Monday, September 30, 2013

The Truth About Introverts

 I recently read an article titled Ten Myths About Introverts by Carl King. You can read it here. If you're an introvert, it might explain a few things, like why you may sound eloquent on the written page but babble like an idiot in a radio interview, or send awkward (even standoffish) body language at a book signing. A lot of unfortunate, misunderstood signals going on here.

 I’m an introvert and a writer, and I’m in good company.

Carl’s list had several points that resonated with me, like providing insight as to why I squirm at the phrase ‘self-promotion.’  Social media tools like Twitter or Facebook are pretty non-threatening in their brevity. Blog interviews let you blaze past all the chit-chat and small talk, and send the answers in an email. Words like ‘media interview’ and ‘book signing,’ on the other hand, can both excite and strike fear in your little introverted heart, or at least drain your energy and leave you craving solitude before it’s over.

 Don't misunderstand - we enjoy signing books and meeting readers, no matter what our body language may say.  We're just experiencing a big learning curve.

Writer-introverts greatly value privacy, even if it’s on the edge of the social universe. While we don’t mind the distant drone of the coffee shop crowd, we prefer to stake out our own little orbits.   It’s not that we don’t like people - we just like them one at a time and not when we’re on the verge of solving a plot point.  Making chit chat is trying for some of us, but get us started about something we love (our books!) and we’ll give you TMI about our characters.

So, what’s the problem? This is what we wanted when we became writers, isn't it? We have a work of art that we’ve labored over for years and we’re excited to spread the word.  I’m not saying we aren’t willing and able to follow through on what’s necessary to promote our work and build a career.  We just have to work harder at it than extroverts.  It doesn’t come naturally.   We really have to want it.

Extroverts just don’t get us. Some may not even like us.  Some think we could change if we really want to. But being introverts tempers us into the kinds of writers we are, and I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to give that up.

I’m an introvert and a writer, and I’m in good company. 

What about you?  Do you suffer the challenges of the introvert writer or are you an extrovert who believes we should just hitch up our pants and get over it?


Susie Finkbeiner said...

For years and years I thought I had to be an extrovert. I was TOLD that's what I was (I'm the youngest of four, so it seemed the right thing...). So. I. Played the part. And I still play it pretty well when need be. But I've learned that being introverted isn't bad. That I'm more comfortable in that space. I can jump back and forth, but I'm more myself when I don't feel the need to entertain.

I spent a lot of years acting. I can play the part of an extrovert any old day. Most likely, though, that's not 100% true Susie.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I think many of us were told that being an introvert was something to overcome. I agree that we need to learn to play the part when necessary, and we understand it for what it is and don't try to sustain it, but recharge. Great actors do it all the time. :)

Susan Gregory said...

Has anyone else read Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of an Introvert in a World that Can't Stop Talking"?

Bonnie Grove said...

Susan: I have. It's a good read, lots of info with stuff of life examples.

Henrietta Frankensee said...

100% True Susie. That sounds like a great novel title! "The life and times of a famous novelist."
Introvert writers have a crowd IN their heads. They don't need anyone else.

Cherry Odelberg said...

There have been times; in the retail or corporate or publishing world when it seems all it takes to be successful is to be an extrovert; times I ask myself "Is that what I lack?" Surely, if so, I can change. After all , I have been most adaptable all my life. But no. An introvert is who I am made to be. Don't get me wrong,I love studios and microphones and stages. But I like to set my own moat, the distance between the stage and the audience. I would rather have real conversations, one-on-one. I want the conversations to be deep, thoughtful and meaningful.
Too often, I am intimidated by, or over-looked in favor of an extrovert.

Lori Benton said...

Total introvert. And shy on top of that. Not all introverts are shy.

In case no one has yet recommended it, the book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain is a must read for anyone who is an introvert, or is raising one, or was raised by one, or who employees one, or is employed by one, or is a care-giver for one... in other words, every person on the plant. :)

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Thanks for the book recommendation. It's on my list.
Cherry, I hire staff for day camps and I've noticed that extroverts are fun...for awhile. We definitely need a balance working with children.
It's good knowing that we're in good company and that this 'introvert' bent is not something to overcome.

Marcia said...

Yes, thanks for that refreshing post. I think (according to Myers Briggs) we introverts are in the minority. Seems like about 75% of the population is extroverted, and 25% introverted--but don't quote me on that. I only remember that introverts were out-numbered. Still, I wouldn't trade my introversion for anything. I think introverts tend to have a richer inner life, and can relate to God more easily, as they lean toward contemplation and silence. They are their own best company, so they can be happy anywhere. They are more likely to be independent thinkers and go against that dreaded "crowd mentality" which got Jesus crucified.

While we have trouble relating to the masses, and do better one on one and in small groups,isn't that the only place you can make a DEEP difference, anyway?

I think it was Amy Carmichael who said that only God can plow both deep and wide. If you try to spread yourself out over the masses, don't you by necessity have to cut a much more shallow swath?

An extrovert might disagree. But for value and meaning, give me an introvert's life any day!

Camille Eide said...

"It’s not that we don’t like people - we just like them one at a time and not when we’re on the verge of solving a plot point."


I read this post earlier but didn't comment at the time because I hadn't showered, put on makeup and psyched myself up to face people yet for the day. That takes a lot of mental energy.

Thanks for the reminder that being an introvert isn't something one needs to overcome. :)

Unknown said...

Totally agree with you :-)