An introvert walks into a bar. And walks out.

Quest2015

Bonus theme: Your Best Pack

Visionary: Scott Dinsmore

Prompt: Do the people around you inspire possibility? If not, it’s time to 
make some changes. The fastest way to do the things you don’t think can 
be done is to hang around people already doing them. In 2015, what changes will you make accordingly?

I’m fortunate to have a family that’s supportive of my writing, even when they don’t entirely understand why I talk to people who live inside my head. I’ve got friends, too, who are supportive, or who at the very least smile and nod in supportive fashion.

This is not a game show. Nobody’s going to get fired or kicked off the island. For me, this prompt doesn’t so much inspire me to pare back, as many of them have done, but rather to add.

I think I need to hang around with more writers.

Mind you, this is easier said than done. I’m talking about writers here. While you will find among us the rare fluke who’s bubbly and extroverted, who sails through a crowded room of strangers with ease, a heck of a lot of us are not only rather curmudgeonly but also somewhat perversely proud of it.

I love people. I wouldn’t write if I didn’t. But being around people–or rather, around quantities of people I don’t know well–sucks the life out of me. Maybe this is why I’m one of those thirtysomething women who found the Twilight books disturbing rather than sexy. I’ve got enough real stuff trying to suck the life out of me without adding some sparkly fictional two-hundred-year-old teenager into the mix.

So it’s really pushing the boundaries of my comfort to realize–and to articulate–that my answer to this prompt is to do exactly the opposite of what I’m naturally inclined to do. I need to get out more.

And not just out, but out with writers. I need to start engaging more in the larger writing community.

In a nearby city, there’s a local writers’ group. I’ve been to readings a couple of times, and I’ve been horribly, horribly intimidated. It’s not that these people are three-headed monsters or literary snobs or anything. It’s that I don’t know them. And that is horrifying. 

There’s also the Virginia Festival of the Book, also not too far away. I need to go. I went once, a couple of years ago, and had an amazing experience, but life and inertia and introversion have prevented me from attending since, despite the fact that the one I attended was exactly the kick in the seat of the pants that I needed at the time.

There are conferences, too. I need to check those out. Probably. This is even scarier to me than sparkly teenage vampires. I’ve done the conference thing before, back in my medieval studies days, so you’d think it wouldn’t freak me out quite so much. Sadly, you would be wrong. Also, there is the matter of money. You have to have it, generally speaking, for this whole conference thing.

Then there are all the amazing online communities of writers. I struggle with these, too, largely because of my tendency to get sucked into the interwebs, to go down rabbit holes from which I never emerge (or from which I emerge, dazed and confused, after having eating the wrong sides of mushrooms and taken tea with Mad Hatters, etc.).

I think I need a battle plan. And it needs to start with prioritizing. Maybe with those lists of “pros” and “cons” or something.

Most of all, I need to not overwhelm myself. I need to start small. Maybe a goal for each month. This month I will go to the writers’ group. The next I will get caught up with SCBWI online. In March, I will attend the Festival of the Book. Etc. Maybe I will give myself permission to pshaw literary conferences for a while longer. Maybe I will have the grace to tell myself, “Hey, crazy girl, you don’t have to do everything.”

It’s scary to think about writing this stuff down. In my world, writing is creating–putting something into words means speaking it into being. If I write it down, then I’ll feel obligated to actually follow through, dangit.

Sigh.

I’m at a point in my life, in my minimalist quest, at which I don’t want to add anything. I love the serene, stark simplicity of taking things away. I’m trying to remind myself that one of the reasons for clearing out space is to make room for the new, not just to ditch the old.

So I’m going to make an effort. I’m going to come up with some concrete steps I can take to hang out more with other writers.

While I’m at it, I think I need to hang out with more creative types in general. Quest2015 has given me a tantalizing sense of how many wild and brilliant souls there are out there, making art and meaning, forging beauty from shards of light and darkness. It’s been an amazing pack to run with. If the Quest has taught me anything, it is this–that in community, art only gets better.

Thanks, fellow Questers. And thanks to everyone who has made the time in their busy lives to read and/or comment here over the past couple of years. The gift of your time and attention is one for which I’m deeply thankful.

Here’s to an excellent 2015! May it be filled with wonder and light.

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21 thoughts on “An introvert walks into a bar. And walks out.

  1. Brenna, I am so glad you came out for the Quest. And I am happy to know you have family support for your work. Your thoughts about clearing out to make space for something new is true for me too. WHAT is it I am inviting in this new year? The Quest work is helping me define that a bit. Having people to hang out with around this work normalizes the oddballness of solitary work. Blessings on your New Year. xo S

    1. Thanks so much, Suzi! I’m still trying to figure out what I’m inviting, too–so many thoughts swirling around here! This Quest has been a tremendous blessing, and I’m grateful to have encountered you upon it. Happy new year!

