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…

 

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In Between the Goals: Embrace the Process

Work vs. Play. Please note that my grocery store labeled Cadbury's Mini-Eggs "produce."

Words I have written in new novel started yesterday: 1,207

Words I need to write by October: 69,003

How many ways this is a bad idea: 42 million

My son got his first goal at a soccer game last night. The look on his face was a tremendous blend of “I can’t believe I just did that!” and “I just did that! I wanna do it again!”

I can relate: I have a goal-setting problem. This may come from the same gene as my list-making one, as if by simply writing down “Mueslix,” on a grocery list, it’s as good as done.

I absolutely love short-term goals: blog posts (check!), the newspaper articles I write (check!), essays (check!), getting a 10-miler or other long-run distance done each Wednesday (check!)… but the long-term ones are both my saviors and my nemeses (is that the plural of nemesis?).

I have come to view winter as a time to buckle down and work: the kids are at school (unless they’re sick, which can happen quite a bit in the winter), the weather is too cold to beckon me into the outdoors much, and Things Get Done. This winter, in between shivering and squinching my shoulders and threatening to move to The Islands, I did some novel queries, wrote and researched a couple of longer articles, trained for a half-marathon and felt generally productive.

Summertime, on the other hand, is my favorite season. After the kiddos get out of school, they fight with each other roughly every 5.3 seconds for the first two weeks. Then they settle in, and we go to the pool, visit the family, go to the beach, eat lots of ice cream, watch movies and go on bike rides/runs. Not a lot of goal-doing gets done. Short articles, and this summer, maybe short blog posts will get completed. Don’t bet on productivity. It’s a 16:1 spread.

Then there’s this wonky time in between the two seasons: the feeling of being untethered. The half-marathon over (but a 10-miler race next weekend!), the long, hot summer stands before me. The first novel written, the next one a shimmering possibility turning over and over in my mind. Completing a goal is a complicated mix of satisfaction and… what now?

Back in my last year of college, my then-boyfriend spent some time thinking I was uptight when the end of college was looming. Senior year, for me, was like the image old cartographers recorded of getting ready to step off the end of the world. I didn’t have the problem of having no goals, because my goal was to get a job. Preferably one that didn’t involve asking the two questions: “Would you like fries with that?” or “Would you like to put this on your credit card?”

(I’m rethinking about whether this is uplifting story, since I did end up waiting tables for seven months. And I’m a little peeved that I never got Employee of the Month.)

Some form of redemption did occur when my then ex-boyfriend (remember how unsupportive he was about my freak-out? I kick butts and take names, and don’t forget it.) came over and told me he finally got it. He finished college a year later and experienced the same form of untetheredness.

I did go on to get a job, and then another job, and another job… all goals, all checked off and satisfying. But always, there is the feeling of “what’s next?”

As a goal-setter, I’m trying to learn to embrace the process; the inevitable, in-between time… the time when thoughts are swirling but nothing is getting on paper or legs are covering shorter distances with no goal race in sight. Of course, the novel will get written, the race will be registered for.

I think about the goals themselves at my son’s soccer game: there’s the whole field, lots of running, and people serving as obstacles; the goals are a pretty small fraction of the whole game space. But when the ball sails in between the posts because you had something to do with it… satisfaction.

I’m setting new goals for the fall, even if there will be some slacking off during the summer months. And I have a new tool in my arsenal: Cadbury’s Mini-Eggs are now categorized as “produce.” I can’t imagine anything more motivating.

To Mud Run or Not To Mud Run

Reasons not to do a mud run: 5

Body parts filled with mud after a mud run: 76

Pairs of boots we got muddy just spectating at a mud run: 3

There are two types of people in the world: those who think participating in a mud run is the best idea ever and those who think, “Ooooh. Gross.”  My husband and several friends are the first type, and I am firmly in the second camp. Here are the reasons I can think of not to do a mud run:

1. The combination of mud, running and obstacles is often used as a form of torture. Have you read the history books? Maybe had someone tell you about the Battle of Leningrad or Vietnam? Mud was involved there, too (or maybe it was frozen over in Leningrad). And mosquitoes. They are like a torture bonus.

2. Mud runs are a trend. Remember oxygen bars? Did they ever get popular in your hometown? Exactly. When your grandkids look at pictures of you covered in mud, they will say, “Oh yeah, we played a retro version of that on the Holodeck. It was too messy for my taste. I had to take a virtual shower afterwards.”

3. You can’t see what’s inside the mud. What would my eye doctor say if all these years I had been cleaning my contacts with Clear Care and not sleeping in them and wearing them the recommended number of hours, then decided to slog through the mud and coat my eyes with red clay paste? I don’t think he’d be very happy with me. All of my calendars with island montages show very clear water, water where you can see down to the bottom. A Caribbean Sand Run sounds like a more sanitary pursuit. And there might be margaritas served by the pool boy at the finish line.

4. Contrary to what you might think, it is eco-unfriendly. Think of all the running shoes, Nike and Asics wicking fabrics and fairy wings (people wear the heck out of fairy wings at mud runs) that you can’t ever wear again. Don’t even get me started on the firehose (all that extra water!) they use to rinse you off afterwards.

5. There are easier ways to get worn out and dirty. Try storytime at the library, finger-painting with preschoolers or spending an entire evening at a beer festival after it rains.

I hope I have convinced you not to ask me to attend or participate in a mud run with you in the future. Please send me the link to your website so I can look at photos of your jubliant face. Then I will wash my hands.