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Lakeshore
An author of no particular popularity

Jay Lake
Date: 2010-03-17 18:06
Subject: [process] Privileging the extroverts
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, culture, health, personal, process, writing
jess_ka, talking about the process of writing, made an offhand observation that struck me as very powerful.
Face it, extroverts are privileged in our society. That everyone else should have to follow suit in order to gather more attention and, thereby, success, is exhausting to those of us who simply are not extroverts.

Though I'm not sure "privileged" is exactly the term I'd use here, I take her point. Society skews toward people who can speak well, exude social energy, draw constructive attention. Eric Witchey has used the term "bending light" to refer to this kind of interaction.

I've written before here about my own struggles with being forced by cancer and chemotherapy into an introvert's lifestyle despite my nigh-pathological extroversion. My emotional and social needs are still those of an extrovert, but my body's needs are very much those of an introvert. With all love and respect to my variously introverted friends (and you guys definitely know who you are), how the hell do you do it?

What does this privileging mean? I don't know. Another of those things I need to untangle for myself a while. But it does seem important, especially given the wide variety of socialization and public behaviors we as writers are notoriously stereotypical for.

Are you an extrovert?

Does society (or writerdom/fandom) privilege you for that?

Would you be if you could?

I miss bending light, myself, down here inside the chemo well. But I'm climbing out.

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Peter Hollo
User: frogworth
Date: 2010-03-18 02:43 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yup.
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User: jess_ka
Date: 2010-03-18 01:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Bending light is a good term for it--there's definitely a warmth and brilliance to some extroverts (like you).

But, as I'm sure you know, while being that warm outgoing performer gives you energy, it's exhausting and draining to an introvert---we fill with light in the quiet times.
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Leela
User: leela_cat
Date: 2010-03-18 01:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
See, as an introvert, my question for extroverts is always "how the hell do you do it?"

I can't imagine being "on" so frequently, or spending so much time in the company of other people. I need a significant amount of quiet and peaceful time just to be able to get up and face other people every day at work. I'm lucky to be able to work at home one day a week, but when that day starts filling up with non-stop IMs and meetings, I start wanting to throw my computer and phone out the window and to tell people to shut up and leave me alone for a minute.

I think the world is better for having both introverts and extroverts (and those who are a combination of the two). But I do think that publishing (as opposed to writing) is a place where extroverts are privileged. After all, if you can't get up in front of the crowds and sell yourself, you won't sell books and you won't be published. The days of the writer being able to send a book to the publisher and not go out and read and sign and shake hands at conventions no longer exist.

And all of those are the kinds of things that extroverts do far better than introverts.
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Laura Anne Gilman: citron presse
User: suricattus
Date: 2010-03-18 01:33 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:citron presse
With all love and respect to my variously introverted friends (and you guys definitely know who you are), how the hell do you do it?

We wonder the same thing about you.

Do I feel like I'm somehow penalized for being an introvert? *considers* Somewhat, yeah. I have to explain and justify myself to people who don't/won't understand that being around other people really wears me out, even when I like them. Disappearing during a party because I needed some down time is viewed as anti-social or unfriendly, rather than a simple matter of physical and emotional capacity.

However, I note that I match the specs you listed above. I speak well; can, at need, exude social energy; and have been known to draw constructive attention. The difference is that doing all that drains me, rather than invigorating me. So I'm not sure that argument works.

(On the flip side of the "privileged" coin, there's often a sense that extroverts are shallow and superficial, because they're constantly flitting about and being the center of attention, looking for that invigoration. So: damned if you are, damned if you aren't?)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-03-18 13:24 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We wonder the same thing about you.

Actually, kenscholes and I have spent a lot of time discussing this over the years. He is a classic, deep introvert who falsifies type to function in public, but he trades private time about 2:1 for public time in order to recharge.

And of course, my current, ahem, lifestyle, is forcing me to learn a lot of things I might have otherwise gone all my years without ever coming to understand quite so personally.
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David D. Levine
User: davidlevine
Date: 2010-03-18 01:39 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
As I alluded to over in my own blog earlier today, I'm a performing introvert. Which means that, although I enjoy being the center of attention, and I'm good at it, it takes a hell of a lot of energy and I need to retire to a private space to recover. Society does privilege those extrovert-like behaviors, though, so the effort and recovery are well worth it to me.

What forms does this privilege take? Well, writers are in the entertainment field and extrovert behavior is a form of publicity. We go to conventions (and do book tours and signings) in hopes of attracting readers and, perhaps, editors who will see us in hallways and on panels and think "this person speaks entertainingly and interestingly, maybe I should check out his writing." So extrovert behavior can pay off in cold hard cash. Positive attention is also its own reward, even for (some kinds of) introverts. And extroverts are more likely to catch the eye of members-of-the-appropriate-sex.

