gleanings

Introvert border
Introverted? Who, me?

Not so long ago, I realized that I had managed once again to create such a sea of expectations, commitments, must-dos and should-dos that I could barely keep my head above water.  My bloated appointment schedule proved it.

This kind of log-jam happens occasionally in spite of my best intentions, primarily because I tend to overestimate my energy levels, over-commit to big projects, and overextend in general, until sooner or later I have to pull back into my little shell for as long as it takes me to refresh, rethink, and re-prioritize.

I’m neither shy nor anti-social, but I am deeply introverted, and that personality trait, according to Swiss psychotherapist Dr. Carl Jung, influences how we relate to the world:  we take it inward and think it through.

We Homo sapiens are many and varied combinations of introversion and extroversion, but according to Jung, we inherently tend to prefer one mode over the other.

I’ve known since I was a child that I needed to be alone sometimes, and I had to let information, ideas, choices – any new input – sink down inside me and ferment for a bit before I could respond.

This process can be instantaneous, or it can take hours or days, but it’s as though my brain isn’t ready to respond until the issue has first simmered around in there for as long as it needs to before bubbling back up.

Extroverts, on the other hand, are energized by their direct interactions with the world, gaining reinforcement and energy from being with others.

But we introverts are no slouches in the social department; when necessary, we can be outgoing too, even charming in our own quiet way.  However, unlike our extroverted counterparts, we tend to tire far more quickly in groups of people.  We replenish our inner energy through calm and solitude.

I happen to be fairly close to the far end of the spectrum, an extreme introvert, one of those rare birds who make up only a small percentage of the population.  We require a substantial amount of peace and solitude in our lives.  In fact, you could even say that solitude is the breath of life for us.

time BORDERWhich is why I finally decided to claim the remaining few weeks of summer and create some much-needed time for myself.

First, I needed to clear the clutter from my appointment book and give myself some breathing room.  After considerable thought, I realigned my goals and priorities and rearranged my schedule to reflect the changes I wanted to make.

SMALL Photo_credit_-_HooverStreetStudios_via_Visualhunt_BORDER_40Then I sat back and enjoyed the freedom I felt, the sense of weightlessness that remained as the burden of old choices and worn-out decisions lifted from my shoulders.

“Withdrawal,” the insightful essay from writer and poet David Whyte that I’ve copied below, offers all of us – irrespective of degrees of outgoingness – meaning and dignity in the very human urge we can all feel at one time or another in our lives:  the need to pull back and regroup.

David Whyte:


WITHDRAWAL can be a very positive way of stepping forward and, done well, a beautiful freeing act of mercy – and, as a human behavioral art form, underestimated in this time of action and engagement.

WE WITHDRAW DOUBLE BORDERSo much of what we are involved with, in even the highest cause, becomes involvement at the busy periphery, where the central conversation has been lost to the outer edges of what was, to begin with, a very simple central invitation.

Withdrawal is often not what it looks like:  a disappearance. No, to withdraw from entanglement can be to appear again in the world in a very real way and begin the process of renewing the primary, essential invitation again.

Though life does seem determined to be a beautiful, entrancing distraction (just as we ourselves are a distraction to others, testing them as we test ourselves and our mutual sincerity), our participation in this dance of distraction also makes more real, and more necessary, our ability to return to essential ground, to an essential person or an essential work.

RETREAT FINALWe stick to the wrong thing quite often, not because it will come to fruition by further effort, but because we cannot let go of the way we have decided to tell the story. We become even further enmeshed by trying to make sense of what entraps us, when what is needed is a simple, clean breaking-away.

To remove ourselves entirely and absolutely, abruptly and at times uncompromisingly, is often the real and radically courageous break for freedom.

Unsticking ourselves from the mythical Tar Baby, seemingly set up, just for us, right in the middle of our path, we start the process of losing our sense of falsity, of ridding ourselves of illusions, of letting go of our self-manufactured enemies (and even our false friends), and most especially the false sense of self we have manufactured to live with them.

