Thursday, June 13, 2013

Being an Introvert

A few months ago, I wrote about heading out into the world to write, and the little teashop I sometimes visit when I’m stuck or stalled—to shake things up and help me see my ideas from a new perspective.

But most of the time, I do my best work at my desk in my very quiet office, all alone, preferably with the dog snoring quietly at my feet. I don’t play music, even music without lyrics. I can’t think with external noise going on. The noise distracts me from what I am trying to hear.

I usually know the basic idea I’m poking/prodding/massaging into life. I pretty much know the what.

What I’m trying so hard to hear in my little quiet office is the how. How do I express this idea in writing most authentically mine?

In her wonderful TED Talk, Susan Cain affirms the importance of solitude, how introverts like me should embrace our need for quiet time. I learned long ago that I need quiet time and even a quiet life (a modest social calendar without too many distractions) to find my writing voice.

But Cain also talks about how introverts should not try to force themselves to be extroverts, and this applies to the other side of a writing life: going out into the world to talk about my books to other people. 

This has to do with authenticity, as well.

When I first started presenting, almost 20 years ago, I tried to be more ‘out there’ than I usually was—bigger, badder, louder—the kind of author who quickly has a room full of first graders shouting back responses in a happy chorus.

I LOVE authors who can do this, and kids love them, too.

But every time I tried this, it felt like a false note, a lukewarm imitation of someone else. What I needed instead, I realized, was to be the best version of myself I can be.

For me this means sharing my passions: the importance of following your curiosity, the importance of being open to new people and new experiences. It also means sharing my enthusiasm for being in awe—of the amazing things people have accomplished, of all the possibilities out there for all of us.

And I don’t have to do headstands while playing the ukulele to do this. I can be this passionate, enthusiastic, amazed and awestruck presenter, quietly talking to kids, teachers and librarians. I can be my little old self: Thoughtful. Engaged. A good egg. And an introvert.


Marge Loch-Wouters said...

And that's what makes you a powerful person and presenter!

Deborah Heiligman said...

I can't really understand how I can be both an extrovert and an introvert, but I completely identify with your post. I am more of an out there presenter (cause that's who I am) but I need and crave lots of quiet time. I think the biggest take-home from this post, Barb, is to be who you are. And your authenticity always shines through. Thanks for this!

Melissa Stewart said...

I completely agree! I loved having a March-May full of school visits, but that's because I've developed my own authentic speaking style over the years.

And now, I'm really looking forward to a summer of solitude--quiet time when I can dig back in to my writing self.

Barbara Kerley said...

Yeah, I always love it when some kid comes up at the end and quietly says, "That was really good." I always think, 'kindred spirit.' I think it's good that there are all sorts of presenters who can connect with all sorts of kids.

Cheryl Harness said...

Seems to me I recall that even that crowd-pleasing Jesus had to get away to the mountain top every once in a while & recharge.

Susan Kuklin said...

Yep, you hit it spot on, Barb. Authenticity and nonfiction go hand-in-hand. You really can't have one without the other.