In A Cave, Writing

I’m getting comfortable with the fact that I am an introvert, and I have arranged my life accordingly. There must be some writers who love attending conventions, who get a charge from speaking on panels, who are energized by people and interaction, who like crowds.

I am not one of them.

It takes me weeks to recover from a convention, and days to recover from a signing. When I say “recover” I mean just that–I am left drained and almost unable to function, even when I’ve had months to prepare. Being “on” for a convention or a signing is akin to running a marathon with casts on every limb and rabid dogs chasing me–difficult, dangerous, nerve-wracking. (I worked retail for most of my life before I managed to make a living writing. My ability to appear extroverted directly descends from those hellish days.) I am not quite as solitary as Bukowski, or as protective of my solitude as Rausch. I can deliver a speech or get through a signing or deal with a crowd. By sheer dint of long practice, I’ve managed to even appear “bubbly” and “energetic” during such things. Then I crawl home and into bed, and am wiped out for a long while.

It’s only now, thirty-odd years into my life, that I have the luxury of doing what I’m mostly inclined to. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t breathe a sigh of relief when I reach my office, settle in my chair, listen to the silence, and feel the stories crowd close. It’s taken a long time, a lot of hard work, and finding out that there are introverts and they’re normal too for me to quit worrying about whether or not I’m going to snap one day and retreat to a mountaintop, where I will live naked and filthy and muttering to myself. (The odds of this happening anyway are not something I care to think about, thank you.)

Do I get lonely? Not likely. With the kids and the dogs, I couldn’t be lonely if I tried, not to mention the cat crowding my lap as I type this. I do worry that my introvert bent makes me a worse mother, but of course, if I was the opposite I would be worrying that my hunger for interaction would make me a worse mother. (There is no winning in motherhood. Unless you count the long-term satisfaction of seeing the spawn reach adulthood as reasonably healthy as possible, having been only slightly damaged by one’s own ridiculous issues.)

This is only partly why I don’t attend conventions. There’s the cost of travel and the time away from working, which I can ill afford. (There’s also the fact of harassment at conventions, which this blog post is not about; suffice to say I’ve read each account of con harassment hitting the Internet with a profound sense of recognition.) And the fact that I am a single mother means childcare, expensive at best, is problematic enough to add to travel and the drain on working time to equal Lili Not Going Anywhere, Sorry.

I used to worry that my reluctance to leave the house meant something was wrong with me. I used to think that if I didn’t interact, I would begin to lose the habits of observation that inform characters. Fortunately(?), I am forced into interactions often enough–through the internet as well–that those skills don’t really lose their edge. Besides, to survive as an introvert, and to survive as an introverted child in an environment of stress and abuse, hones said skills to such a degree that blunting them might almost be a mercy. Hypervigilance and hyperawareness are probably a component of why I dread groups of people–the level of detailed attention required to protect myself in that situation is overwhelming.

It isn’t usual to have your life arranged to suit yourself. It’s pretty damn unusual to have that particular luxury. You also cannot arrange your life so without a great deal of thought about what precisely does suit you, and writing is very good for that. Also, an introvert doesn’t have to like giving speeches, doing signings, speaking on convention panels, or dealing with crowds to become really stinking good at doing it.

You also do not have to like copyedits, revision, building a social networking presence, or marketing in order to get really good at it. Every occupation, even if it’s your dream job and you’ve arranged your life in a manner that suits you very well, has bits that you will not like but that you are required to perform with some facility. Just because I’m an introvert and it drains me near to transparency to deal with large groups doesn’t mean I don’t do it when it’s necessary, with as much panache as I can muster. (I just bitch about it later, I guess. Nobody’s perfect.)

So I’m retreating back into my cave, barring the door, and letting the extroverts have their big bright world while I sit in silence and create new ones. To each their own.

So, my fellow writers: introvert, extrovert? Or somewhere in the middle of the continuum?


  1. says

    Introvert! So much so that a year ago, while reading the DSM, I discovered that I meet the clinical criteria for agoraphobia. (I promptly decided that those criteria were much too liberal, but since I don’t get to write the DSM, it’s not really my call. Alas.)

    Anyway, I know that most people believe that introvert vs extrovert is simply innate, but I do think introverts tend to be hyper-vigilant. That may have something to do with why we find other people so exhausting.

  2. says

    Most definitely an introvert. But my job (journalism teacher) and my friends are all extroverts. How in the world did that happen? *wrinkles brow* As much as I enjoy my job, I come home completely exhausted. The weekends are my saving grace except when my friends guilt me out of the house, though I’d prefer to be alone, get my house in order and recover. As I get older, it gets harder to convince myself to socialize face-to-face when I don’t have to. Glad to know I’m not alone in my introvert tendencies. See, Mom! I’m not weird or anti-social! *grins*

  3. Jessica S. says

    Definitely an introvert. I like attending conferences though when I can, especially RT! I like knowing that I am not alone in my love of reading and writing. But most definitely an introvert! I take forever to warm up to people and and definitely not a conversation starter. I have lots of social issues! :) But I try when I can!

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