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Closet Horizons




'I hope that Susan Cain (with the book and her Ted talk) would be able to convince real and closet introverts to feel proud of who they are. I also pray that educators would stop insisting on group work for every assignment as many children could get much better results thinking quietly and working on their own.'

Orna Raz - Green Room, Where Writers Gather


I could write a whole thesis about quiet children, though well-disposed towards others, who are perceived a threat as unknown quantities and become the target of various shades of bullying. In group activity, they never function at their natural best and may even underplay their capabilities in order to stay out of the limelight.

This does not mean they lack team spirit when such is required.

The compliment I'm proudest of, against any other kind, is that of being a 'good sport'. After all the struggles to interact and to understand where others are coming from and what the dynamic of situations is, this is a strong achievement and an overwhelming surprise. But while introversion is necessary for the security and advancement of the species, it's true it can become overly self-indulgent. Only if you're Mozart is it wholly excusable.

Today, I guess Orna's 'closet introvert' description fits. Which, of course, is still bewildering to faithful friends when you shy from social events that encroach on precious writing time and snap the crucial thread and flow of your piece. It isn't just that; writers have to be in alternative mind-spaces and switching willy-nilly is a recipe for breakdown all round. Organisation of time is an ongoing issue, on the cusp of resolution, but never quite satisfactory.

It's a wonder that in these days of social media and easy exposure, it's actually possible for friends and acquaintances not to know that you write books, such are our solipsist agendas and the pace of living. Perhaps that says something about the concept and overall quality of friendship in the twenty-first century. There's too much to distract us from the particularity and essence of the people we meet. But that's to do with the fever for extroversion, the demand that we be overweeningly confident and assertive. We are all called to be major players onstage and cede a share in the illusory stardust.

Introversion per se is no handicap to noticing and appreciating others. Rather, it's a paradox: introversion hones perspicuity. It mines the truth of who we are and thereby refines an honest way of relating to others. In retrospect, I cannot usually tell you what a person was wearing, but I can tell you the colour of their eyes, remember their mannerisms, their turns of phrase, their aura. Very often I can spontaneously image them in scenarios which turn out to be uncannily accurate.

I find it hard to discuss my interior world. When I was growing up, being focused on anything that wasn't prescribed by others, was seen as somewhat unnerving. So I tend not to enlighten people as to the novel-writing. The prevailing silence is powerful. Even the few friends who do know seldom mention it. They are prepared to accept as they find. But one of my friends distinctly recoiled in amazement when she discovered my 'other side'. I had related to her on her own terms, in her distress, and wouldn't have wanted any species of awe to get in the way. We're still friends, but with just a faint tincture of betrayal on my part. I suppose there's always a chance that while some folk (who don't understand writerly methods and composite characters) want to be immortalised between book covers, others may imagine that authors are out to exploit their situations through the connection. But writers have to be introverts. Let's face it, if Jane Austen hadn't been a closet scribe, we'd never have had Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy!

All this is not the popular view of what an author ought to be. (Poets, maybe, can get away with it.) The modern pressure to self-promote militates against creativity. It used to be well-recognised in literary circles that to talk about your story in advance undermined energy and the ability to realise it. This was respected by all in the publishing world.

To pick up on the sports analogy, there is a comparison to be made with players in that arena, for whom abstinence is recommended when the big contest looms!





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