Into the Woods

I’ve watched a couple of Disney fairy tale movies recently, and both brought me reminders of how I want to — need to — live my life.

In Cinderella, the dying mother tells Ella to have courage and to always be kind. Good reminders! ( Similar to the admonition Swayze gave his bouncers in the adult fairy tale Roadhouse. Be nice . . . until it’s time not to be nice.)

In Into the Woods, the witch tells Rapunzel that she is safer in the tower, that yes, charming princes are out there in the woods, but so are bad things, such as wolves. It seemed reflection of my current state of affairs, where people remind me of the dangers of a woman traveling alone, and either urge me to settle down and if l still insist on traveling, then bring a companion. And yet, despute their concern and possibly good advice, I still wish to go into the woods alone.

Having a companion would be very nice at times during my travels, but being alone would also nice, especially for an introvert. (An introvert is not always a timid loner as we often imagine. An introvert is simply someone who gains strength, energy, and renewal by being alone. Extroverts gain the same advantages by being around people.) And, considering the purpose of my journey — to embrace life; to interact with the world in a more basic way; to find new ways of being me — alone time is a must.

So into the woods . . .

At least, that’s the plan. I’m still city-bound, still vehicleless, still living on the mercy of friends still dreaming of adventure. But one day soon, my real journey will begin. Or maybe it already has. It becomes more impossible every day to imagine myself in an apartment or rented room, and more possible to imagine myself going into the woods. Alone.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

Introvert or Extravert?

I don’t like the words introvert and extrovert. The common definition of an introvert is a painfully shy person or someone who thinks only of him/herself, while an extrovert is an outgoing, sociable person with interests outside him/herself. In our society, which rewards the gregarious, being an introvert seems to put one at a disadvantage. Introverts, however, are not always shy, and apparent extroverts can be uncomfortable in crowds. And introverts are no more self-centered than extroverts.

According to Laurie Helgoe, author of Revenge of the Introverts published in Psychology Today, “It’s often possible to spot introverts by their conversational style. They’re the ones doing the listening. Extraverts are more likely to pepper people with questions. Introverts like to think before responding—many prefer to think out what they want to say in advance—and seek facts before expressing opinions. Extraverts are comfortable thinking as they speak. Introverts prefer slow-paced interactions that allow room for thought. Brainstorming does not work for them. Email does.”

Colin DeYoung, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, says that introverts do best in quiet conditions and extraverts do better with more noise.

So being an introvert is neither a disadvantage nor an advantage, simply a different way of processing information. Which could provide an answer to a conundrum I’ve been considering for some time now: why some authors can effortlessly flood a page with words, and others struggle to find a few words.

All the books about how to write say not to edit as you go, but to let the words gush out of you, to write the first draft as quickly as possible. As much as I like the idea of letting the words flow and seeing what transpires, nothing shows up on the page unless I sit and ponder. So, even though few writing coaches admit it (and why would they? They are probably all extroverts) there are different approaches to writing: extrovert and introvert.

A writing extrovert would be someone who can write anywhere — on a bus, in a crowded room, in a coffee shop. Even when alone, they like to write accompanied by sound, either music or the television. And no matter what, the words gush forth as fast or faster than fingers can type.

A writing introvert would be someone who can only write when alone and in absolute silence. The words come slowly to these authors. Once involved in a scene, however, these writers get into the flow of writing, and the words can come more quickly, though still slowly in comparison to the writing extroverts. And, though they are gradually shifting to computers, their preferred method of writing is by hand so they can get the best mind/hand connection.

Of course, few people inhabit the extremes of this writing spectrum — most authors find themselves somewhere in the middle.

It’s apparent what kind of writer I am — an extreme introvert. I need the quiet so I can find the few words that bobble to the tip of my mind. What kind of writer are you?