  2. Lovely, and very much along the lines of my thoughts. I want to connect with real people – not just jump into interwebbiness. Hugs and a very happy new year!!!!!

  3. Brenna, you make me smile, you make me laugh, in kinship, in recognition. As a fellow introvert, take anything I say with a grain of salt, but…I second your notion to…ease into these new additions…making the list is exhausting enough, isn’t it?! (Laughing) and counts as a step for sure. I’ve had so much joy in the last couple of years finally finding a few circles to move in with other writers, and certainly here on this quest. As someone who sort of empathically soaks in way too much off of the folks in any room, I understand your hesitation to leap in. I just know you’ll find the right crew. Can feel it. Quest on…I’ve got your back.

    1. Thanks so, so much, Tania. Your writing does the same for me, too. Sometimes I feel ready to give up the internet for good, and then along comes a kindred spirit. Happy New Year, valiant fellow Quester!

  4. The important thing to remember about conferences is that you can do as much or as little as you like. As a fellow introvert, I find that I love going to them, and I love coming home from them more. But I never regret the things I learn and the friends I make. I tend to isolate myself, so having fellow writers to reach out to is really important. Besides, once I leave the conference, it’s mostly all online contact.

    One of the ways that you can nurture your writing without over-taxing your introvert self is to have a writing partner. It can even be someone online. Just a person that you trade writing with, maybe a little gentle critique, maybe not. Maybe just someone to respond to your work and for whom you respond. Having just one person instead of a critique group is so much more manageable. And I often find that the depth of interaction is much better than the breadth you get in a larger group.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks so much, Erin! Yes, the writing-partner thing is wonderful; it really appeals to my preference for meaningful one-to-one interaction. I’m trying to break out of my comfort zone and do more of the conference thing, so we’ll see how that goes (and how brave I am!). It’s good to hear your introvert perspective. I think I’ll feel the same way–happy to go and happy to come back home. 🙂 Happy New Year!

  5. Brenna, I love the title of this post. It says it all. I’m an introvert who as a young teen was also shy to a painful degree. Two different things, as introverts know. I took acting classes then, and it dawned on me that i could learn to act like an extrovert. I started observing, studying their mannerisms and tones of voice. I used what I taught myself to act more like an extrovert when the situation demanded it. I never became one of course, as basic temperament doesn’t change. I lost my shyness along the way and learned to handle social and professional situations that involve large groups, including presenting and training. It still tires me out though! And I still abhor though selectively attend networking events!

    1. Nancy, I hear you! I discovered acting early on, and have always found it very liberating. It definitely helped me with teaching later, too. Walking into a classroom as myself was pretty terrifying, but walking in as The Teacher somehow worked a lot better.

  6. Brenna,
    I engage with the tone of your writing. I always have the sense that my own thoughts have been put on the page by you, another writer. at the same time, based on my own experience, I encourage you to move through the fear and think as big as you want to be.
    Keep it coming.
    Stan

  7. Like so many of the others, I love your writing, your humor – and the message you’ve got to deliver here. Even this Quest has left me a little breathless. And even in the midst of feeling so thankful for having been introduced to so many wonderful writers. Yes – we’ll figure it out as the year moves along – concrete step will appear if we keep looking for them!! And just the right people will, too. All my best to you as you look for just the right people to invite into your circle.

    1. Thanks so much, Molly! I keep finding myself wishing that all the Questers could just move to some tropical island somewhere. With lots of space, of course, for the introverts among us.

  8. Loved your interview with Sue Archer, Brenna. Boy have you got some wonderful success ahead of you. Keep your head down and your pencil sharpened. I look forward to reading many more of your words this year. Cheers!

  9. Brenna – we can hang out, I’ve got enough extroversion in me for about 10 other people! I was smiling as I read how hard it is for you being in crowds of people – because you don’t know any of them. I have made very purposeful and conscious movements in my life precisely BECAUSE I won’t know anyone. I have found over the years that I have tons of introverted friends – or maybe I just consider them introverts by comparison. In any case – BRAVO for moving outside your comfort zone. I will be doing much of the same, but in the direction of trying to actually finish writing something worthy of being published. And seeing as I didn’t consider myself a writer until about 18 months ago, this whole thing has me scared shitless. But (true to form) I’m finding it’s also so very, very exciting, too. I’m also pledging to read more this coming year and to hang out with people whom I think are really good writers in order to be a better writer. You happen to be one of those really good writers! So let’s hang out in 2015: maybe some of my extroversion can rub off on you, and some of your excellent writing skills can rub off on me! :O)

    1. Barb–that sounds perfect! And thank you! Also, kudos to you for owning this writing thing. It’s taken me most of my life so far to have the courage to introduce myself to strangers as a writer. It still feels kind of surreal to speak up and claim this for myself. It’s totally scary at first, but also thrilling–like the adrenaline rush you get from doing something terrifying yet deeply astounding. I’m going to try to channel some of your extroversion next week for my foray into the local writers’ group!

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