It sounds ironic, but I started to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’s Stop Talking by Susan Cain in order to feel less alone. For all you outgoing people out there, we Innies do like people — we just prefer solitude or one-to-one contact to large groups. I haven’t yet finished it, but I’m already excited enough to share it!
I’ve been quiet my whole life. My kindergarten teacher described me in a report card as “withdrawn.” I’m not sure we saw this as a negative — to my parents’ credit, I never felt that way, at least. The teacher wanted me to join in with the class, but noted that I preferred to play alone. As a writer, I continue to crave solitude, and I tend to “disappear” in big gatherings.
We are often given the message that the lone wolf is synonymous with guys like the Unabomber — not a self-esteem builder. At times, people misinterpret my quiet nature as being arrogant or stuck-up. When I have nothing to say, I just keep my mouth shut! By the same token, when I do talk, I expect people to pay attention because I don’t like to waste words.
Cain notes, however, that those of us who are quiet often prefer, as I do, to express ourselves in writing. We may be far more willing to disclose deeply personal information online that we would never talk about in person. Check and check!
As I read this book, I am part of an online writing group called Blooming Late on She Writes. I’ve mentioned the group here before in other contexts, but as a refresher, we’re a group of over-40 women who are dedicating ourselves to writing. We’re a lively bunch, and I am constantly inspired and engaged by these fine writers. I’ve been lucky enough to read some of their books (I’m still going down the list) and am excited by the overall high quality of the work.
We’re working on a promotional project. We’re looking at ways as a group that we can get the word out about our writing to build readership of our blogs and books.
What does this have to do with Cain’s book? What I’m finding is that group collaboration works well online, and Cain agrees. We’re still feeling our way through this project, but the combination of bouncing ideas off of one another — and then retreating to time alone to reflect on them — is producing some exciting results. While we’re in the infancy of the project, I’m seeing tremendous potential for our group that I doubt would happen if we were all in a room together.
As writing and publishing has changed, I have often wondered if I have become obsolete. What Cain’s book reminds me, though, is that in this strange new world behind a computer, I may have an advantage. I can embrace my quiet nature with pride. More and more, I find myself connecting with people online and doing the networking I could never do well in person. Hubby and I have both met people in person as a result of some of these connections, and that’s exciting, too!
Cain suggests that companies are now starting to understand that some of us work better if we have quiet spaces to retreat to. We don’t all work well as a big gang in a room, constantly surrounded by people. She cites Steve Wozniak of Apple as an example, and I think that many of our computer experts are leading the way in demonstrating that true innovation is often made alone, and not by committee.
If you have been “made wrong” for being quiet, or if you have an introvert in your life whom you struggle to understand, you’ll enjoy this book.