For the past week I’ve been telling myself I really need to write a post, but I somehow haven’t got round to it. Big April is all done now, and all of the big events that were worrying me were fabulously enjoyable and brilliant. And utterly exhausting.
Throughout I’ve been writing, recording then releasing a short story every week for the Split Worlds, working hard on the third book in the series (now about 13,000 words in and I really must start a new word count tracker) and spinning as many of my plates as possible.
Then today I realised I wasn’t here, talking to you guys, because I need cave time. I’ve been more sociable and “out there” in the last month than I have been in the last two years. It was great fun, but blimey, I need to recuperate.
Writers and the introvert thing
Two of the bigger events in April were practically back to back; I got home from Eastercon on Monday night and left for Alt.Fiction on Friday afternoon. I felt like I needed another three weeks to recover before leaving the cave again, and when I mentioned this feeling to some of my author friends, they all sympathised. It would be easy to put this down to us being the typical introvert; preferring time alone, inwardly focused, away from all the exhausting people. Whilst this may be true to a certain extent, I think this is over-simplistic (what a surprise) and as it’s been on my mind, I thought I’d burble about it here a little bit.
Sliding scales and questionnaires
I developed a distrust of this aspect of psychology when studying for my degree. So many tests to determine where someone falls on the introversion/extroversion scale depend on answering incredibly simple questions about generic social traits and situations, for example: “Would you describe your general temperament as quiet or outgoing?”
I filled in a lot of these questionnaires whilst studying the topic of individual differences, personality and questionnaire design, and the process destroyed almost all faith I had in the results they produced. Why? Because we can be different people in different situations, and these questionnaires – and the simplistic “I am more this kind of person than that kind of person” approach to personality categorisation seems to just gloss over this point.
Let’s look at that example question again, I would find that practically impossible to answer; there are several groups of people I know and sometimes socialise with. When I spend time with some I am very quiet and reserved, with others I am talkative and gregarious. With a few I am very outgoing, socially fearless and always happy, and if I’ve had a drink or three, I’m even cheerier.
I loved the socialising at Eastercon and Alt.Fiction; hours of chatting with people who are just as geeky and just as into books – and specifically SFF books – as me and they’re all lovely – what’s not to love? I felt relaxed and happy, does that make me an extrovert? On day three of Eastercon I had to just go to my room for a few hours and be by myself, does that make me an introvert?
So what exactly am I trying to say here?
This is far from a reasoned blog post (and I’m arguing with myself as I write it), I suppose what I’m trying to say is that whilst I do think there is a necessary leaning towards being an introvert when you’re a writer, it’s not the whole picture. Yes, a writer has to be able to spend hours and hours alone, and yes, things like book launches and signings can be incredibly stressful and draining, but that doesn’t mean we’re all the way down the far end of the introversion scale.
It may mean that we’re so keen on getting the stories and characters out of our heads we don’t mind being alone for a while, but love spending time with other people. It may mean that having to stand up in front of other people and say “I made this” after a lifetime of being bullied or criticised to within an inch of our id may be really hard.
What is really needed here?
I started this off by explaining that after all this outwardly focused stuff, I just want to be alone for a while, like a good little introvert who’s been pushed out of her comfort zone for a few weeks. It does feel a bit like that on the surface, but I’ve been missing hanging out with all my friends too. Having conversations by DM and text is not the same as being in a bar or watching Raiders of the Lost Ark at three in the morning in a freezing chalet in North Wales.
What I really think this is about is the need for mental space to grow book three and keep coming up with ideas for a new story per week. If I’m being out there, I’m not being in here, in my own space, letting my imagination tend the shoots from my creative mulch to grow into scenes and stories. That’s as important as actually getting the words down on the page, and critical for my wellbeing.
So, that’s where I am at the moment. You can read or listen to the Split Worlds stories here by the way, and even though I may not be in a bar near you, I’m never far from Twitter. I’d love to know what you guys think about this introversion/extroversion stuff too.