'‘I Want to be Alone!’ - Pauline Chandler

Are writers by nature anti-social? Is this why we write? 

This month, I was supposed to be blogging Part Two of my Spring Clean-Up post, with the focus of how edited my collection of fiction. We.ell, as so often happens with any type of cleaning in my house, I’ve started, so I’ll not finish. Tra la! My butterfly mind hops on to a different track. 

What interrupted my Clean-Up blog?  An interesting piece from the Huffington Post, about Introverts.

Now, I’m not a fan of labels for people, in any form.  We can only pin people down for a very short time. In the next moment we’re different. Influenced by something in our environment, we change our minds, we learn and grow, we evolve, as written in stone as blobs in a lava lamp.

Yet, this piece on Introverts really spoke to me, because I recognised myself and for the first time acknowledged my weirdness as perfectly normal. There, I've said it! I've come out! I'm an Introvert!  Finally. In my seventh decade. Better late than never!  Now I can forgive myself for being a party pooper, for hating the telephone, for not especially loving foreign travel, for feeling a transport of joy to be home again, with my own chair, mug, pillow.  For wanting to be alone, completely alone, to write. 

Of course, I do like socialising, occasionally, but not for long. My best friend and I used to meet for just an hour every week, which was perfect. I’m not sure I could handle a writer’s retreat, for example, with other writers. Too much stimulus! Too much strangeness and social effort. I still feel guilty about that, because I do love people and when I'm feeling brave and strong, I like meeting them.  

Here’s an extract from the Huffington Post article, with comments from fellow introverts and my own reactions in brackets.  

12 Things Introverts Want You to Know

1. They don't hate a good party.
Introverts aren't a bunch of awkward killjoys who don't like to have a good time. In fact, many introverts enjoy going to parties where they'll be with people they feel comfortable with. 
What can be so grating about large gatherings is the overstimulation.  Introverts feel exhausted by small talk and prefer more intimate conversations.

(TRUE: I’m sooo bad at small talk, which has led to endless embarrassing moments. At my first publisher’s party, I was introduced to an eminent writer who had given me a good review. trying not to be reticent, I shouted ‘I LOVE YOU!’ at him and enfolded him vigorously in a warm embrace. Der.)

2. Craving downtime doesn't mean they're anti-social.
Introverts need time to recharge, but they still want to be with their friends after they've snagged that alone time. They're not anti-social; they're selectively social.
"Just because nine times out of 10, I decline your invitation, does not mean I want you to stop inviting me.”


3. They're not open books (and that's perfectly okay).
Introverts rarely spout off the first thing that comes to their minds. This quiet reflection is a hallmark of this personality type 
and is quite the opposite of their extroverted counterparts, who speak their thoughts affirmatively and quickly.

(TRUE. It takes me ages to form an opinion I want to share.)

4. Personal space is highly valuable to them...
Introverts are more likely to opt for the aisle seat, 
rather than the middle to avoid being surrounded on all sides. This allows them an opportunity to remove themselves from a situation in order to recharge if they need to.


5. ...But yes, they'll give you a hug.
You just have to ask them first.

(NAH : I hug people all the time! You don’t need to ask. Just hug. )
6. Just because they're introverts doesn't meant they're shy...
Shyness and introversion are often used synonymously
, but as introverts are quick to point out, they're not the same thing. Introverts don't always fear social settings, they just place value on smaller, more meaningful social interactions -- and they're perfectly fine with remaining in that comfort zone.

(TRUE. I love meeting up with my small groups of friends.  Four's a good number, then you can catch up properly with everybody.)

7. ...Or stuck up, for that matter.
A quiet demeanor does not equate to a haughty attitude. When introverts don't overly contribute to a conversation, it's usually because they're being more observant than participatory.
"Me being quiet has nothing to do with you.it doesn't mean I'm being rude and it doesn't mean I am snobby... It's nothing I can control and though I am very aware of it, I can only push myself so far until I'm past uncomfortable [and] tolerable."

(TRUE - L)

8. They don't want to be more outgoing.
Many people look at introversion as a character flaw, when in reality, introverts like their quieter demeanour and have no interest in changing.

(TRUE-ISH – I thought I had a character flaw and for many years have tried to change.)
9. They approach the workplace differently.
Introverts are typically averse to open office plans and sometimes can experience challenges navigating an ideal working environment. Finding quiet spaces, only attending crucial meetings and having routine check-ins with co-workers can help ease those office
roadblocks, according to  Susan Cain, author of a book on Introversion. 
"I tend to shrink back in work meetings where multiple people are brainstorming out loud, but that doesn't mean I don't care about the topic being discussed or that I'm not paying attention. “ I just need some time to mull over my thoughts before I present them to a crowd."

