Don’t Feel Bad Canceling Plans On Me As I’m Happy To Stay Home Too

Sarah M. Chen photoby Sarah M. Chen

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.”

http://www.lifehack.org/297304/19-real-life-examples-extroverted-introvert-you-dont-get-confused

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.

20150920_204135This 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. hmmmm

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.

20141114_150148Bouchercon 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.

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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

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33 Responses to Don’t Feel Bad Canceling Plans On Me As I’m Happy To Stay Home Too

  1. Nancy Jardine says:

    Very apt post, Sarah! There are times I want to just be that introvert but as you say, Sarah, but I have to be the extrovert and ‘get out more’. The ‘sharing’ part of our writing can come on many forms and not just talking directly about a particular book you’ve written. I think I’m getting a better balance with my ‘over the table’ book sales, and via the author talks that I’m delivering. But…at heart I really do just want to be at home, at my desk and writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I know that feeling! You’re right in that sharing our writing doesn’t have to be just talking about what we’re working on. That’s what’s also good about conferences. You can talk about things such as where the best ribs are, did you go on the FBI forensics excursion?, and what town you’re from. Thanks for reading and commenting, Nancy.

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  2. Doris says:

    Sarah, I do empathize with you. If I hadn’t started performing at such a young age, I believe I also would have issues with being in public. Still, you are so correct about being with others who share you passions for the written word. The post you linked to is on my to be read list tonight when the world slows down again. Doris

    Liked by 1 person

    • I did ballet and piano for many years growing up. I loved performing on stage but I think it wasn’t as nerve-wracking because there was no talking! I never enjoyed public speaking. My worst grade in school was a Speech class in college. I never liked to speak in class even if I knew the answer. I also learned from another article that a few actors are “extroverted introverts” like Michelle Pfeiffer, Clint Eastwood, and Julia Roberts. Performing or acting isn’t scary but talking to people (especially in a big group) is. Hope you enjoy the article later tonight, Doris, and thanks so much for commenting!

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  3. katewyland says:

    I so identify with the extroverted introvert description. Like some of the actors you mentioned, I can perform in front of strangers but have a much harder time one-on-one and I hate talking to groups where I know people. I also learned that the big conferences aren’t for me. I can enjoy the smaller ones like Left Coast but avoid the huge ones. RWA National is over 2000 people–too much for me.
    Great topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Kate! Yeah, I definitely prefer intimate smaller groups of people and especially one on one. I do love Left Coast Crime. I’ll just have to adjust my expectations and behavior when I go to Bouchercon or bigger conferences. It’s hard to be a crime fiction author and not go to Bouchercon so I’ll hopefully figure it out before next fall.

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  5. I read the article, and at first, I thought I was one of those extroverted introverts, but no, most of those statements are not true of me. It doesn’t take much to convince me to get out of the house, especially if I’m being invited to a place where I want to go. I don’t mind talking to a lot of people and making new friends. I don’t need to be in a particular mindset beforehand. This was interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Abbie. I’m the opposite in that it takes A LOT to convince me to go out, but once I’m out, I always have a good time (99% of the time). It also depends on the last time I went out. It’s extremely difficult to convince me to go out two nights in a row!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Kathy Waller says:

    You post is right on target. I love conferences and have no problem with public speaking. But I can’t go, go, go–too many people, too much activity are energy drains. I need a certain amount of down time, just me and my laptop. As for introducing myself and making small talk–I prefer to take my glass of punch and stand in the corner.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Kathy! It’s so exhausting to be “on” all the time. I need plenty of time to prepare for these moments too. Impromptu group gatherings are definitely anxiety-inducing for me! Thanks for commenting. 🙂

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  7. Neva Bodin says:

    I was an introvert, well maybe just insecure and shy when young. Nurses training worked that out of me. Still, I retained some reservations when not in my nursing role. However, one Halloween we were to wear a costume to work at a nursing home. I dressed as a clown with wig, etc. It was most freeing. I could be a whole different character in “sort-of” disguise. So I think I understand introverted extrovert! Good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Neva, I think that’s great! I would be the same way. I haven’t worn a costume in years (at least one where I wouldn’t be recognized immediately) so I can only imagine how freeing that would feel. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  8. Joe Stephens says:

    I feel the same way, except I’m kind of shy around new people, which is something my students never believe. I’m friendly and gregarious when I’m in teacher mode, but if I see my kids in the mall, I never approach them unless they notice me first. Not that I don’t want to see them–I’m happy to. It’s just that I worry that they won’t want to talk to their teacher at the mall.

