Thanks for coming back. Last time I left off asking if we should be better introvert-extrovert authors, balanced between the extremes.
I thought some more over the weekend about classic books that survive as good reads. I still think most seem to be by introverted authors. Have times changed? I think so. There are probably some exceptional extroverted "classic authors," but maybe they're rare simply because just like today, extroverts by nature would rather be out having fun than sit in the house alone reading and writing books. I don’t doubt this could offend someone, but with the possible exception of Ernest Hemmingway (who arguably was a pretty well balanced introvert-extrovert), I can’t think of any who fit the classic extrovert author category.
Is this a new thought? I don't know, but it was for me recently. And how with all the books in that classic cannon, are some of them not by extroverts? Please share some if you have any.
But my bigger point is, today more than ever we need well-balanced introvert-extrovert authors, those rare people who can be 50/50. And I’m trying not to be stereotypical or protect my identity as an introvert (thanks Jon Acuff). Secure introvert-extroverts who can compete as wordsmiths and promoters are pretty rare, but they are the truly successful authors these days. There is a time for listening and a time for speaking. And no matter how good I am at one side of the game, I still have to join the other game, at some point. Even with books, loud still wins over quiet, hard over soft, big personality over reserved. Some people are born this way, others need to learn to appreciate the other side.
Not surprisingly, well-known, successful authors are able to be more extroverted, and whether that translates into being more dominant in the public sphere is a matter of perspective. What’s attractive in an author isn’t necessarily the same as what’s attractive in other famous folks. But media and publishing, tends to favor the extroverts, which feels so unfair to introverts who see this side of the business as invasive. It’s easy to begin feeling packaged, processed and reduced by marketing and the sales necessities that require evangelizing about books as competitive products.
There’s food for thought on how writers might be better developed today by Bill James at Slate. “I believe that there is a Shakespeare in Topeka today, that there is a Ben Jonson, that there is a Marlowe and a Bacon, most likely, but that we are unlikely ever to know who these people are because our society does not encourage excellence in literature.”
Couple that with Ray Bradbury’s thoughts on his deeper motivation for writing: Looking over his life, he said his most important decision came when he was 9. “I was collecting Buck Rogers comic strips, 1929, when my 5th grade classmates made fun of me. I tore up the strips. A week later, broke into tears. Why was I crying? I wondered. Who died? Me, was the answer. I have torn up the future. What to do about it? Start collecting Buck Rogers again. Fall in love with the future! I did just that. And after that never listened to one damn fool idiot classmate who doubted me! What did I learn? To be myself and never let others, prejudiced, interfere with my life. Kids, do the same. Be your own self. Love what YOU love.”
Bradbury who wrote Farenheit 451 and sold over 100 million copies of his books, and said every writer has to write 1 million crappy words before he’s any good, said that the most important decision of his life was to reject what some extrovert said to him. How do I know it was an extrovert? I don’t. But because introverts don’t often assert dominance, it seems likely. I’m afraid far too many extroverts can’t understand this real social difficulty, and introverts can relate all too well. The good news is, even our deepest wounds can be gifts and we can use them to craft great work.
And if we can accept these disparate pieces of ourselves, and the different people in our lives, maybe we can become better balanced as authors of substance and successful.
I’ll talk more about the assumptions in being “successful” authors in a future post…