I'm probably not telling you anything here you don't already know. I'd like to be able to help you cope with the fact that you currently have an extrovert's needs in an introvert's body, but I'm afraid all I can tell you is what you've already learned, which is that one has to balance one's desire for attention against one's energy reserves -- in other words, to count spoons. I'm fortunate in that I currently have spoons enough to overcome my fundamentally introverted nature, but when I'm sick or tired I tend to vanish from view.
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Autopope
User: autopope
Date: 2010-03-18 11:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm a performing introvert. Which means that, although I enjoy being the center of attention, and I'm good at it, it takes a hell of a lot of energy and I need to retire to a private space to recover. Society does privilege those extrovert-like behaviors, though, so the effort and recovery are well worth it to me.

Me too. Perfect summary. I can do a couple of days of public exposure in a row, but then I need to find a quiet space to retreat into for several hours.
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User: quantuminsanity
Date: 2010-03-18 01:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Us introverts don't get how extroverts do it any more than you get how we do it.

Doesn't being the center of attention just make your skin crawl?

I suspect we are a different species.
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User: quantuminsanity
Date: 2010-03-18 01:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I don't think I really see it as extroverts being privileged for being extroverted though. It's just that by our very nature introverts don't want to be the center of attention... so we don't speak out as much, we don't involve ourself in social situations as much, we don't fight to be heard as much. We don't want the attention.
Anyone who craves attention isn't really an introvert.
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Bd: [Sherlock Holmes] sad eyes
User: jetaimerai
Date: 2010-03-18 04:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:[Sherlock Holmes] sad eyes
Anyone who craves attention isn't really an introvert.

I disagree with this, actually. Just craving attention doesn't make one an extrovert; it's wanting to have the attention of people for long periods of time. As a somewhat shy, somewhat socially awkward introvert, I don't have many friends and so I do occasionally crave attention from people. But that doesn't in any way mean that I'm an extrovert, cause I'm not. I need tons and tons of alone time. I am usually perfectly content to spend hours upon hours by myself. But all people, I think, need some level of social interaction.
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Tim W. Burke
User: timwb
Date: 2010-03-18 01:55 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Not to be a downer, but due to disposition and current situation I sleep ten hours a day. I have never slept less than eight per day. meanwhile, I have been a pretty good sketch and improv comedian. I feel my introversion makes my performance better (and my writing) because it make me bring all my attention to bear on my inner life. Bad side: it also makes me obsessive, and i don't care what anyone says, obsession is *not* what the lazy call "diligence". It's what the well-balanced call "dysfunctional".
End of rant. Thanks. I do hope you get well, sincerely.
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User: (Anonymous)
Date: 2010-03-18 02:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm an introvert. I live alone, I tend to do a lot better in small gatherings than I do at large parties, and there are times when I really, really don't want to talk to anyone, for any reason. My online presence is fairly small and sheltered. Jay, you amaze me with the amount of information about yourself you share so freely. Because my impulse is always to err on the side of caution and say very little about myself online.

I'm the same way in person. You know that thing some people do, when they say they can't make some meeting or other and they'll give you a very detailed rundown of their lives to explain why? I'll just say, "I can't make the meeting. Sorry." I'm pretty sure some people think I'm rude because of this.

I'm not sure about the privileging, because there are ways to compensate for it in the publishing biz. You were actually the very first editor I met before I selling a story to you/them. I'd never met my agent in person when I signed on. I'd never met the editor who bought my first book.

Another example: I don't go into bookstores and sign stock. The very idea of walking up to a bookstore clerk and saying, "Hi, I'm an author," makes me ill. And yet we're all told that this is something that writers must do to promote themselves. Well, no you don't. I didn't start a blog until two years after my first book came out. I only got on Facebook and MySpace last year because my publisher threatened to do it for me if I didn't. And I'm not on Twitter. I'd have nothing to say on Twitter.

And yet, despite all this, I'm a bestselling author. So there is hope for the introverts.

Carrie V.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I go to a lot of conventions and have found them very useful. For me, being at a convention/signing/etc. is like being on stage. And it's about as exhausting as performing the lead role in South Pacific twice a day...)
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Laurel Amberdine: peony
User: amberdine
Date: 2010-03-18 03:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:peony
Honestly, while charm and extroversion might help someone get the initial attention of an agent or an editor, I don't think it ultimately helps the career all that much.

Books are out there all alone, with nothing but their contents to sell them. I think a lot of writers put too much time and effort into schmoozing, when what they really need to work on is writing damn good books.
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España Sheriff: AahHumanContact!
User: cmdrsuzdal
Date: 2010-03-18 02:11 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:AahHumanContact!
I seem to be an 'ambivert' myself so I would say that obviously the social aspects of live benefit from extroversion but the creative aspects benefit from introversion.

