Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Introverts R Us - Tamsyn Murray

My name is Tamsyn and I am an introvert.

It took me a long time to realise this, mostly because I am also (for want of a better phrase) a bit of a show-off. I used to put my hand up when I knew the answer at school. I do am-dram, which involves singing and dancing and acting, sometimes in lead roles, in front of hundreds of people. Since I became a writer, the performer in me has been even busier, because what are school visits if not extended performances? I can do interviews for TV, and smile and chat to people I've only just met in social situations, make small talk without any apparent paroxysms of terror. How can I do all of that and not be an extrovert?

It took one of those lists you see popping up on Facebook every now and then to teach me the truth about my nature. Things You Should Know About Introverts*, it said. And I thought that as a writer, I knew plenty of introverted people so maybe it was worth a read.

Point 1 made me pause: We need to recharge alone. I do, I thought. In fact, there's nothing I cherish more than a bit of alone time (although alone time = working time for me because alone time is a rare commodity) and I constantly feel I don't have enough of it. And certainly after an event of some kind, what I yearn for most is to be on my own. Hmmm.

Point 2: We don’t hate being around people, but we probably hate crowds. I thought about this for a while because I wouldn't say I hate crowds but I don't love them either. Unless it's a festival crowd, in which case I love them all. But I do quite often feel overwhelmed by crowds - the urge to go and find a quiet place to sit is strong (or sometimes even to go home) and I get around this by starting random conversations with people. This is a trick I have learned and I almost always enjoy the conversation.

Number 3: We don’t mind silence.This one depends on the silence. I had a boss once who used to come and sit in my office and say nothing. Those were not good silences and I would say anything to fill them (which resulted in more silences because I had said something stupid.) But there's nothing wrong with a companionable silence.

And point 4: Just because we are introverted doesn’t mean we are shy. Very few people would describe me as shy. But by the time I read this one I was starting to realise that there was a good possibility I was an introvert.

Number 5: We can turn on an extroverted personality when necessary, but it is especially draining. This was a clincher for me - I know I do this. When I'm in a crowd and I want to talk to people because I feel uncomfortable (point 2) I switch on. Or for a performance. Actually, being extroverted is a lot like acting, except that I'm just being a much brighter version of myself instead of playing another character. And afterwards I am invariably exhausted.

Point 6 was: We aren’t judging you. And again, this depends on the situation. If you are supporting UKIP then I am judging you pretty hard.

7 made me cringe in shame because I know I do this: We secretly love it when you cancel plans. It doesn't mean I don't like you, it just means I don't have to be switched on.

Number 8: We can get very wrapped up in our own thoughts. AKA Daydreaming. Thinking time. Plotting. So I'm not ignoring you, honestly. I might just have forgotten you are there.

At number 9 we had: We can be pretty bad at connecting. And I wondered about this because I think I am good at connecting. Then I realised it's because I am good at listening - I like hearing other people's stories. And as luck would have it, listening means I have to talk less.

In at number 10 was: We don’t like to hang around. I decided this one depended on the situation. If I'm comfortable somewhere then it can be hard to get rid of me. But in a crowd situation when I've been switched on for a while, an unguarded exit can be too difficult to resist.

The last point was: We have strong opinions. And I decided this wasn't an introvert or an extrovert thing, because almost everyone I know has strong opinions about some things. Writers in particular have strong opinions - why else would we write?

So on balance, I decided that I'm an introvert. And it's nice to know finally that it's OK to want to be alone, to enjoy being on my own. Many of my writer friends are great to be around because they know how that feels, because they are introverts too. But ultimately, I'm not sure it really matters what you are, except that it feels good to know even when I'm alone, I'm not really.

*Things You Should Know About Introverts taken from http://playfullytacky.com/


Anne Cassidy said...

That's me in a nutshell as well!

Susan Price said...

Oh Yes! Yes to all of these points, especially the unguarded exit. And although I can appear quite extravert while doing school visits, the sheer relief mixed with happiness when I can finally escape to my car is a give-away. And I think I prefer driving myself above all other means of transport mostly because it means I can be alone.

And secretly loving it when people cancel plans... Oh yes.

Joan Lennon said...

What a great - and accurate! - post! Thank you!

Tamsyn Murray said...

Anne - Hurrah! I fully expect to discover there are a lot more introverts around me than I thought.

Susan - Yes, that sigh of relief when I settle into the seat of my car or a train and relax. I love doing school visits and enjoy them hugely but I like switching off too.

Joan - thank you! Introverts R Us!

Lari Don said...

Ah yes. I recognise a lot of that! I love performing, but I usually make a quick getaway too! But I'm not going to label myself as an introvert, because I suspect I'd recognise quite a lot of a list of extrovert attributes too. I wonder if most writers (without labelling us!) are a mix of lots of different things, lots of different almost contradictory aspects of humanity? And if so, perhaps we are all the better for it, because it helps us create all our different characters? Fascinating post, Tamsyn!

Penny Dolan said...

I did like this post, Tamsyn! I can pretend to be an extrovert especially when doing visits, but I'm very happy to retreat into being the real me.

There's also the invisible arena, I suppose, where writers can act out our characters actions and personalities. Do you feel shy then?