DEBORAH CROMBIE: There has always been this public perception of the writer as an isolated, anti-social loner, scribbling (or typing) away in his or her ivory tower. J.D. Salinger, anyone? But are writers really introverts? From personal experience I do know that writers must have the ability to spend a good deal of time alone (except for the characters in their heads.) But maybe "internally focused" is a better description. Jane Austen wrote all her novels in her family's parlor, with domestic life going on around her. Many of us like writing in coffee shops, or airports, or libraries, places there is a buzz of activity that is not personally connected. When I'm home, although I have a very nice upstairs office, I tend to write downstairs, in the guest room (which looks out onto the street), in my sun porch, or on my deck in nice weather, all place where there are cats and dogs and all manner of things going on. When I was in London last month, I spent two weeks writing in a very quiet flat, completely alone. It was...weird.
So what about the writer as anti-social? My first personal experience with a writer was my uncle, A.C. Greene, who was a raconteur of the first order. Whenever he entered the room, he was the center of attention until he walked out. My second personal experience with a REAL writer was my writing teacher, Warren Norwood, a man cut from very much the same cloth as my uncle. While my story-telling skills may not live up to either of them, I'm definitely always up for a good conversation, or, um, hanging out in the bar at Bouchercon... I very seldom meet a stranger, and have been know to chat up people in elevators...
I'm now trying to think of any writers I know who are NOT social. Most of us seem to be able to talk
the hind legs off a donkey...
So, REDS, introvert of extrovert? Or a combination of the two?
HALLIE EPHRON: I am so not an introvert, so one of the things I find most difficult about being a writer is all that alone time. And no, I cannot write in airports or coffee shops or libraries, or with the TV or music going. Lunches and phone calls with writing buddies are my antidote to loneliness.
LUCY BURDETTE: I'm a mutt when it comes to introvert/extrovert. Walking into a bar or party by myself feels like torture--reminds me of my shyest days in junior high and high school. But if it's a group I know, or a group of friends, I'm fine. My hub John is shy that way too. On our honeymoon, the small hotel we were staying at hosted a cocktail party for the guests, many of them also newly married. The manager had to take us around and introduce us to people because we were so bad at mingling!
As for writing, I can do it on a plane. But not a coffee shop. Best of all, in my own room!
RHYS BOWEN: I am definitely not an introvert! I love being among people. I've always been a joiner and especially love being among a group of like-minded women (Jungle Reds, for example). Having said that, I need my alone time too. If I'm with a big group, a family gathering over a holiday or especially a mystery convention, I need to escape to my room every once in a while.
There is no way I could write in a coffee shop. I'm too aware (and too interested) in what is going on around me. But I do write on planes, or even at airports. At home it has to be in my office, or I'm too distracted. And no music, either.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I am the shyest person you will ever meet. I am so fine by myself, writing at home, it may be where I am the most comfortable. I can write anywhere really. It must be all those years of writing news stories in the midst of fires and in hurricanes and in moving cars and with people yelling. I can just put up a little bubble and become--essentially alone. Except if I'm home writing alone--there cannot be noise. Weird, huh? Music? Impossible. If there are lyrics, I end up focusing on those words instead of my own.
Parties? Yeesh, I am terrified. Conventions, yeesh, I am terrified. So if you see me at one of those things, come talk to me, okay?
DEBS: Hank, that is so funny. I cannot imagine you as shy! And while I don't think of myself as shy, I could never get up in front of the camera and do what you do...
So, out of our writer/readers, do you see yourself as introverted or extroverted? And READERS, what's been your personal experience with writers? Do you see writers as outgoing, or as ivory-tower recluses?
P. S. The cocktail parties I very occasionally attend are not nearly as glam as the one in this photo:-) Maybe I don't hang out with the right people?