In the Quiet
A couple of people have approached me since my Written Life launch and mentioned how they enjoyed the reading. They also mention how comfortable I appeared and how entertaining it was. While I find this flattering it's also kind of mind blowing. I say this because my introvert self thinks that speaking in front of groups is so very not-my-thing. As my step-dad used to say, "I'm a quiet man." Never mind that he was everything but a quiet man - maybe the worlds best extrovert - but that was his tag line.
But I am a quiet man. Just ask anyone.
At least that's what I think of myself. I'm the guy who will switch aisles in a store if I see someone I know, just so I can avoid them. I don't think it's them that I'm avoiding, it's the small talk. It kills me. It's easier just to switch aisles and not have to engage at all. Is that antisocial? Probably. Is it weird? I think it is. I think of it as a shortcoming in my character - a defect.
When I was a kid, I never liked sleeping over at friends houses. Weird? Yep. I didn't much like even going over to their houses. Kind of a homebody. Strange? Sure. I don't know what to tell you other than it's just how I was wired. Wired weird.
The upside to this is that with things like the Susan Cain introvert movement, I am coming to grips that I'm not alone in these thoughts and that they are not weird or abnormal, but a bigger part of what makes an introvert different from an extrovert.
But I digress.
My point was that I am always surprised to hear from people that I come across well in front of a crowd.
Now, in my defense there are a few things that might help explain their comments.
1. When I'm talking about my writing I am channeling a passion that runs deep. Ask me sometime how my writing is going and then wait for me to shut up. It's because I love everything about the craft right now, and would be happy to tell most anyone what I'm working on, have worked on, or will be working on. So when I have a captive audience, it's like a switch flips. I can't tell you who that guy is, because it sure isn't me.
2. As I do more of these types of things, I get more comfortable at it. When I get laughter feedback from the people I'm presenting to, that helps ease the nerves a bit and I settle down and have fun with it. I've had to do some presentations at work too which, like my writing, is something I enjoy, so have no problem talking about it. Don't get me started on maps or writing. Just don't.
3. My wife would argue that I am shifting from an introvert to more extroverted. I can't argue too much, only because I find people's stories so interesting, especially lately. Maybe that's what age does to people. Part of me thinks that if we don't have connection with each other, then what do we have. But it has its limits too, in that I am a person that will never have more than a few very close friends. It's all I can give.
And while I get a bit of a high out of speaking about my writing, when it is over, I am done. Drained and sapped. I rally to talk to people afterward, because I do genuinely enjoy the interaction once it's scheduled and on my radar. It's those unannounced encounters that I have trouble with.
So when you see me in the grocery store and I appear to not see you, I probably actually do, but am pretending I don't in the name of recharging my batteries.
I need to do that. A lot.