My name is Sandy and I’m an introvert.
This admission might not surprise you as writers and introversion often go hand in hand, but I considered myself introverted long before I considered myself a writer. And so did others. In my high school yearbook, I was one of two girls voted most shy. The other was . . . drum roll, please . . . my very best friend. We were two peas in a pod, open and vulnerable with each other, but painfully timid in the classroom and around peers we didn’t know well. But our shyness wasn’t just what we were known for, it was the very foundation of our relationship, the common ground that brought us together, and I have no doubt that that close friendship was crucial for my survival of an otherwise difficult season of life.
But while I wouldn’t give up my Most Shy title for the world—to this day, my high school bestie is one of my dearest friends—lately I have been wondering if the designation still fits. Am I really still that reserved wallflower or have I continued to identify with her because it’s convenient? A mask I can hide behind when faced with any uncomfortable situation that I’d rather shy away from?
Over the last several years that I’ve determined myself to be a full-time writer, spending countless hours in the throes of solitary creation, it has become even easier to settle into that comfortable zone of introversion. To withdraw from participating in real life in favor of sinking into the safety of my fictional world. This is who I am, I tell myself. It’s okay for me to skip this event and pass on that social engagement because crowds drain my energy. And society-at-large has been happy to validate my excuses because writers, as I said above, are largely self-proclaimed introverts.
The problem is that modern-day novelists with aspirations to publish their work are pretty much required to climb out of the bubble of isolation, strap on some social butterfly wings, and develop an online presence. It’s a competitive market out there and agents and publishers alike seem to be seeking new and original voices that also come with an already-established social media following. And this expectation seems to precede any notion of publication by months if not years.
Thus, as work on my manuscript nears completion, I have felt compelled to start building these virtual connections. And it is while learning to navigate the global sphere of social networking that I also began to question whether my well-worn introvert label is really an inherent trait or if it’s simply a side effect of something else. Like fear.
Truthfully, I don’t yet know the answer, though I’ve pondered it and pondered it. But what I have concluded is that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to grow and step out of that comfortable zone without examining those old beliefs and society assigned identifiers to see if they still ring true. In this case, if I had continued clinging to my introversion as a reason not to cultivate new relationships, I wouldn’t have encountered many of the amazing people that I’ve met over the last year. I wouldn’t have realized how fun and uplifting social media can be. I wouldn’t have experienced the energizing effect of encouraging others.
So my question to you is this: Is there a mask that you hide behind? A years’ old characteristic that you hold onto even though it may no longer fit? I dare you to dig a little deeper and take a closer look at it. You just might find that this label you once identified with, and that may have even been helpful in the past, is actually serving as a hindrance to your progress in the present.