This week’s theme is cabin fever, that claustrophobic feeling you get when you’re holed up in a place by yourself for too long. Kind of like how Jack feels here (warning – language!):
I know I’ve said it before—I’m an introvert. What that means is that I live a lot inside my head and am quite happy spending time alone, working away at whatever it is I’m working away at. I’m also very much a homebody. And I’m kind of lazy. So you throw those three things together and you get a person who would be very happy to almost never leave the house.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I do enjoy interacting with others. Quite a bit, actually (and, uh, I don’t want to end up like Jack, so I make a point of it). But I get over-stimulated very easily, so that means much of my interacting is best done online and on my own terms, i.e. in small doses.
So, in essence, this brave new world of social networking was practically made for me and introverts like me. There is no more cabin fever, in my mind, because we can be social without ever leaving the cabin. And how perfect is that?
It’s like the heavens opened up and beamed a big light right on me and my computer and said, “THIS! This is how you will interact with the world henceforth.” And I saw that it was good.
Yes, I’m being very tongue-in-cheek here, but really, this world of Tweeting and Facebooking and blogging is so perfect for introverts who fear social awkwardness. We can hang out with a cup of coffee and chat with others and never have to worry if we have spinach in our teeth or if we’re laughing too loud or if at the end of it all, there’s going to be an awkward hug** before we part ways. Ahhh, introverted bliss.
But there’s a downside to this, too. When it becomes too easy to not leave the house and actually be with other people. Not to mention how it can be difficult to forge and maintain some real relationships (especially with extroverts who crave personal interaction with others in a way that I can’t even begin to understand) but it can also be detrimental to our work. Because as writers, we play God in that we make up people and to get them right, we need to be exposed to all types of people (even extroverts) and be excellent observers. We need to be aware of, and able to, transcribe things like the hand-gestures of someone excitedly telling a story, or the facial tic of someone you know is lying to you, or even the subtle quirk of an eyebrow on your lunch-mate, when your story is implausible. These are things you don’t observe while sitting at your computer—emoticons are not substitutes for a real smile or a wink (and really, who does that much winking? If I winked as much in real life as I do online, people would think I had a neurological disorder). We need to interact with other humans so we can embrace that humanity and remember what it’s like to have a real conversation with someone and have to somehow figure out how to tell them they have spinach in their teeth. It’s those kinds of experiences, lived and observed, that make us better writers, able to capture that humanity and put it on the page.
I often force myself to go out to be with other people, even when I don’t want to. I go out with friends or go to networking get-togethers (Yay TORKIDLIT!) or other booky events. And I almost always have a good time once I get there and some might even see me as not being the introvert I purport myself to be (I actually do fairly well in small groups). And this not only helps me maintain and forge real relationships with people, but it serves to fill what I call my cup of human observation. And we writers need to keep those cups full.
And although there may be an awkward hug at the end, it’s always worth it.
**After spending a really long time on The Oatmeal after finding and posting that link (because The Oatmeal is awesome and I can never go there without losing hours of time), I found this. And I really love it. Mom? You paying attention?