Some believe extroverts* have it easy. Especially in the writing world where 85% of writers are introverts. (Where did I get that statistic? Some chick said it over drinks at the writing conference I attended a couple weeks ago and I’m going with it. Very scientific.) Sometimes people link being an extrovert with having it easy in talking to strangers. I’m here to prove them all wrong by showing how awkward an extrovert can actually be.
During one of our Willamette Writers Conference lunches, director/screenwriter Gordy Hoffman spoke about his adventure in working towards being a writer. OMG, was he fantastic. I’d even go so far as to use Hubs new breakout term “fucktastic.” The ease he had in telling his funny stories with straight forward honesty made me think we could be best friends forever. About two hours later, Mr. Hoffman was getting off the elevator as I was getting on. It took a couple seconds for my brain to register “YES! That’s the lunch speaker. Say something cool.”
I guess those seconds are precious for extroverts. We don’t have the problem deciding whether to say something or not. We also don’t drop eye contact and hope we disappear into the side wall. We are extroverts. We’re confident we can say something interesting. I discovered we must also use those few precious seconds telling ourselves the normal intro is something easy like “hello”. Since I’d already given up the time trying to confirm his identity, the only words to escape my mouth came out in shouted spurts like this: “You were great…really great…” He turned to acknowledge he did hear something although he probably couldn’t make it out. He continued his stride with the knowledge he can’t get away fast enough. With my chance to be cool quickly slipping away, I end with a last loud shout of “…Entertaining!” right before the elevator doors close.
Maybe the extrovert would be more comfortable after cocktail hour? Nerves relax with some liquid courage and the large group setting is our natural habitat. Last year, I was fortunate to meet Awesome Agent in this setting. Luckily she came back this year and we were able to chat late into Friday night. Just about perfect. Now fast forward to Saturday night and add alcohol. The extrovert’s motto “the more the merrier” amplifies. I see a solo writer dining alone and deem she must be welcomed into my writer-friendly group. I decide I’m going out on my own to invite her to our table. It just so happens Awesome Agent is in a small group a few feet away prepping to leave the area for a dinner date. As I walk up, one of her clients, and an author who’s class I attended earlier in the day, says “hi” so I walk to their group.
That moment is an extrovert’s worst nightmare. By crashing her party I’ve entered weirdo land. I’m making what I think is good conversation, but the entire time I’m stressing about being the uninvited guest. The whole thing comes to a head when the fourth to their party shows up and now I’m getting introduced like I should be there. My brain explodes. I say my good-byes and start to back away right before I do the worst thing possible. I apologize for making the scene awkward. What. The. Fuck? Of course Awesome Agent and all her cool friends try to say I didn’t, which only makes it a thousand times more awkward. Really, is there anything worse than people trying to convince a person she isn’t lame?
In true extrovert style I invited Solo Writer to my little group and drowned my awkwardness in more cocktails. I recovered from the horror by chatting up all the other wannabe authors. The comfort in not being intimidated grew and by the night’s end I’d stopped several speakers I’d seen that day to thank them with the natural ease extroverts have in large crowds. Then I offered to buy them all drinks. (A typical MO for an extrovert with the more the merrier motto.)
While there is truth extroverts may have it easier in public, it comes with the reality of being uncoordinated around those you admire. Lacking confidence can turn any well intended interaction into a clumsy shouting trainwreck. I hope my humiliation has put this myth to rest. There is such a thing as an awkward extrovert.
*Disclaimer: When I say extroverts in the “we” sense, I really mean me and anyone else who agrees it applies to them.