Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Proper Care and Feeding of Introverts

by Sariah S. Wilson

On this blog the authors have been talking quite a bit about how much we dread one part of our profession - having to publicize our books. I would guess that this dread comes from our introverted natures.

I am a definite introvert. That isn’t something I discovered about myself until I got a little older - in my teens I forced myself to be social. I was a cheerleader, in my high school’s student government. In college I threw weekly hot chocolate socials at my apartment. I dated a lot, hung out a lot. But there was always this level of discomfort that my friends and roommates never had. I wondered why it was harder for me than it was for other people.

To explain a little, extroverts are “people persons.” There’s nothing an extrovert likes more than to get to know new people, going to parties or having people over for dinner. They get recharged by sitting and talking to someone else. After a dance or a party they’re wired and excited and might have a hard time falling asleep afterwards.

An introvert, on the other hand, views such activities as akin to a death sentence. I absolutely loathe parties and will do everything in my power to get out of them. Having someone over for dinner fills me full of dread for weeks beforehand and the whole day of the dinner I’m desperately hoping that the people coming will have to cancel. I recharge by being alone. After anything social I have to spend time alone to recover.

Estimates range widely on the percentage of the population that are introverts. Twenty-five percent seems to be about the standard. So while 75 percent of the world are extroverts, only 25 percent are introverts, and extroverts shake their heads at us because they don’t understand us unsocial loners. Or, as Jonathan Rauch said in The Atlantic Online:

“‘It is very difficult for an extrovert to understand an introvert,’ write the education experts Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig…Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people. They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They assume that company, especially their own, is always welcome. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion. As often as I have tried to explain the matter to extroverts, I have never sensed that any of them really understood. They listen for a moment and then go back to barking and yipping.”

This is not to say that introverts hate other people. What we do is find them tiring and difficult to deal with on an extended basis. People usually bristle at the suggestion that they are introverts because our society has dictated that introversion is “bad.” It’s not bad, it’s just different. This is not a choice we made, this is how we were born. I would also suggest that most writers are at least somewhat introverted because how could a true extrovert spend so many hours alone in an imaginary world with only themselves to talk to?

Which leads me back to book signings. An activity designed for extroverts. I think if my mom had a book signing she would have the entire store at her table with her laughter and stories and if someone was missing out, she’d find them and drag them over to join in.

This is the only profession where we’re rewarded for being introverts (getting contracts for writing our books) and are then expected to be extroverts to publicize the book. Most authors would be very, very happy to write their books and have someone else do all that publicity stuff for them.

So the next time you’re in a bookstore, take pity on us. Come up and say hello. Use your extrovert personality to carry the conversation. Take the flier or buy the book without us having to ask you to.

Just don’t invite us to any parties.


At 4/15/2006 10:13 AM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Amen! It is so hard to go on dates. They physically drain me, and I am expected to go out every weekend. I love being alone and reading or watching a movie. At parties, introverts like to talk to one person and one person only, which usually ends up being another introvert because all the extroverts flitter around from person to person.

It is a good thing you have had practice with making yourself do social things you don't want to do, because that means you'll probably do better at a book signing than someone who never got out of their introvert comfort zone.

At 4/15/2006 12:22 PM, Blogger Lisa M. said...

I'll try to remember that. Thank you for the insight.

At 4/21/2006 2:56 PM, Blogger momofnine said...

It is very difficult for us extroverts to understand the introvert.
I sit here in my office struggling to stay focused because it so quiet as most of the office staff is out today. Now I have heard introverts love days like this when it so quiet, they get so much done and I don't get it. I can't seem to focus on my work because I am hoping to hear some conversation, laughter, or signs of life. I actually get less done on these very quiet days. I hate coming to the office on Sat. with a passion because there is no one here. I like the days best when everyone is here, lots of visitors, and projects to get done before the day is through.
I wish I could go on your book tour for you and meet all the people that have either read your book or will read it. I think every person that talks to you will have something exciting to say and I would love to share conversation with them. You just sign the books.

Sariah's mom

At 4/22/2006 9:59 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Hey, that could possibly happen. If Sariah's book doesn't come out until August, wouldn't it be perfect if it came out at the time I graduate, because then the whole family could be here at the same time. Sariah-you should fix it so it works out that way.

At 5/27/2006 10:37 PM, Anonymous C.R. Kennington said...

I go to work 2 hours and clock in before everyone else shows up just to have some alone time at work. I feel like I'm getting a lot more done that way. I'm a programmer- not a very good one, so it takes a lot out of me when I try to find solutions to programming problems. If I'm at it by myself, I tend to do a lot better. On the days where I've had to deal with people, I come home very tired. Don't get me wrong, I know everyone in my company by first name and they know me. I've even had some of them over to my apartment for dinner just to get to know them better. But, my favorite noise is no noise at all.


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