Introverts is a psychological term for people who tend to: “shrink from social contacts and to become preoccupied with their own thoughts”. (Thanks WordWeb! Which, by the way, is a handy little free dictionary tool. If you don’t have it, you should get it. No, seriously.)
To me? In a lot of ways that also sounds like the definition of a writer. Guarding writing time with two clawed hands wrapped around a broadsword with a fire-breathing dragon for backup those vast number of needed hours alone for composition. Pretty much precludes running off pell-mell into a loaded social calendar. And there’s no way to build worlds and characters without becoming preoccupied with your own thoughts. Occupational hazard. If we don’t get it, there’s not going to be a lot of books and screenplays written.
No secret that I’m an introvert by nature
Not uncommon for writers to be introverts, so I’m not alone. It’s not debilitating to me, so it’s not like that. And then we have life – shit happens. I’m well aware I have a specific job to accomplish in the greater scheme of things and my entire life has been one thing leading to another where I find myself often needing to be on – teaching, coaching, training, and/or helping other people, singly and in groups. As you can imagine, my need to be alone (because it is a need, not only something I’d prefer) and those recurring situations aren’t really a synergistic mix and I’ve learned to deal.
The universe has a very deft sense of irony, though, doesn’t it?
Like all introverts, I tend toward introspection, pondering why things and people are the way they are, deep examination of motivation and obsessive analysis of myself, things I’ve done, and the world around me. I don’t have a problem with this and am very comfortable inside my own head. I think it’s the driving force behind my becoming very centred as a human being. It’s allowed me to learn and know on a deep level who and what I am. Because I don’t let myself off the hook for anything. The good or the bad – I own that shit. I know that’s not the case for a lot of people, so I don’t consider my state a negative thing. To be honest, I consider it a tool handed me by the accident of my birth, the energy assigned me to work with. So I use it.
Obviously, I don’t operate the way a lot of people do. You’ll notice I didn’t say ‘normal’. Because to be honest, I don’t think it’s normal to be okay with never having time alone to think on your own behaviour – that’s avoidance. It prevents us from the self-examination needed to course-correct or realign ourselves to our own values when we need to. I also don’t think it’s normal being okay with a non-stop sensory input assault to the point the person under the thick of that cloud is pounded out of existence as a unique entity. Where the only person left is a mirage collage of all those things bouncing back off out into the world. How can that be a good thing? In my opinion, it creates soulless shadow people who no one can ever really know, least of all themselves.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find it hard to connect with people like that. You can’t meet them on a common emotional plane. They don’t even know who they are. Humans can’t live like that. In that state? Again, my opinion, but I think people then feel their own void. They’ve never developed the personal coping tools that would allow them to feed themselves in that way and so crave things to fill it. More input, thoughts, borrowed emotion or experience they siphon off others that they take into themselves in a desperate attempt to fill that gaping hole of their own creation. It makes them become energy vampires. They don’t even recognise they’re doing it.
I have a theory about introverts and energy vampires…
Well, me being me, I’ve come to a lot of conclusions about a vast array of unconnected matters, but, specifically, I do have one about these kinds of people. I think they prey on introverts. Not consciously or maliciously, but I think they’re drawn to them. They can’t help themselves. Introverts possess something they lack – the depth that comes from deep introspection and examination. So they latch on attempting to achieve their own balance.
Warning: I’m about to wax existential here for a sec (sorry, Druid leak-over)…
People crave balance and whether consciously or unconsciously, they seek out the means to balance themselves. Those in pain seek out the strong to share or lighten their burden. People in confusion seek out people who are logical to help them figure out their problems. Individuals without the ability to self-validate seek out those who will validate them. Lost people seek out those who have figured out where they are to guide them – we call them gurus and oracles and visionaries and life coaches.
People who are out of alignment seek out the balanced to bring themselves into balance. Animals do it out of instinct. They even do it for us, which is why humans use therapy animals. Still think being in a state of unbalance doesn’t do anything to a living organism? Take a look at what happens to an ecosystem when it’s out of balance. Humans aren’t immune and it’s the height of conceit to think so. We’re all more connected than we understand.
