Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Being Shy Might Be A Good Thing

Since a lot of us consider ourselves to be shy or introverted, I thought this article from the New York Times might be interesting. It's an opinion piece that discusses how there are some situations where being the person sitting in the periphery might be helpful, and I think it can actually be applied to the changing world of publishing.

In a nutshell, the people who are always aggressive and throw themselves into new things also risk being the first victims of these new things. The people sitting on the sidelines have the chance to watch those first brave people experiment. On the other hand, there are situations where adapting quickly could also be helpful.

Here are some quotes from the article:

"[I]t's also possible the young woman is 'just shy,' or introverted -- traits our society disfavors. One way we manifest this bias is by encouraging perfectly healthy shy people to see themselves as ill."

"Shyness and introversion are not the same thing. Shy people fear negative judgment; introverts simple prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments."

"[B]usiness self-help guides often suggest that introverted leaders practice their communication skills and smile more. may be extrovert leaders who need to change, to listen more and say less."

"But had the sitters taken Zoloft and become more like bold rovers, the entire family of pumpkinseed sunfish would have been wiped out."

"If we continue to confuse shyness with sickness, we may find ourselves in a world of all rovers and no sitters, of all yang and no yin."


  1. Shy people tend to be quite charming once drawn out, as well as perceptive. To be reticent tends to encourage an observing eye.

  2. Thanks for sharing the article with us!

  3. I'm definitely a very assertive trailblazer, and I've definitely been burned by that. Repeatedly. I've had almost 95% correct prescience on just about everything I've done, not just with writing. I have a looooong trail of I-took-endless-risks behind me, all of which have led to failure for me, not for others though, because they've sat back while I've worked out all the damn bugs in The Up And Coming and The New.

    I was self-publishing (both e and print) and making arguments for this over a decade ago. Because of me and the small number of writers like me, self-publishing has become easy and quite big now. And where am I? Unknown. Unread. Lots of people have benefited by what I did and said; I was one of a small group regularly fighting against the stigmas. I took tons of blows. Back then it was so nasty out there; the nastiness still pops up. ...Though for too many of today's self-published books I think the nastiness has some validity because I keep seeing should-not-have-been-published works being pumped out. They're all flashy covers and little-to-no substance between the covers. (Same model the traditional world has tended to use, and if that world is now suffering somewhat, why on earth adopt its wonky standard?)

    As I've said many times lately, I've never seen anything like this in the self-publishing sphere: so much focus on sales and covers.* Ten years ago self-publishing was more about art, not sales. Now, it's the opposite. I think self-publishing has become much too easy, and writers have gotten extremely sloppy in consequence. Usually whenever something goes mainstream, that something gets destroyed. Every not-serious-about-this person comes out of the woodwork and must try her hand at the The New Thing, filling the market with nonsense work, so that the not-nonsense becomes relatively invisible.

    I see people saying how exciting publishing is now...and I want to throw up. I think all writers will be lucky if there's an infrastructure for publishing in ANY fashion ten years from now, given the precarious state of the world. I think many people sense this, and that's helping drive their rush to publish....

    But it's not all doom-and-gloom, and things-publishing can change rapidly. I think counting out the traditional world is silly (but that doesn't stop endless faux-self-publishing experts making traditional-world death-knell claims); lots of money there, lots of power still. The CEO of the publishing house I worked at (one of the largest in the world at the time), he would swagger INSIDE THE BUILDING'S ELEVATORS. Do some writers honestly think people like that will give up their swagger? IMO they'll find a way to keep it, even if that means somehow buying up a controlling share in Amazon and dismantling the Kindle-publishing arm.

    I haven't read the NYT article, but if it says what you say it says, it's probably right. If you (impersonal) are shy, stay shy. Trust me: you don't want to wind up where I'm at.

    *(When someone writes her books based on what she's read on Wal Mart's shelves and her books sell big, when she usually can't spell or construct an exciting sentence, and her narratives have little concept of narrative point-of-view, self-publishing has become just as hopeless as traditional publishing, where Pamela Anderson published a book that opens with a Pam's-nipples discussion. IMO traditional publishing is suffering, but it isn't on the verge of extinction; art is! It's obvious to me, though many people don't want to hear all that.)

  4. Suze, I tend to be quite charming once drawn out. :P

    Sandra, you're welcome!

