I saw an author friend of mine, Mar Preston, share an article on Facebook about being an “extroverted introvert.” She commented that if people wanted to understand her better, they should read this article. I thought, hey, that sounds like something I could possibly be. I read the article and couldn’t stop nodding my head. I connected with—not all—but many of the examples of an “extroverted introvert.”
By nature, writing is a solitary process. Therefore, I think most writers are introverts. There are always exceptions of course. I envy those writers who have no problem walking right up to strangers and striking up a conversation. However, I feel most writers need their alone time. If we wanted to be with people all the time, then we probably wouldn’t choose writing as an occupation. Although some would argue writing chooses us. But that’s a topic for a different day.
But don’t assume we writers want solitude all the time. Most of us go batty cooped up in our rooms writing X hours a day, X days in a row. We feel disconnected from society and often don’t know what day it is or if we’ve worn these same sweats three days in a row or five. A few writers are fine with this. Others, like me, need social interaction once in a while.
I’ve found the older I get, the less I go out. When I was younger, I wanted to go to parties. I wanted to meet new people. But when I did it too often, I felt overwhelmed and anxious. I preferred smaller intimate groups as opposed to huge groups of people at once. Now that I’m older, I think I’ve figured out my happy place. Also, I find that as my writing career moves forward, my social functions are becoming more geared towards writing and book events.
This is both good and bad (mostly good). It’s good because I’m expanding my social circle with writers. I have a great time because we’re talking about what? Writing! The downside is I can easily neglect those facets of my personality that have nothing to do with writing and books. It’s difficult to find that balance, but so far, I think I’m doing OK.
One way to satisfy both the “extrovert” and the “introvert” in me is to attend writer conferences. This is the best of both worlds. It’s terrifying for the introvert part of me because I have to speak on panels, do readings in front of large crowds, and talk to total strangers.
As a writer, I think it’s important to get over this fear as it helps you connect with readers, other writers, etc. But the extrovert in me finds the whole process very appealing. I get to speak about my writing to people who actually want to listen (hopefully). I get to meet authors I’ve been dying to meet and make new friends.
What’s interesting is that my first Bouchercon which was last year was extremely overwhelming for me. I had to escape to my hotel room to decompress.
Bouchercon is the biggest mystery conference in the world. It’s mostly a “fan” conference rather than craft. I’d been to other smaller and more intimate conferences like the New England CrimeBake and Left Coast Crime and felt right at home. I never felt the urge to run away to my room and hide. Now I realize that Bouchercon overloaded the “introvert” in me too quickly. I will keep this in mind for 2016 Bouchercon and that I’ll need to give myself frequent time-outs.
Of course, now I wish I was at Bouchercon this year because I feel like everyone I know is there. The extrovert in me is cursing that I’m at home and missing out on everything, but the introvert in me is content reading everyone’s Facebook posts and tweets from the comfort of my couch. I guess the extrovert in me should just stop her whining and get to writing already.
Sarah M. Chen has worked a variety of jobs, ranging from script reader to private investigator assistant. Her crime fiction short stories have been accepted for publication online and in various anthologies, including All Due Respect, Akashic, Plan B, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Betty Fedora, Vol. 2, and the Sisters in Crime/LA anthology, Ladies Night. Her noir novella, Cleaning Up Finn, is slated for publication in 2016 with All Due Respect Books, proving she can write something over 6,000 words. www.sarahmchen.com