Portrait of a Closet Introvert
I was very recently asked if there was something that I knew about myself that no one else believes when I tell them. I suspect that the question was meant to elicit a confession that I was born with twelve toes, or that I get sexually aroused in the presence of yogurt (neither of which, incidentally, is true, I swear), or something along that line, so I sort of blew off the question at the time. That said, the question’s been lingering with me for a few days, primarily because there is something about me that I know is true, which (almost) no one else believes about me, and that is that I am an introvert.
The reason almost no one believes it is because I quite admittedly exhibit the signs of being a shameless extrovert: I’m very social, I don’t get lost or withdrawn in large groups, I handle public appearances and performances adeptly and in general I give the impression of enjoying being around people, including people I don’t know particularly well. That’s pretty textbook extroversion right there.
Naturally I admit to all the above. I do like people, I do enjoy myself in social situations, I like meeting new folks and (if I may say so) I’m pretty well socialized for someone who is both a writer and a geek. I’m not faking my generally sociable nature. But I think there’s a difference between playing well with others, and genuine extroversion, in which being with other people is energizing to that person. As much as I like people and being with them, I’m not energized by them; sooner or later I turn into a pumpkin and go off to have time by myself, in order to recenter and hit the “reset” button, and to be presentable to other human beings once more. Which is to say the way I energize is to spend time by myself, which is a classic introvert thing.
I’ve always known this about myself, but the event that really brought it home to me was the book tour I did for The Last Colony. I had a great time doing the readings and signings in meeting people, but the moment I was done with the last bit, I was done. I had friends who saw me on the tour and a number of them remarked on the fact of how dazed I was after an event. It was true, and it wasn’t just because I was tired; it was because I was peopled out. For me, doing an event like that is the human interaction equivalent of mainlining three king-sized Snickers bars: Yes, I’m on, but then, wow. Sugar crash.
There’s a similar thing that goes on with me at science fiction conventions, particularly when I’m a Guest of Honor; during the day if I’m not on a panel or have some other commitment I’m often in my hotel room in order to conserve my sociability for scheduled events and for evening partying and hanging out. It’s not to say I have to force myself into being a social person — as noted before I do actually like being sociable and partying, it’s one reason I do so much of it. It’s more of being aware of what my own limits and needs are. If I don’t get a certain amount of alone time, I get cranky. And that’s not good for anyone.
This is why, incidentally, living out in the middle of nowhere in rural Ohio is not actually a hardship for me. My geographically closest close friend is about an hour away; on a day-to-day basis I just don’t get out much to see anyone. How do I feel about that? Just fine, thanks. Being alone works for me; I get writing done, I get thinking done, and generally speaking I keep myself suitably amused. I really like seeing my friends when I see them, and I wish I saw them more (including the one just an hour from me). But I’m not going stir-crazy out here in the sticks. It suits my temperament well.
Also, you know: hi, people coming to my blog. Thanks for providing me daily low-impact fraternization. The Internet was made for introverts, I suspect. In all, I’m covered on a day-to-day basis.
So, yes: Introvert. You might not see it when you meet me. But it’s there.