I generally consider myself an introvert, but in recent years, I've come to the realization that introversion and extroversion are not set points in a personality, but opposite ends of a spectrum. In reality, I'm probably what's called an extroverted introvert. I need alone time (love alone time), prefer small groups to large crowds, am often just as happy if not happier to stay home and read than to go out and about.
So I sound pretty introverted, yet I didn't find the Minnesota State Arts Board's requirement that grantees participate in public events off-putting. In September, I was at the Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids for a 2nd Saturday event, where I was one of four artists performing for a crowd of about 30 people. That should have been an introvert's hell, but once I started reading, I was fine, and even enjoyed it, plus I enjoyed chatting with people afterward. See? A bit of extroversion. Even if it was followed up by luxuriously stretching out in my comfy, quiet motel room, sprawled across my bed, reading peacefully until I fell asleep.
A little more intimidating was this past weekend's appearance at the Old School Arts Center in Sandstone, because I was the only person on the agenda. When you're one of four, your time up front comes and goes fairly quickly. But when you're one of one, there's no handing off of the responsibility. That's the kind of situation that can make my inner introvert a bit nervous.
After some consideration of how to handle this event, I decided to both prepare a bit and to wing it a bit. I picked excerpts from two stories from my book, one from 1959 and one from 1986, but with a common character between them--but I also thought that if people looked bored, I'd only read from one story. I decided I'd give an extemporaneous talk about my background as a writer to start, then read, then answer any questions and decide from there if more reading would be appropriate. I figured maybe I could fill an hour, and hoped any people who attended wouldn't find that too long and get bored.
In the end, the event was almost two hours. A group of thoughtful, interested attendees welcomed both stories, had a lot of great questions and comments, and even had a spirited discussion of books we love (lots of love for Olive Kitteridge in the room). I had a little chance to visit the art center's current display, which was large and diverse (and included some spectacular woodworking pieces). There was hot cider, cookies, and sweet bread.
Best of all, my inner introvert was kind enough to shut up and sit down and let my inner extrovert come out. Thanks to the congenial host and audience, I had a blast. I enjoyed reading, I enjoyed talking, I loved hearing women in the audience talk about their experiences of living in small towns during these disparate time frames. The audience was divided between those who have heard of release time education (it plays a big role in my book's opening story) and those that hadn't.
I came away feeling refreshed and rejuvenated and excited to get back to work. But I also appreciated having alone time in my car on the way home to give my inner introvert time to have a moment of zen, not to mention letting my inner diva pretend she can rap while blasting Hamilton in the car.
Yes, you can be both introverted and extroverted, and when the stars align, they get along very well, and you--or I--can have a wonderful time spending the afternoon talking and reading with a group of like-minded people.