We make ourselves available for the simple purification of seeing ourselves and our world more elementally and therefore more clearly again.  We withdraw not to disappear, but to find another ground from which to see; a solid ground from which to step, and from which to speak again, in a different way; a clear, rested, embodied voice we begin to remember again as our own.

© David Whyte from Readers’ Circle Essay, “Withdrawal


My own latest period of withdrawal and renewal has already reaped a couple of unexpected – and entirely welcome – benefits:

First of all, a writing program I had bought a year ago and was hesitant to try to learn because it looked far too complicated, suddenly seemed not so huge a challenge after all – and it turned out it wasn’t!

Then my unfinished manuscript – which had been hovering inside my head for months because the ending wasn’t right, and the chore of trying to make it come together loomed ever larger the longer I postponed the work – suddenly came together, not as a chore but as an inspiration.

Now a completely different ending gushed through my fingers onto the computer screen (and into my brand new writing program), a rush of awareness that had eluded me until I finally had the time and the psychological space to clear my mind and dive into the work again.

The new ending drew the book together in a totally unforeseen way that just about wrote itself, to my great joy and satisfaction.  It was as though I had been stuck working a jigsaw puzzle and then suddenly saw how it was supposed to go together.

PLUNGE BORDER

“Every day she plunged
into the novel she was writing.
And emerged hours later,
dripping with words.”
[Ellie Philpott]***

“Dripping with words” was precisely how I felt after completing the last few pages of my manuscript and came up for air.  Now the task of editing, rewriting and re-editing begins, then another learning curve when I’m ready to publish, and following that, a run at the many challenges of marketing.  The list goes on.  However, I’m gaining energy every day to meet the unknown challenges that lie ahead.

This retreat, this deep plunge into fertile memory and the gifts of the unconscious mind – this is what is providing the ballast for a book that’s been many years in the making. And this time around, with luck, I’ll find a way to balance the distractions and social necessities of the outside world with my need to withdraw in order to create.

I’ve learned some important lessons too, this time around.  One of them is that a little time, a little flexibility, and a willingness to explore all the options are tools equally as necessary for this writer’s toolbox as they are for living out there in the madding crowd.

Namaste,
Susannah

***  Thanks to Ellie Philpott, communications specialist and writer, for that marvellous quote.  

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11 Comments

  1. What’s the writing program you mastered? I downloaded one two years ago (?) and I could see the good in it, but it seemed like messing with it would take time from what I was absorbed by at the moment. So it went bye-bye. It didn’t fit my composing style. I’m also an introvert — not far, far, far to the introvert side, but enough so that I prefer being alone to being in a group of people. INFJ.

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    1. INFP here. 🙂 Capital letter I, 10/10 I, that sort of introvert. Love one-on-one, like small groups, dislike crowds. Need to be alone to “reboot.” I feel like Greta Garbo: “I vant to be alone!”

      The program (and I haven’t mastered it yet, but it’s pretty intuitive, I’ve discovered) is Scrivener [https://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php] which I’m absolutely delighted about because I can keep track of every chapter, compare chapters side by side, create a corkboard if I use one, download websites (to be used offline), take snapshots of previous versions to compare later, do research and save it into that book file, compile into epub, MOBI and other ebook formats as well as any printed format I might wish….and a thousand other things that make keeping track of everything so easy! Now, I haven’t done any compiling yet, so I can’t comment on how well it works, but people say it’s great. I enjoy doing my writing on it too. I’d venture to say that it can do anything that Word can do, plus plus plus.

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      1. That was the program. I don’t use Word. I use Pages. I use it without bells and whistles. When the time comes for me to convert a file, it has the ability and does it 🙂 I found Scrivener annoying because I’d already developed systems for doing all those things. Nonetheless, I think it’s an awesome program, but it just emerged a little late in the game for me. As for Word, I hate it and I’m so glad I’m not compelled to use it anymore. It’s a fascist.

