Extroverts Anonymous

Wanna be my friend?

Chip time for recent half-marathon: 1:55 (a PR!)

Chip time for yesterday’s 10-miler race: 1:28 (a PR!)

Pace for both (odd coincidence): 8:51

Hi, I’m Anne. And I’m an Extrovert.

Much has been written in fellow writers’ blogs about writers and how so many of us are introverts. I thought maybe I could share an extrovert writer’s experience, just to Represent.

My entire childhood was a lesson in getting ahead socially while remaining unconcerned about academic possibilities: my dad was fairly horrified when I told him before first grade that I was looking forward to going back to school after the summer because of the social implications.

In kindergarten, I got a few friends excited about cutting our hair with safety scissors in the kitchen center. I may not have been able to tie my own shoes (come on, people: there were these things called buckles), but I had leadership qualities.

In first grade, I affected the future math prospects of a few large group of students who drew monsters with me instead of learning borrowing in subtraction.

In third grade, I was Witch #1 in the class play, which was a very important role, full of dramatic nuances. I had three very pivotal lines, which I’m sure people remember to this day.

When we moved to Atlanta the summer before fourth grade, I was nervous. I didn’t have any friends.

Then I met my best friend on the first day of fourth grade when she looked around the empty classroom and deduced that we were the only two people still left to get on Bus 1084. She said, very profoundly, “Are you on Bus 1084?” And because of that, we were friends and read “Little Women” together and decided to go to neighboring universities when we were 18 and switched clothes  and danced to David Bowie at Putt-Putt Golf when our class went on a field trip to Savannah.

The issue with being an extrovert is that social agenda often takes priority over, well, anything else.

Introvert writers have pointed out that being an introvert is helpful because writing consists of sitting in a chair, persevering while being alone for many hours at a time.

I’m not actually that good at that part. But here is a summary of the pluses and minuses involved in being an extrovert.

1. Running. I’m really fit right now. For me. (My triceps still wobble when I point at things, but I’ve found I can get around it by not pointing; just nodding my head towards things in a meaningful way.)

This is not to brag, but to point out that the reason I’m really fit is that I have a running partner. If she didn’t run with me, I’d still run, just not as much. And I wouldn’t enjoy it in the same way. And I wouldn’t laugh like I do when we run together, because that would just look weird and slightly maniacal.

Running is a solitary activity by its nature. But this spring, I realized that my aerobic capacity has increased dramatically. Wanna know why? Because we run for lots of miles while talking. Constantly. Then, when I run by myself, I feel like I have lots of extra air.

Slight negative: I never used to get Personal Records (PRs) at races, because I talked the whole way. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Races are like super-charging an extrovert. It’s like running, but running on crack. People! People who like to run! People I can talk to while I run who I don’t know yet!

It’s a problem.

The races I’ve done over the past several years have made me best-running-race-buddies with: a 55-year-old surgeon who smiles a lot, a marathon pacer who my running partner dubbed Justin Timberlake (JT), a fellow mom whose kids were in college… the list goes on and on.

I ran the half-marathon recently by myself, and I talked to no one on purpose. It was weird.

At this weekend’s 10-miler, a race I’ve collected friends at in the past, I had to talk to myself: “Run your own race. Run your own race. Run your own race.” I was in front of the 9-mile pacers when we hit the Hill Challenge that goes on for one whole mile between miles 8 and 9. I felt low. I was tired. I started to walk just a little because other people were, and it looked really fun. And relaxing. And then the 9-mile pacer chick comes up behind me and says, “Come on, girl, you can do it.”

And for an extrovert, it was just what I needed to hear. We talked all the way up the rest of the hill; it buoyed me. And I heard all about her job, and how she recently got married, and how fast she usually runs… okay. Maybe this extroversion thing is a bit like an addiction. But it got me through.

2. Writing. I interview a lot of people, which means wanting to hear peoples’ stories and tell them in words on paper. It is rare that I interview a boring person. Part of this is because I find people in general very interesting. I like listening, I like calling people, I like talking to them… it’s a weird extrovert thing.

It helps the breadth of my writing. While sitting in a chair by myself for hours to get a certain number of words on a page can be a bit like eating a can of beets, I have so much experience to draw from. I have gone out to schools and spoken with children, teachers, business leaders, volunteers, crossing guards, musicians and chainsaw artists. They energize me.

I’ve heard how they speak as much as what they say. When I write, the people I’ve met inform my words. The stories are character-driven, with lots of dialogue; exactly what you might expect from an extrovert.