(TRUE.  Wish I’d realised this before I went for all those interviews for jobs I didn’t get and the demoralising debriefings afterwards )

10. They're not the biggest fans of phone calls.
 Out-of-the-blue phone conversations tend to feel intrusive to introverts, which may result in them screening your call. 
"Talking on the phone can be a form of torture. Please don't take offence that I'll text you back rather than call you. It's not you, it's me!"

(TRUE! I know..I'm sorry..)

11. Surprise birthday gatherings are the worst.
Big parties where introverts are the center of attention = A big no-no.
" I'd much rather have my few close friends for a quiet evening of games, wine and conversation.”


12. They have an intuitive nature.
Introverts tend to be in tune with their surroundings
, and as a result they may pick up on subtleties of conversations and moods that their louder counterparts may not pick up on.’

(TRUE – I think.)  

What do you think? Is this you, too?

Pauline Chandler     



JO said…
I think it's a continuum, with introversion at one end and extroversion at the other, and most of us tend towards one end or the other, but our condition is not static. So i can love foreign travel and long for alone time (hence struggling in somewhere like Singapore where there are so few thinking places)
You're right, of course, Jo. I too change like a lava lamp blob! But I can now forgive myself for those 'longing to be alone' times, which is a relief. Genuinely thought I was weird!
Enid Richemont said…
That blurting out of something totally inappropriate and seriously embarrassing on recall - it's the first time I've ever seen that mentioned, and oh yes! it's one of my specialities too (ouch!) Might it be that when something brings us out of our shells we tend to over-react and put on a performance?
Susan Price said…
I agree with Jo about the continuinuninum - sorry, I don't know how to stop spelling it.
I am certainly much closer to the Introvert end. I've been reading a few of these pieces about introverts lately - seems it's a hot topic in psychology at the moment.
I love going to the SAS' Charney conference, which is very small, and where many of the attendees are friends and all of them are writers. I love the talk, the stimulus and the laughter - but do tend to rush back to my little room at intervals and thankfully collapse in blessed aloneness and quiet.
I don't know how many would agree, but being at a party, or doing a school visit is being 'on' - it's a performance - and as such, it's exhausting.
I don't like buses or trains, partly because I'm trapped with other people. I hate unexpected phone calls, and often will not answer until I can check the number and find out who it is.
I enjoy travel, but only with a few companions I know, and don't enjoy the crowded airport bit - but then, who does? Do extraverts? Really?
Mari Biella said…
Another confirmed introvert here. For much of my life, I've heard only that introversion is a negative, undesirable trait. There was a time when I agreed, and tried hard to alter my own personality. You can imagine how much success I enjoyed in that particular endeavour...

Now, I'm neither proud nor ashamed to say that I'm an introvert. It's just what I'm like.
Lydia Bennet said…
I"m both - I love parties, festivals, late night raving, socialising and chatting, giving my own parties, all that kind of caper. I like going out at night, but these days say i've been out three times in a row, I like to stay in the next night or so - I do seem to need time on my own or maybe just like to have it. I enjoy being alone as well as being with friends or in a crowd of people. I find these internet quiz things a bit odd, so many of them are about either/or - I saw one for 'type A' people and it was me to a T - so out of interest I looked at Type B and ditto!
glitter noir said…
Well done. I've learned that I have a much better time at parties if I don't mention my writing or where I work. I simply claim to be semi-retired, or I throw in as a teaser that I'm at work on a rainmaking/moneymaking project that I can't discuss. Man of mystery trumps, every time, the anathematic image of a former horror writer who's perfectly content to live in a small studio while living and writing alone.
I think I'm both too. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that I've got time and space to write, with no visitors and nowhere to go. And I always try to sit in one of those seats on the train where you don't have to face anyone. But I love surprise parties and talking on the phone, and I know I tend to talk too much. I'm an only child and so is my son, and although we're both sociable, outgoing and not at all shy, I do notice that both of us need at least some time and space completely alone each day or we get very ratty - and we're very self sufficient. It worries me a bit that modern educational methods tend to label this kind of thing as unsocial when I reckon most creative people - whether introvert or extrovert - would acknowledge this need in themselves.
Thanks for lovely supportive comments, folks! I feel really so much better for having acknowledged that this is how I am and, as of now, refusing to apologise for it! I am tempted by Charney, Sue. It always sounds fab. Reb, that's exactly why I dislike some social gatherings, because I feel I have to hide who I am and what I do. I'd be hopeless at 'woman of mystery' though! I'd be bound to blurt out something foolish! Ha ha!

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