Confessions of an Extroverted Introvert

I never really thought of myself as an introvert or an extrovert until recently. I’ve always been fine speaking in front of groups, going out to parties, and being generally festive, as well as hibernating at home with my books and movies. I have always liked a balance of both.

It wasn’t until I started staying home and having hours and hours of alone time that I really noticed it, the pronounced reluctance to leave the house, to engage with humanity. Given the choice, I’d rather be in my PJs and snuggly blankets. I’m not a big people person. I like quiet. When I’m sad, I don’t want to be around others. When I do spend time around people, I’m exhausted afterwards and need some serious downtime to recover.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with friends, laughing and playing Cards Against Humanity, but I never crave human interaction (unless you’re going to play with my hair, because I love that – but just people I know – I don’t want strangers touching my hair – this has become an oddly creepy tangent). Sometimes I think I’d be blissfully happy living hermit-like in the wilderness as long as I had access to the internet.

When I do venture out, I am having fun, I like making new friends. I have an all around great time while I’m out there. But I’ll still need recovery time, like a hotel room to myself, or a few days at home binge-watching my DVR backlog.

If I’m going somewhere I don’t know many people, I get anxious. I’ve been know to tipple at the teat of liquid courage (moderately, of course). Small talk is my ultimate downfall. If I don’t know someone, I never know what to say to get a conversation started, and I’m inevitably left fumbling awkwardly with an empty water bottle before faking a need for escape. For example, last year at the Midwest Writer’s Workshop, Daniel Jose Older stopped by our hotel room party. I was in such awe of him, I could barely string together two words. What on earth could I say that would interest this straight-up cool author who had seen so much? So I awkwardly escaped to the bathroom, praying I hadn’t seemed rude.

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To avoid future social blunders, I try to keep a few questions in my back pocket, like “what types of books do you like to read?” or “where do you like go for vacation?” Sure these are lame questions, but it’s a start. With any luck, it will lead to more questions, and maybe a new friend.

I know a lot of other writers are in the same situation, and knowing that helps, too. Conferences and book festivals are not the natural habitat for us. We’re solitary creatures. So, dear reader, if you find yourself trying to make small talk, pull out your emergency questions. At the very least, we can always talk about books.

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Amy Reichert

Amy E. Reichert is the author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, July 21 2015), about food, love, and second chances, and where serendipity comes in the form of a delicious coconut cake. Find out more at amyereichert.com.

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This article has 3 Comments

  1. oh, so true! don’t you find it sad sometimes though when no one has the courage to speak to the god-like author in the room and they’re just standing there alone? I find myself trying to make up for the chit-chat failing with forced enthusiasm – i think that probably just scares people though X) Would love to hear more conversation starters. i find myself thinking: but what if they don’t go on vacation? what if they can’t afford it, don’t have a job or aer too overworked??? you’re right of course, its a start at least! thanks for a great post.

    1. Thanks, Sophie! And I’m with you, I do need a few more starter questions – hence one of the reasons I’m so awful at small talk. 🙂

  2. I have the opposite problem. Everyone I talk to can’t seem to stop talking about themselves! And it’s so rude to pull out Evernote on my phone and take notes for an upcoming writing project. But I do it anyway:-)

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