Pratically; people are social primates, people like people that enjoy being around them. Isn't that's the whole idea behind after-work drinks with co-workers and office parties? Beyond that the simple fact of being present in people's minds means having access to opportunities, OOS/OOM.

The advantages of introversion, from a creative standpoint at least, is getting stuff done. If you can't disappear into your own head to gestate ideas and then make them happen because you feel like going out with friends, or get bored with no one to talk to then you're doomed.

That's just from a practical angle, mind you-without getting into the pleasures of company vs. reverie.
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Nathan
User: mastadge
Date: 2010-03-18 02:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm a severe introvert, but I'm not sure how I feel about this assessment. It makes sense, but doesn't go with my experiences.

The capacity for getting work done has had very little to do with intro- or extroversion. I've known a number of introverts who would be just fine with the gestating ideas thing forever but don't actually manage to get them down on paper with any discipline, and extroverts who socialize and socialize and then get their work done just fine. Social energy in my experience hasn't had much effect, come to think of it, on peoples' ability to work in solitude or in company.

I had a job for which I was with and responsible for a team of people 24 hours a day for 6-8 weeks at a time. My work did not suffer; rather, I coped: at the end of those weeks, my fellow team leaders, largely extroverts, would all want to go out with each other; I'd essentially lock myself in my room for a week and just recharge my batteries in solitude.
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JoSelle
User: upstart_crow
Date: 2010-03-18 02:13 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
US society definitely does privilege extroverts. In many cases it even pathologizes introversion.

For example: I left the theatre for many reasons, but largely because I could no longer deal with the mandatory extroversion required of anyone involved in the performing arts, even playwrights, dramaturgs and literary managers, the latter of which I was poised for a career as.
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Nathan
User: mastadge
Date: 2010-03-18 02:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
That pathology is one of the problems I have with some (but not all) iterations of positive psychology: it often tracks positive behaviors with extroverted behavior. To succeed in life and be happy, be an extrovert. Introversion leads to pessimism and an unfulfilled life.

And, yes, introverted tendencies are often stigmatized: if you don't want to go out with the group, you must be weird. If you want to succeed, you need to put yourself out there.
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adelheid_p
User: adelheid_p
Date: 2010-03-18 02:17 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Do you think the following terms are positive descriptors or negative: loner, recluse, lone wolf, quiet, guarded, reserved.

If you said negative then you would be right and those are the terms often used to describe introverts. So, if our language about introverts is negative, and that informs societal perception of introverts, then, it would seem that society favors extroverts. If society favors a group doesn't that grant them some privilege?

Yes, I'm an introvert. I do enjoy social interaction more than many extreme introverts but I definitely need my alone time to recharge.

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Edward Greaves
User: temporus
Date: 2010-03-18 02:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think privileged isn't quite the right word for it. Aptly suited to make the most of social engineering to further your career, certainly. And certainly, society rewards people who are willing to put themselves out there, and enourage social interactions. But, the idea of privilege belies the difference between someone who is extroverted and skilled enough to use that natural tendency, and someone who is just a loud and obnoxious in your face ass. There are plenty of extroverts on the web with whom I have little or no desire to interact with.

All other things being equal (which they never are) I do think someone who is primarily extroverted will have an edge over someone who is primarily introverted. But it's only one of a broad number of characteristics that go into success.
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e_bourne
User: e_bourne
Date: 2010-03-18 02:56 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think that our particular society does privilege extroverts. They are perceived as having more positive attributes, more leadership qualities, while introversion is regarded with some, dare I say, suspicion.

As an introvert, I've learned for professional reasons to put on a mask and shake hands and make (piss poor) small talk. I hate it. It exhausts me. I also recognize it's necessary. Every job has some portion of work that's unpleasant.

I get energy from being alone. Extroverts get energy from being among people. I simply don't find it fun, except in small groups with people I know and feel comfortable with.

Other wise, I'd rather be by myself. And read. Or knit. Or write. Or paint. Or play with someone's dog.

It has nothing to do with shyness. I'm not shy. I'm positively aggressive. Being alone is just comfy.
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Elizabeth Coleman
User: criada
Date: 2010-03-18 03:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
At least in the sf scene, I think, introversion isn't as stigmatized as in the rest of society. There's too many introverts! (who are often already lacking in the social skills department, as nerds are so famous for.)
But definitely, as far as networking benefits go, introverts miss opportunities. My policy is "stay close to my more outgoing friends, look distinctive (with my hair and skirts) and don't be a dick, and people will at least think I'm nice, if they happen to remember me at all."
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mcjulie
User: mcjulie
Date: 2010-03-18 15:31 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
"stay close to my more outgoing friends"

This is one of the things I use Paul for.
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