But if you call me and invite me to go to lunch, my characters have to wait. After all, they’re pretty patient, and who knows when I’ll get the chance to go to lunch again? Oh! Someone just emailed me about lunch on Wednesday, too! Oh, well. More fodder for my novel!

3. Networking. Networking is a kind of dirty word. When I got out of college, I wondered how something like networking worked. It seemed like a secret society, full of special handshakes and code words. But I’ve realized that a lot of networking is simply getting older and accumulating experiences.

Whether you live in the same area for years, as I have, or traveled the world as many other people have, you meet a wide range of people who have varied skills and super-cool intellectual property.

An extrovert will jump at the chance to meet a new person, to talk to them about their unique situations and life lessons. Someday, you may find that you can help someone get a job or that you know someone who knows someone. And maybe someday, I will have a book that someone wants to buy, and she will tell someone who will tell someone else.

I’ve gotta go… there are places to go and people to call. Oh–but you want to tell me about the time you fell off the tire swing? Oh, no, I’m not busy…


17 thoughts on “Extroverts Anonymous

  1. Brilliant time – I too have a running buddy and we feel the same way – it really does help you breathe better if you’re nattering away for 10miles…

  2. 🙂 You crack me up! 🙂

  3. Melissa says:

    Hmm…as a fellow extrovert, I have to say that I didn’t know that there were drawbacks….I’ll get to the other stuff eventually….maybe. But the opportunities afforded by meeting and talking with people? Those can be a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I have to grab them. Besides, I can’t have a conversation with the wall…I’ve tried.

  4. Dad says:

    Slight correction or amplification — or maybe it is not a correction — maybe the same conversation occurred twice! The one I remember is when you were going into the fifth or sixth grade, not the one before the first grade:

    Me (to you lying on the couch, just lying there not reading or looking at TV): “Are you looking forward to going back to school?”

    You: “Oh, yes!”

    Me: “I know. Think of all the fresh, new textbooks you will open, each a whole new world! And they have that new book smell!”

    You (with a real heavy sigh, the kind only a pre-teen can deliver to a parent): “Oh, Dad! The only reason I am looking forward to going back to school is to see all of my friends!”

    Me (to myself): “Well, kiss the possibility goodbye that she will ever be a brain surgeon. I know she has always seen school only as an opportunity to make new friends, but I have kept thinking (hoping?) that it too might pass.”

    I love you. Dad

    • annewoodman says:

      No, I’m sure you’re right. As memoirist, I just have to write things as I remember them.

      My middle school-ish-ness is legend. Wouldn’t go back to that era for all the cute shoes in the world!

  5. Daryl says:

    You don’t want to PR everytime. You will find that no-one will talk to you–everyone becomes self absorbed and blinkered on the course. The person beside you is not a potential friend, they are your competition. You will have to run in solitude–nothing but footfalls and wheezing. I’m not sure this is a good thing though, that’s why I’m thinking of trying my hand as a pacer. I too am an extrovert–just in case you were not sure.

  6. crubin says:

    Thank you for letting me into your world, Dear Extrovert!

    What a great post. And you’re right, there seems to be a lot of blogging about us introverts but not as much about you extroverts (that’s kind of ironic, don’t you think?) You are definitely the woman I’d have wanted in all of those small group activities we had to do in undergrad and beyond. I bet you were happy to be the group spokesperson!

    I have great admiration (and a bit of envy) for extroverts. There are days your people skills would come in handy. Okay. Pretty much every day. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      As I’ve mentioned, there are some key downsides to extroversion. And being the group spokesperson is fun, but people do tend to talk about you behind your back. (Of course, as an extrovert, I always want to be a part of that conversation, too. ; )

      • crubin says:

        I’m a believer that people who gossip behind someone’s back do so because of their own insecurities. Speaking ill of others will only come back to bite you in your own behind, something hopefully most of us learned when we were younger. 🙂

        And trust me, if you were willing to take on the roll of spokesperson for my group, I would only be singing your praises!

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    This introvert admires you extroverts. Especially on those days when I know I need to get out of myself and interact more with the world. And like Carrie, I’d be happy for someone like you to be the spokesperson for a group!

    • annewoodman says:

      It’s definitely a double-edged sword. I love being with people, but there’s a price to pay. I have to make deadlines my friend so I don’t get distracted by all the fun people out there!

  8. So there is such a thing as an extrovert fiction writer. I had begun to wonder. Interesting post to read, but as far as identifying with it goes, it sounds like the other side of the moon to me. I do envy being that facile with people.

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