Introverts v. Extroverts

Long ago, while playing in a garage band that now and then landed a gig, I noticed that successful bands weren’t necessarily the best around. Rather, they and/or their promoters were the loudest.

A couple years later in Amsterdam, having observed street musicians prospering, I borrowed a twelve-string guitar and set out to find a location. On the way, I passed a couple who made lovely music on a flute and a mandolin. Their music was far more excellent than any I could make.

I set up on another corner. A few songs in, I noticed that the louder the song, the larger my take. So I spent a few hours playing my three loudest songs over and over. On the way back to the hostel, my pockets heavy with coins, I stopped and listened to the couple’s soft and lovely music and noticed their take was much lighter than mine.

For artists, at least, life is rarely fair. Which sends some of us looking for cosmic justice in sources like the Bible. But even there we find discouragement:

“In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ For a while he [the judge] was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’”

My mom, a master of clichés, used to remind me that the squeaky wheel gets greased. But who wants to be a squeaky wheel. Not us introverts.

On a continuum of extroversion to introversion, lots of us writers would fall close the introvert end. Which means, even if we are quite accomplished, like the musician couple in Amsterdam, we are destined to labor in obscurity unless our brilliance, uniqueness, or some other quality — perhaps extreme kindness, wealth, or physical beauty — helps us acquire a loud promoter.

I believe the ideal steps to financial success as a novelist are: (one) connect with a successful agent who is thrilled by your work and has time and devotion to placing it with (two) a successful editor who falls in love with your work and whose passion will (three) convince a formidable publicity department to dedicate it’s labor and resources.

So the primary task for us introverts is to create stories in some way worthy of ardent devotion. (For how-to advice, see Writing and the Spirit) That accomplished, we must persistently cast our creations into the cruel world until we land a suitable devotee.

Okay, neither of these tasks is easy. But they might be easier than converting ourselves into extroverts.