I stumbled on this Atlantic essay via twitter**: Caring for Your Introvert: The habits and needs of a little-understood group, written by Jonathan Rauch. By the end I was wiping away tears of laughter because so much of it is so true.
Do you know someone who needs hours alone every day? Who loves quiet conversations about feelings or ideas, and can give a dynamite presentation to a big audience, but seems awkward in groups and maladroit at small talk? Who has to be dragged to parties and then needs the rest of the day to recuperate?
Yes, I’m an introvert. Not a big surprise there, I suspect. Most writers are. I think a lot of people who might otherwise make great writers fail at it because they can’t abide sitting alone for hours on end, day after day. We introverts get pretty twitchy if we don’t get to spend hours alone.
When I decided on a career switch back in 2000, I took up programming for two specific reasons: So I could make lots of money, and not have to talk to anyone. Of course I was wrong on both counts, but hey, it was a plan.
I’m not antisocial. I like going out for drinks, talking to people, hearing what they’re up to. One-on-one and one-on-two situations are great. But where I absolutely flounder is in large groups: cocktail mixers, conventions, that sort of thing.
Conventions! (Cue burst of scary music.) Genre conventions involve multitudes of people all of whom apparently know each other and admire each other, while I know none of them. Combine this with my congenital challenges with facial recognition and my woefully inadequate reading of well-known works in the field, and I become a deer in the headlights, not knowing which way to turn.
The ability of other people to navigate a group astounds me. I’ve been in groups of women in which two will begin talking intimately about a matter of mutual interest within two minutes of being in the same room. Naturally, I’ll assume these women already know each other, only to discover later that they’ve just met and were only making conversation. How do you do that? How do you know what to say that connects you immediately to a perfect stranger? It’s like studying an alien life form.
But I’ll keep up the study, because after all, amongst others is where I live. Just please be understanding if I need to flee back to my cave after a few hours out in the world.
**tweet originated by @julietgrames and retweeted by @innaj
Linda Nagata is the Locus and Nebula award winning author of The Bohr Maker, Vast, and Memory, all available at Book View Cafe. Her latest book The Dread Hammer, is a fast-paced mythic fantasy of love, war, murder, marriage, and fate.