    But even when I’m comfortable around people, it’s hard for them to get me to do stuff, especially if I’ve been busy for several days. I need time to just be alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m the same way with meeting new people. I was always “the shy one.” The fewer people who are surrounding me, the easier it is for me though. I’m much better one on one than big groups. I always thought teachers were never shy also! It seems like people who teach are naturally outgoing and extroverted. I know I’d be terrified to speak up in front of a class. But what you say makes sense. You’re in “teacher mode” and that’s your job and your passion. Thanks for reading and commenting, Joe.

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  9. Gigi Pandian says:

    This is a perfect explanation of the category so many of us writers fall into! Nodding nodding nodding. I had a great time at Bouchercon, but I’m SO happy to be home. I’ll be recharged by next year, so hope to see ya there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll definitely be in N’awlins, Gigi! Looking forward to it but have to make sure I’m mentally prepared. At least I have an idea now of what to expect. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  10. I completely relate, Sarah! I attended a dog rescue event on Friday night to both support the rescue and to network (dog rescue supporters might just enjoy dog books!) and I was able to hand out several business cards. I too enjoy staying home more (although I don’t seem to do that too often! LOL) but I enjoy socializing, too. Your post truly resonated with me — thanks for writing it!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mike Staton says:

    I have liked novel writing because it’s a solitary pursuit. Well, let me revise that slightly. I have worked in cooperation with a friend — now deceased — on a novel. That was an interesting experience, submerging my ego so we could create chapters we both were satisfied with. Nowadays, I enjoy writing the early drafts, but I also like working with the online friends who critique those chapters and offer me suggestions on how to improve them. I have just one more chapter to revise in my latest WIP, and it will be ready for publication. In fact, I plan to look at the reviews to see how I can incorporate them into my final chapter — perhaps as early as tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know if I could work with a writing partner. That takes a special kind of patience and camaraderie. You’re lucky to have found someone you can write with. I think it would be a fun experience though. I too value feedback and writing is such a solitary vacuum that my writer group is crucial to my writing (and my sanity!) Good luck revising your WIP and looking forward to hearing about its publication!

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  12. Ingrid says:

    Hi Sarah! I’m delighted that you had a good experience at Bouchercon and that you were able to balance the energy of meeting people and finding quiet time. In case it wasn’t obvious from the time we’ve spent together (haha) I’m an extrovert-extrovert, and I just wanted to leave a note here to represent for writers who are extroverts, who love crowds, write in cafes, and are always up to go out whenever you’re ready (although I totally understand that you need your quiet time, even though I don’t.) If you need me, I’ll be in the bar (or the cafe, or the lobby…). I’m happy to pull the attention from you if you need to hide behind me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I could keep you handy for emergencies, Ingrid! I envy people like you who can go-go-go, chat about anything to anyone, and just light up the room. Hope to see you soon at a book event or something! Thanks for commenting.

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  13. Travis says:

    Hey Sarah,

    This is a great article for the introverted and overwhelmed writers. I wish you could have made it. It’s a weird almost necessary obligation for writers to go out there and promote and meet others. I have an introverted side that shuts me down, especially around certain personalities. There were a few post-Bouchercon blogs up today with writers talking about the conference. Joe Clifford hit some of the same notes about how he hates to go in public , but how he’s found a tribe at Bouchercon that makes him feel comfortable: http://www.joeclifford.com/blog/2015/10/12/in-my-tribe-bouchercon-raleigh-recap-2015/

    Hope you’ll make the next ones!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for sharing Joe’s blog. It really nailed it for me. Yes, writers are my tribe for sure. There are also a certain niche of crime writers who are “my tribe” within the tribe and that’s what makes writer conferences like Bouchercon so supportive and for lack of a better word a “big love fest.” It feels fantastic and is like a high. I think writer conferences are essential for writers to attend and yes, they’re energy-sapping but it’s worth it. I hope you had fun (it looks like you did!) and I can’t wait for N’awlins! Thanks for sharing Joe’s blog and commenting, Travis. Hope you and the fam are having a great rest of your trip!

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  15. Wranglers says:

    My previous comment went out to cyberspace I guess. I am an extrovert, but I’m a little sensitive. I have spoke on front of people lots of times, but I still get nervous. People say they wish they were as calm as me, and they have a hard time believibg how very nervous I get.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. S J Brown says:

    I think most writers struggle to find a balance. It is very easy to settle in for hours at a time and let the creative juices flow. I could very easily swap between the computer and out in the field with the critters. But I force myself to get out and socialize, do book signings, and presentations about wildlife. Generally I stress about things until I arrive, then I seem to relax as soon as someone asks me a question about critters.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, sometimes we writers just have to force ourselves to go out and be social or to promote ourselves. But once we’re there, we have a good time, especially if we are in our element which is surrounded by books and talking about things we like. Thanks for reading and commenting, SJ!

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