Extrovert or introvert?Most of the time I feel like an extrovert - that is, a person who is energized by interacting with other people. It's really obvious when I come home from adventures in the wider world, brimming over with chitchat, observations, stories and whaddyuhthinks from my day's experiences ... and want my husband to listen and respond to everything I tell him. Luckily, he's similarly extroverted, so I hear him out as well.
Many years ago, I took the Myers-Briggs personality test, named after the social scientists who developed it. It's a paper and pencil test that ends up giving you four basic scores, one of which is extrovert/introvert. I scored barely on the extrovert side of the spectrum. This implies that I'm fairly balanced, energized by time spent with people, yet also needing quiet time alone to regenerate, the typical mode of a true introvert.
By the way, don't confuse introvert with shy and retiring. An introvert can have terrific people skills, be warm and outgoing, yet need time alone to reflect and recharge her batteries. There are instances, however, when the introvert's tendency to mull things over, withdraw from people, and even obsess over things, can lead to more unhappiness, not less. A frequent downside of the true introvert's approach is untested ideas and perceptions, and sometimes the mistaken belief that, having thought something many times, it must be obvious to the rest of the world - or at least to the people who count, spouse, best friend, or business partner. One married couple I know, both introverts, have occasionally been like ships passing in the night - neither speaking their mind on an issue, and so absorbed in their own ruminations that they don't realize they've never spoken them out loud.
By comparison, I'm a chatterbox. Recently talking with my husband about how to stop my racing thoughts and settle down to sleep after a busy day, my husband said, "So, you're thinking all the time," and I said, "Yes, in fact, if I were to tell you everything I'm thinking, I'd never shut up, and you'd never get a word in edgewise." Clearly this is why meditation is popular with a lot of people - not necessarily as a spiritual practice, but merely as a way to stop the constant chatter in one's head.
But, there are times when I'm an introvert, and writing is one of them. Whether writing in my journal or editing an essay, or even composing a business letter or report, I want solitude and silence. I want no intrusion from a human voice, not even a ballad from the radio. The introvert takes over and my ruminations flow out on the page. It's every bit as pleasurable as the interactions that fuel the extrovert side of my personality
There's a serene calm that comes with the writing process - in spite of a deadline. I'm sure some of it goes back to my childhood when, even as a fourth-grader, I sometimes wrote letters to my mother atoning for my childish sins. At least I was able to express myself on paper - and somehow my handmade envelopes with hand-drawn stamps made my message all the more satisfying and tangible. As a teenager, a diary captured my adolescent thoughts and activities, and as a young adult, travel journals not only described my surroundings but also shone a light on who I was and provided inadvertent insights into my companions and our relationships.
I bet this extrovert/introvert split personality is true of a lot of writers. I require alone time to write, yet savor the imagined reader, the person with whom I want to communicate, a silent audience ... and yet can be easily distracted by opportunities for social interaction, which in turn keep me from writing projects.
There's one occasion where my introvert and extrovert tendencies merge and fuse - the Fisher Poets Gathering, where the introvert who writes gets to read before an audience and receive the attention and interpersonal interaction that the extrovert craves. The people who attend are supportive and my initial stage fright fades as I feel the warmth of the audience. Two evenings on the last weekend of February in Astoria, this year Feb. 27 and 28, are filled with firsthand accounts, songs, poems silly and serious, all focused on commercial fishing. It's an opportunity for you to plug into a slice of life on the Northwest coast. For us on the other side of the microphone, you provide the human element that some of us introvert/extroverts crave.
Victoria Stoppiello is a freelance writer from Ilwaco and plans to be a reader on Saturday night at this year's Fisher Poet Gathering.