    FP, You came to mind as I was reading this article. The author does point out that there are situations where the trailblazer approach wins out, though, and hopefully that will come up for you. I really hope for that.

  5. Davin, thank you for that article and your thoughts on it. I've always tried to push away the assumption that there's something wrong with me because I'm "introverted" or "shy" or "extra sensitive" but it's hard not to feel that way because I grew up socially conditioned to think those things. It's sad and ridiculous.

    Frankly, it's hard for me to step into all this publishing stuff - self-published or traditionally. Both have been very difficult for me, but rewarding, too. It's simply a transition, one I'm trying to step into as gracefully as I can.

  6. Michelle, I know at least one friend who tried to publish, got a good reception, and then decided she wasn't interested anymore. I think as writer we are told that one path is the best path, but maybe we should all try to find what works best for us. I know I'm not enjoying the promotional part of publishing, and I've minimized it so far. Everything I do in terms of promotion takes a lot of courage first.

  7. This is a fascinating discussion. Personally I've always been BOTH shy and introverted, but I've always said it was because most people suck.

    I like the idea the article puts across though, about the sunfish.

  8. Matthew, I thought the sunfish examples were useful too. It shows that both types of people can face challenges that will work out to their advantage. Some people do suck, unfortunately.

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  11. No. We must all be the same. Those who aren't are sick.

  12. FP, I don't think you shut anything down. I just had a few hours of meetings and am just getting back to my computer now.

    Nevets, Yes. Then, no.

  13. While the bold extroverts are out there playing around and making fools of themselves, we shy introverts are building the machines that will allow us to rule the world. No, you'd never guess that, would you, bold extroverts?

  14. Mum, Scott. Ix-nay on the secret an-play.

  15. Domey, they won't take the time to read this far down in the comments. They've got Things To Do and Places To Be and all of that. Sekretplansafe.

  16. Yay...there's hope for me. Awesome.

  17. I wanna take all the extroverts outside and embarrass them in public.

    Oh, wait.


    That's what they want to do me.

  18. That was an excellent article. Thanks for sharing!

  19. A long but interesting read. Thanks for sharing. Much to think about.

    Have a great 4th of July weekend!

  20. People don't believe me when I tell them I'm introverted/shy. I don't trailblaze and I'm rarely among the first to something, but in a reasonably like-minded group I can take the lead and push things along.

    But for my relaxation there's nothing like a cup of tea, some biscuits and total silence.

  21. ...I want to point out that introverts can be trailblazers. The quote from the article is correct, IMO: introverted does not necessarily equal shy, and vice versa. Introverts prefer being alone. But when in public they aren't necessarily shy.

    I'm usually gregarious in public. I'm a trailblazer, I'm also an introvert (INTJ on those tests, FWIW), but I'm not shy. I almost always speak my mind. I just prefer not being around others when given the choice. I generally don't like the "social graces"; too civlized for my taste, a waste of too much energy I'd rather spend doing other things. Tact is sooooo not my middle name. I like trying new things; hence, the near-nonstop trailblazing....

    This post is probably TMI for people's tastes (which I do often consider, I'm not 100% tactless, I just have difficulties there in social contexts...). I deleted my other one because it probably was TMI too. This one may be deleted too. Read it fast before it's--POOF!--gone!

  22. As I see it, extroverts are just more ballsy than introverts. They're the ones willing to take risks that either pay off or screw you over.
    Introverts take in all of their data before deciding what to do. They act in measured ways, but that often causes them to get lost in the crowd.

    Extroverts need to practice stepping back and introverts need to know when it's okay to be bold.

  23. I find those quotes very encouraging. I am often frustrated when my personality is spoken of as a defect.

  24. Neither introverts no extroverts are broken. There is no holy middle ground to which they must seek.

    If someone feels that his or her extroversion has become an obstacle to achieving some goals, that's one thing, but there is no inherent need to change your introversion or extroversion in order to satisfy the universe.

  25. There's nothing more rewarding than getting to know an introvert. Really, really know them.

    I know this for a fact :~)

    Not that I have anything against extroverts- some of the people I love most are among them. Variety in life is great--and watching extroverts out there in the world is extremely educational! Especially Artisan extroverts but that's a whole other show :~D

    I love that line about the fish. Just keep swimming!



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