In A Cave, Writing

Crossposted to the Deadline Dames. Check us out!

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?

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Roxanne Bland
Roxanne Bland

Definitely an introvert, though I do love cons. I don’t mean so much by participating as a panelist, but just the raw energy of the thing. I’m not one of those to walk up to someone and say “hey.” But once it’s over, the energy I’ve absorbed helps when I retreat into my little room and create the worlds I love.

Wolf Lahti
Wolf Lahti

I adapt.
I am perfectly happy alone, and I’m the life of the panel at a con (so I’ve been told).
Being on stage energizes me, but solitude restores me.

I guess if I weren’t me already, I’d be envious. 🙂

martianmooncrab
martianmooncrab

Both, I am perfectly happy puttering about the CrabbyCave, doing my own thing, or out in the yard. Other days, its get out there and try not to hurt the stupid people. My main social activities are ususally book related, anything more than that is terminally exhausting.

Most cons are a lot of fun, but without committments. But its always good to come home to the peace and quiet of a cranky kitty.

Kathleen
Kathleen

So much an introvert. I recently went to a con where all I had to do was sit there and listen, not get up in front of everyone to talk, and I still took a couple of days to recover. The con only lasted a few hours. I couldn’t imagine going to a bigger one, though I REALLY want to someday soon just to gain the experience and learn something new from one of the speakers. Thinking about it drains me…

cheryl
cheryl

I’m definitely an introvert, although it’s tough because I do need some outings and social interaction or I get depressed. It’s a total Catch-22: I get depressed if I’m alone too much, but the thought of being social tends to stress me and make me want to sit home alone. I feel so lucky to have social media — it doesn’t satisfy that social need as well, but it definitely helps fill the gap.

Colleen Champagne
Colleen Champagne

Extrovert!!. My husband used to ask me why in the world I had to talk to EVERYONE. I come from a family of talkers and his family was always quiet and more subdued. He, naturally, was an introvert. Time and age has made me very comfortable with who I am and I never minded spending time alone with myself until my husband died. Now that I am alone all the damn time I find myself seeking out opportunity to spend time with people. Talking to the dog just isn’t cutting it anymore and forget about the cat, she thinks I… Read more »

ellen
ellen

Introvert. So much so that I had tears of recognition in my eyes while reading. You know, that “really? I’m not a failure/weirdo/incompetent friend/wimp?” sense.

I’m old enough I shouldn’t have those feelings, but lately I haven’t been refueling the well enough, I guess. Clearly I need a stronger bar on the door — or a stronger backbone to ensure I use it and stop removing it for everyone and everything.

Thank you.