’s bloodstained bandage. I could hear Captain Smollet barking.
Ideas spring to life at the power of your voice. Don’t let it go unused in times of isolation.
This, far and away, is my biggest reason to crave solitude. Most mornings, I am up alone with my thoughts and a keyboard.
When you create art, you participate in something much bigger than you. Allow that thing to pull you forward. Listen to the voice. What does it tell you to make? What pieces of your home can you cut and paste together? What can be combined to create greater meaning? What can be destroyed? What can be written?
Creating art does not have to be difficult or pretentious. You can write that book you’ve been meaning to get around to. You can draw your surroundings.
Who cares if it’s good? It’s only for you.
No matter what is going on in the world, we all have to be alone at one time or another. However, being alone is not the same as being lonely. Next time you find yourself suffering through isolation, whether on purpose or due to a crisis, make the most of the time.
Take it from an introvert, beauty springs forward when you remove the noise.
This article originally appeared on Medium.