Nothing in the universe is all dark or light, positive or negative, nurture or destruction, “male” or “female” – those energies must exist in harmony and balance or everything falls apart. Akin to the way water seeks its own level, every living thing from a kaleidoscope of butterflies to the tribe of Humanity to the collective organisation of the universe seeks out a state of balance. Or after a while? It wastes away.
Other introverts out there all have those “seekers”, those people in their circle who grasp at balance out of need and you know who they are. The people who won’t leave you alone and won’t take no for an answer. As introverts, just a regular day being with other people costs us large. We need time away to recharge and reflect on the recent input. It’s not that we don’t want to see the people we like, but that we need a cycle of being alone to let that settle, while we balance, before connecting with other people again. Our real friends? They know this.
But these other people… Let’s call them peripherals, because they can never truly be our friends. It’s not possible to be friends with someone while not taking the time to understand what they need as part of a healthy, mutually supportive association. These energy vampire types can’t fathom our introvert need for solitude. And they often harass the shit out of us to the point we feel hunted.
And I, for one, really dislike feeling hunted.
Writer introverts have problems… that we create…
Writer introverts put themselves in a tough spot. If you’re a career writer, you already fight that war with yourself every day – needing solitude while at the same time being compelled to put your words out into the world through your chosen medium. And this can be a problem.
We delve deep to pull out feelings and bleed into them as we churn words out. People feel that shit. I mean, that’s the whole point of it, isn’t it? To take the reader along on the journey we’ve encapsulated in our words, so they can share it with us.
But it’s a double-edged sword.
Being that honest carries over into regular correspondence and allows people to really “feel” you behind the words. In artistic work, it can foster a wonderful sense of kinship and connection with your audience which makes for loyal fans. They “get” you. Which, as an introvert, is simultaneously terrifying, because of our predisposition to hide while at the same time creating an extended family who understand us. It’s fabulous, right?
Well, it’s fabulous when it’s other balanced people doing the receiving and connecting. The bond it creates for energy vampires isn’t the same. It’s needy and grasping and creates a false sense of intimacy they unknowingly exploit.
Let me qualify that by saying, just about everyone’s read something that got them through some hard times, periods of emotional difficulty, myself included. That’s not what I’m talking about. Those situations are healthy and the outcome is healing or growth and I would consider myself honoured by anyone who’s ever had a tough time who read something of mine that helped get them through that. I mean, to me, there’s no greater compliment. This is something unique and a positive exchange of energy in my definition of how the universe works.
I’m talking about the extreme.
Where healing never happens, because the person receiving isn’t emotionally equipped to consciously recognise their own void. And they’re so emotionally underdeveloped, they can’t understand a clear and direct instruction to back the fuck off. I’ve actually never seen another writer discuss this except in the specific case of obsessive fans (celebrity worship syndrome) which is something else, though I’m sure someone has somewhere.
I mean writing community peers and associates. The people we network with for career development. Yikes.
I have one of these situations that’s gone on for over a year. It recently took a weird turn, which is why it’s on my mind. I know I can’t be the only one, because there are too many introvert writers for this to never come up. But us being us, I’m sure it’s more we just never talk about it.
What’s an introvert writer to do? When you’ve exhausted diplomacy and have gone beyond direct instruction to bluntness, but you need to continue to foster that relationship, because it directly affects your career, what’s left? It’s a tough spot for introverts, because every interaction takes it out of us and kills creativity. When you start dipping into Bucket ‘B’ to deal with Situation ‘A’, that’s just not cool. I don’t tolerate things that get in the way of my creativity. So I had to think about that.
If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, when you’ve exhausted all your other avenues and it’s starting to cost you creatively, I suggest asking yourself this question:
‘Is an association that’s costing me creative energy – that will ultimately affect my production of quality product which will without doubt affect my reputation and ultimately my career – really productive and worth keeping?’
I think you can probably figure out the answer to that one on your own.
Peace my introvert peeps!