Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Protecting the Quiet

Today I spent two hours teaching a class on health care. I had a great time. Slipped under the door when I came home, exhausted. Like Debbie, I am an introvert.

A week ago, my husband spent two hours teaching high school metal shop classes how to make sculptures in wire.  Floated home three feet off the ground. You're right: He's an extrovert.

And no, I doubt my own experience would have been much different if, like him, I'd been teaching about my art. I still would have had to talk to many, not to one or two, and I still would have had to keep it up for a very long time.

In your comments to Debbie's post on Monday, several of you admitted to a lifelong struggle to change your nature. I have struggled like you, and like you, I have learned over the years to put on a decent show - for a time.

 And as it has for some of you, Susan Cain's book, Quiet, came to me as a gift and a blessed relief. Someone understood, at last, in black and white, and at long last, gave me permission to stop trying to fix myself.

I read Quiet exactly six months from the day I began an experience that would prompt me to re-frame many things that had caused pain in my life. Among those things was an inward orientation that I now realize was the very thing that allowed me to write my characters from the inside out, and that also allows me to learn well a line of work that demands empathy.

Writers who happen to be introverts (and that may be all writers) find themselves in awkward positions once they are published. Debbie mentioned the hoped for/dreaded book signings and media interviews: even relatively unknown authors are suddenly expected to behave like extroverts.

I suspect when you are a writer within the Christian publishing world, it's a bit worse. The market is smaller, and authors are left more in charge of their own publicity. Not only that, but these authors go to church. Perhaps some of you thoughtful, observant quiet types have noticed how many of the world's cultural expectations slip un-noticed under the church doors - and in-between the pages of our books.

Susan Cain brings up one of the most insidious:

"Contemporary evangelicalism says that every person you fail to meet and proselytize is another soul you might have saved." 

No wonder our stories have to have such purpose. What literary value can stand up to the imperative salvation of our readers' souls?

And while we're on the subject, what is it we do, locked alone with our thoughts, that's more important than all of the programs that require our participation? Cain quotes an introverted pastor's lament:

"There (is) no emphasis on quiet, liturgy, ritual, things that give you space for contemplation.”

And yet, if we are to write stories worth reading...

If we are to live lives worth living, we need these things.

I am lucky enough to have a room of my own, a private office where I can come and close the door when I have to. It is here that I curl up with my prayer app (Common Prayer for the geeky introverts among us), with my books, with my thoughts and supplications.

What about you? Have you managed to protect the quiet in your lives?

Do tell us how. We need to know.

And we love to read what you have to say.


Susie Finkbeiner said...

This is the first time in seven years that I have free time. Seriously. Three hours every afternoon with all three of my kids in school.

That time is precious to me. I've decided that at least four days a week, that time is for writing.

It's been hard for some people to understand. They think that I should be able to spend more time volunteering at the school. Or that I can get groceries in that window of time. Or clean my house (what's the point of that, really?).

But that's my sacred work time. My time to be quiet and focus.

Thank you for this, Katy. It's encouraging to me today.

Lori Benton said...

Life sort of fell out in a quiet way for me. I moved 3000 miles from home, and I had cancer young, so never could have children. I don't have a day job right now other than writing. Which since I've been published certainly feels full time. More than full time, in certain seasons. So I get a lot of quiet. I feel the constant pull between a sense that I should have a more active social life and my need to spend huge chunks of time alone to write, to think about writing, to read, to meditate on what I read. That's part of the job of being a writer, and maybe it's a sacrifice. But it only feels like a sacrifice every now and then. Mostly it just feels right. QUIET was a freeing book in so many ways. I'm glad you found it so too, Katie.

Megan Sayer said...

My boys have taught me a lot about my own nature. One is deeply introverted, a deep, deep thinker, and the other a tireless extrovert with a passion for adventure. They're both like me in some ways, and that's helped me understand my self so much better.
SometiI miss quiet though, and am a little envious of your space of your own.

Bonnie Grove said...

When I tell people I'm an introvert they say, "No you're not."

I tell them to ask my husband. He sees me after the "show" (whatever the show may be--from hosting a baby shower to hosting one of my own conferences, to speaking at a woman's group, to teaching writing classes). He'll tell you how I must curl inward and rest.

The kind of rest that is akin to healing.

I'm difficult to get to know (ask my closest friends), not because I mean to be difficult or standoffish, but because I only have so much energy to give and I parcel it out over long periods of time. Once someone gets close to me, I wrap them to my soul with bands of steel. Introverts know much about love.

Kathleen Popa said...

Susie, I'm delighted to encourage you. Please do keep your time sacred. You know better than anyone what it gives to everything else you do.

Lori, I'm glad you found Quiet so freeing, and that you live the life you've been given so well.

Megan, your children are all unique and delightful, and all a reflection of their parents. The quiet will come. I got my "room of my own" when my youngest moved out of our home, so it was a bittersweet tradeoff. I'm glad you are enjoying your children. They will grow up, and you will enjoy their growing up, but you don't want to miss this time with them. Meanwhile, keep an eye on their room.

Bonnie, you nailed it. Like you, I put on a good act, and many would be surprised to learn that I'm the "quiet type." But I do have to heal, regularly.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Katy, I almost didn't post about the introverted writer - thought it would pick at a scab that makes us look standoffish. I find that when I'm speaking and teaching about writing, I love the human interaction. It's the small talk around the lunch table that stymies me. It's not that I don't enjoy meeting new people. People can really surprise you. This is one part of being an introvert that I must work on.

JanelleB said...

I can relate to this post, and to many of the comments. Bonnie: I completely agree with your whole last paragraph. Susie: This is the first time I have free time during the day as well, with all my kids in school. And face the same challenge with others feeling the time 'should be' for cooking, cleaning and 'other things' (read: mundane, uninteresting, yet infinitely-more-important-than-writing 'things').

I am deeply introverted and even time with close friends can exhaust me. I need quiet in order to function. I have 3 kids, all of whom have extra needs, my eldest being the most 'typical', and they require lots of care and attention. They drain me. Trying to carve out quiet time—and writing time—in the midst can be quite challenging.

My 'office' is in my bedroom. I can close the door (lock it if need be) and within, I find the peace and quiet that I so desperately need. To recharge. To refresh. To write. My kids are learning (slowly) that a closed door means I don't want company right now. I may be writing. I may be recharging. Both are vital to my health and well being.

In the quiet, I meet with God. In the quiet, I find the voice to write words that may one day find their way into someone else's hands and speak to someone's heart. Beyond the quiet I am mom, wife, friend, daughter and many other titles. In the quiet I can be all of these things, or none. In the quiet, I am simply me.

Kathleen Popa said...

Debbie, I think Bonnie got it right. We know we have only so much energy, and we try not to spend it all in one place.

Janelle, it sounds to me like you need to be extra careful where you spend your energy, and it sounds, too, like you are making wise choices.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Recently, I have been able to protect the quiet time in my life. The kids are grown. I am alone. I have made quiet a priority through walking and reading and writing and getting plenty of sleep. But there are times - like this past week-when I must step into extrovert mode, pull out all the stops and sacrifice my time, let urgencies trash my boundaries. It is to be expected. It is only dangerous when continued on, without let-up. Finally (in old age) I have realized that it is my responsibility to engage in self-care, to protect my quiet and my spiritual and emotional health.