Extroversion in the Workplace
Two years ago, I started writing a book.
I had a plan too. I read a book about creativity and the writing process. I had a plotline written out, with character arcs and plot holes eliminated. I vetted the story endlessly in my head.
On top of all this, I had a summer desk job where I was allowed to work on side projects during hours. I was being paid to write.
What happened? I got to 40,000 words before the project sputtered out.
I didn’t lose motivation, nor did the story fail. Rather, I learned something terrifying about myself. My extroversion forbade me from writing this way.
I’ve always considered myself a talented writer. Ever since first grade, I was writing little novelettes and showing my parents with a beaming smile. My first big story, “Joe” was about a magic pencil that put my protagonist right in the midst of a pirate battle.
Was the story a regurgitation of “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Harry Potter”? Yes. He talked to snakes even. Sorry, J.K. Rowling, please don’t sue.
But that’s not the point. From youth, I was of the written word.
In high school, I scored very high in Advanced Placement English and literature classes. My essays were strong, and I lead creative writing workshops. As I entered college, the pen kept moving.
But what happened two years ago was different: I didn’t have my Mom just around the corner in the kitchen to read my newest masterpiece, and I didn’t have 20 self-conscious high school students to show off to.
I was alone. Some shifts, which were six hours long, I would never encounter another face. There was no soul around me. And the words, the stories, the characters, the dialogue, all stopped on the clock.
I have always known about my extroversion. When I was little, my parents had a scare every other week when I’d wander off in the grocery store or at my siblings’ sporting events to talk to kind strangers. I’m always the loudest in the room. I get it.
But before my Waldenian writing experience, I never saw the drawbacks to my personality. Extroverts gain their energy and creativity from others, and when the presence of people was stripped from the equation, my writing ability suffered as a result.
This is why Jacht is great for me; we have an open floor plan. My source of energy is bountiful. But again, not everyone is extroverted. Not everyone likes to chat. Some people like to be left alone, put in their headphones and focus.
There are many articles online for introverts, (Google “Buzzfeed introvert” for reference) and I’m glad those personalities are having their voices heard. Perhaps it’s culture, perhaps it’s our personalities, but extroverts don’t get as much love in the blog and listicle world.
But there are challenges to relying on others for our sanity. When I need energy, and others want to be left alone and work on their projects, I physically do much worse. My projects, emails and work morale tank.
Fellow extroverts, find like-minded souls in your workplace that are okay with idle chatter and frequent derailment of conversation. Find a group with whom you can be loud and proud.
But be sensitive. Many times, I take it personally when others don’t want to talk. I can be an annoyance, when all I’m looking for is a pick-me-up. Vet others, and maybe even ask for their Myers-Briggs if you need to. I’m being dead serious: have an extrovert support group.
Your work, and your novels, may depend on it.