Read "Quiet."

Hi, all! If you’re looking for ways to broaden your mental horizons while socially distancing this spring, here’s a real gem. I bought this book when I read about it on one of my favorite blogs, Mr. Money Mustache. Quiet, by Susan Cain, is an exploration into the world of introversion.

“Oh, yeah,” you might be saying to yourself. “Introversion. I know all about that from internet memes.” While some of those dang funny memes at least hint at the truth–introverts call a large group of people a “Nope,” or “Sorry I’m late; I didn’t want to come,” there’s a whole cerebral universe of introversion that it may do you a lot of good to learn about.

“Why?” you might ask. Because this is a blog about writing, by a writer, and if you’re at all interested in the things I write about, then it’s highly likely you are, yourself, an introvert. There are ambiverts out there, who fall into the middle of the spectrum, and maybe you’re one of them, but I’d bet that most writers are introverts.

I used to think I was extroverted. I can be gregarious, after all. When I was younger, I thought of myself as incredibly social! Then, I thought that maybe I was ambiverted … I took a few personality tests for fun, in college. (You could probably get away with ending almost any sentence at all with “… for fun, in college.” Try it.) Those tests basically showed I was comfortable in both social and quiet settings. But as I age … or, more importantly, as I focus more seriously on my writing, I have to admit to myself that I am pretty firmly in the introvert camp. Not that there’s a camp for introverts. We’d have to all hang out in separate tents and text each other campfire stories. Hehehe …

Actually, introverts can and do enjoy the company of others. It’s not that introvert=severe social anxiety, it’s that introverts are deeply fueled during their alone time. Here’s how I was clued into my own introversion:

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash
  • I need a nap after long or multiple social interactions, like lunch with a friend or even shopping. When I was a whitewater rafting guide during college summers, my bestie would often tease me for napping so often. It wasn’t that I didn’t love interacting with dozens of paying customers on my rafting trips, or joking and drinking swim-beer with my fellow guides–I truly did! It’s that all that other-people time sucked my batteries dry.
  • I get really, really irritated when my work is interrupted. Yeah, we all hate interruptions, but introverts feel it like records screeching, or like fingernails on a blackboard.
  • I have to write … like, HAVE TO. If I don’t have blocks of uninterrupted time to work on my own creative endeavors, I feel irritable and sometimes even sad. It’s the core to my very essence. Some of that has to do with my identity as a writer, but quite a lot of this need is because of my inherent introversion. Exploring worlds inside my own brain is critical for me!

Reading “Quiet” is giving me more than insight into my own nature, though; Susan Cain follows America’s path from valuing the cult of character to today’s obsession with the cult of personality. Whomsoever yells the loudest must be right! But so very often, those who quietly go back to their garages and little desks tucked into the corner of their bedrooms are the ones who solve the big problems and invent things that fuel social revolutions. Oh, charismatic personalities have their place, to be sure. But, as a society, we don’t value the quiet ones nearly enough. It’s quite telling that one of the biggest concerns well-meaning people have about homeschoolers is, “But … how will they socialize?” Really?

Crowd-think isn’t nearly as productive as executive types want it to be. Brainstorming sessions have been proven to be much less useful than asking folks to come up with ideas quietly, by themselves, and then pool them together later. Time and time again it’s shown that louder voices overtake quieter ones, who might be right.

And, sometimes, that can be very dangerous.

Lift up your cups of tea in quiet solute, O introverts! Your work is just as important–maybe more so–than that of the louder ones. Keep on keepin’ on. In the soothing privacy of your own home.

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