Recently, I read an article in the Huffington Post called, “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert.” I read the article, in part, because I am an introvert. It took me many years to accept that fact. I even fooled a Myers-Briggs test in my ’20s. The reason I could live so deeply in denial? I had learned to “pass” as an extrovert.
Part of this was survival, and part because I kept choosing jobs that required me to be extroverted. Leadership development coordinator, recruiter and event manager, executive director for a chamber of commerce, journalist (especially editor for a small-town newspaper): all required me to network or otherwise regularly engage the public. Those small-town jobs were the worst. I couldn’t go to the grocery store or even a friend’s picnic without being accosted with advice on how business should be run or what story the paper should be covering. I’ve always found people’s need to tell those in prominent positions exactly how they should be doing their jobs annoying at best, offensive at worst. For an extrovert, this might offer an opportunity for some interesting discourse, or at least a good story to tell. For me, this intrusion into my personal life was draining. I didn’t realize just how draining until I left those professions.
I couldn’t escape at home, either. I married an extrovert, which is not uncommon for us introverts. Extroverts draw us out of our shells, which is a good thing. But my husband is as far on the extroverted scale as you can get. So, after dealing with the public all day, I’d come home to more talking, more queries, more draining of energy.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame him. I accept him for the extreme extrovert that he is. And he needs all that talking. But I couldn’t do both.
Book publishing is a much better fit. I can still interact with all of you (contrary to popular belief, most introverts enjoy interacting with people, we just need to approach it differently), but I can do it through mediums that allow me to conserve my energy. And I can save it for those times when I do interact with the public. Like writing workshops or book fairs. Trust me, you’d never know I wasn’t an extrovert in those settings. I’m very skilled adopting my extroverted persona.
It’s a part of who I am, now, after all. It’s like a pen name. Or a work persona. It’s a skill I use to survive in an extroverted world.
But the thing I found most interesting in the article is Sign #22: “You’re a writer.”
If you needed a bigger sign that we need introverts, that is it. Let’s take a moment and think about where fiction would be without us introverts.
Introverts spend a great deal of time in their own heads. We think a lot. Not to say you extroverts don’t, but we introverts can be intensely introspective, which is great fodder for character development and empathy. Plus, we like to be alone, and if you’ve every tried writing in a crowd, you’ll know that apart from a bustling newsroom, it’s usually a solitary profession.
That’s not always true. Not all writers are introverts, of course. My aforementioned extroverted husband, Barton Grover Howe, is a writer. And WMG’s own Dean Wesley Smith is an extrovert (although he might deny it).
But our Kristine Kathryn Rusch is one of the most talented introverts I know. Her versatility comes from all that time spent in that amazing head of hers. And she can certainly hold her own in a crowd, too.
So, let’s use this Labor Day to celebrate Introvert Appreciation Day, as well, and acknowledge all those wonderful introverted writers who enrich our lives. But if you can’t find any, don’t worry. We’re just in a quiet spot recharging with a good book.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.