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      2. Yep, I think Scrivener’s definitely awesome, but we all have to work with whatever systems we’re most comfortable with. I’m so accustomed to MS Word after years of using at the office that I never thought twice about it, or even considered that there might be other word processing programs out there. I guess that’s why Scrivener came as such a pleasant surprise for me. Anyway, the bottom line is: whatever works, right?

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  2. Your conversation with Martha amuses me. I am an inveterate pantser, and programs like Scrivener drive me crazy. If I could actually create a plot and a plan for my fantasies, they might get done faster, but I’d lose the fun of discovery.

    I never remember what I get on the Myers Briggs, but I know I always start with I, no matter what the other three morph into whenever I’m taking an online short test. I’m nowhere near as “I” as you, but this last year has been hell for me with all the time I’ve given to political campaigns. With the local primary a week and a half away, I’m seeing the end of the tunnel, but it may not come soon enough. I haven’t been able to read or write, as my mind just goes blank after a long week. How did I ever manage to work?

    I agree with Martha that Word is fascist, but I’ve taught it my tricks and turned off most of its bells and whistles. Pages seems slow and clunky to me. I tried Open Office and its friend Libre Office, but they’re just very bad clones of Word. Take all the worst in Word, multiply it by 10 and take out anything worthy. We need a word processor written for authors, not for business. Like that would ever happen.

    I hope I have a similar result to yours when I finally get my peace and quiet. I have my doubts. But I did read a book this weekend, which is a very positive sign!

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    1. Hi Fellow “I.” I’m writing a memoir, so I imagine being a pantser would get me pretty much nowhere. I need to organize all those memories, and Scrivener helps me do that much more easily than Word did. But I’ve never had any real problems with Word; in fact, I never realized anyone had a hate on for that particular software. I was really surprised.

      I laughed when you wrote, “How did I ever manage to work?” because I’ve had that same thought many times since I retired. How on earth did I ever manage as a chronic insomniac with the 9-5 life I lived? And the mere thought of being out there on the stump horrifies me. You are one brave woman, Barbie!

      Do you have to do it right up until the election? Sorry, I’m not all that familiar with the US electoral system, and I tend to lose track of what’s what.

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  3. I’ve quit blogging for the summer, as you know, and have unclicked all postings from blogs I follow except yours. I guess I follow too many and then feel a responsibility to look at, ‘Like’ or comment on new posts. It had become just too much. Now, just as you say above, there is a sudden weight removed, a feeling of space and suddenly room to allow other things in. I’m learning more French, and doing more exercise, and sometimes just putting my feet up.

    I also loved your comments on needing to withdraw, because I am exactly the same. I veer away from groups and social occasions at every possibility, not because I dislike people but because I love solitude. It’s the very best way to re-charge the batteries, and I need it as much as I need food and sleep. I think you’re a soul-sister!

    Surely you are a Pisces??

    Love your way with words – ‘plunging into her novel and coming up dripping with words!’

    Keep up the good work Susannah, nearly everything you write could be written for me!

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    1. Yes, we seem to be exactly that, soul-sister! I love solitude too. But you know what? I’m a Virgo. Exacting, meticulous, picky, all that pain-in-the-butt stuff? That’s me. But we Virgos also have big hearts, so perhaps that makes up for the rest of it. 🙂

      And much as I wish I could, I can’t take credit for that marvellous quote. It actually belongs to Ms Ellie Philpott , who posted it on Twitter. Isn’t it just the most visual image you’ve ever read? Here it is in its entirety: “Every day she plunged into the novel she was writing. And emerged hours later, dripping with words.”

      Yummm, scrumptious. And thanks, Jude, for your kind words that have made my morning! ❤

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      1. Having been interested in astrology for many years I would suspect that although you’re a Virgo you may have strong Pisces or Neptune placements. I’m a fish! I like hiding in the weeds!
        Having read many of your posts I reckon that quote could easily have been yours. I’ll look forward to your book! 😀🌻🌻🌻🌻🌻

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