Monday, November 2, 2009

Help for weary travelers

I occasionally do topical searches on Twitter, and recently when I searched on "introverts" the topic that most frequently appeared is "self-promotion for introverts." There is also a new book out, called, not surprisingly, Self-Promotion for Introverts. I haven't read the book yet, but it is selling extremely well. Apparently, this is a hot topic, as introverts are trying to figure out how it is that they can get ahead and get what they want in a world so often slanted towards extroverts.

I myself am heavily engaged in promoting my own book, and I have commented before on the deep ironies of publishing a book. You spend months or years in the privacy of your study, in libraries, in quiet coffee shops, and in the solitude of your thoughts writing and rewriting and preparing your manuscript. At the end of that arduous, soul-satisfying, introverted process, do you get a nice needed rest while your publicists do all the work of putting the book out there for others to discover? Not so much. You are thrust in the limelight and into the work of promoting your book. From what I understand the world of book promotion has changed considerably in the last few years, as the publicity budgets have shrunk and publishers have had to scale back due to the recession. No matter who publishes your book, it is now expected that authors will be the lead publicists for their work. If you want your book to do well, you must seek out radio interviews, speaking engagements, and other kinds of platforms.

I'm only a couple of months into promoting the book, and the hard work hasn't even begun yet, but I already feel a tiredness seeping into my mind and body. I have some promotional game - I can talk about the topic with some expertise, I have social skills, much promotion can be done online and via the written word, and my undergraduate experience taught me some valuable networking tools (thank you Claremont McKenna College), but if I'm honest, promoting is an extroverted job. And no matter how well I can work the angles, it's draining.

The more I meet fellow introverts (and this book has afforded me plenty of opportunities to do so - a tremendous gift), the more I meet fellow weary travelers. No matter what arenas we find ourselves in, what career paths we're taking, what social circles we're walking in, what steps we're taking to grow and progress in our lives, a lot of us are just tired. We masquerade as extroverts out of necessity, but it takes its toll.

It's not really in my nature to provide really practical suggestions, but I'm going to take a stab at it here, because tiredness, if it persists for long periods of time, is dangerous to the soul.

1. Seek out the proper motivations. Not only does self-promotion not fit us temperamentally, but I just don't think it's good theology. We're in the business of God-promotion, not self-promotion. That doesn't mean we can't quietly talk about our strengths and our gifts, but it does mean the objects of our promotion should be in line with our beliefs. I do not think that money, fame, or personal glory should be our goals. Our goals should be in finding those places and situations in which we can best serve the individual purposes and callings that God has given each one of us. Those contexts in which we can be obedient to God and the best servants of other people. Each morning I pray that God would use my book not for my own aggrandizement or personal success but for the sake of other introverts who long to find their homes in God and in their communities, and to be faithful as who they are.

2. Zealously guard your solitude. If you are not carving out niches of solitude on a regular basis - daily, weekly, monthly - then you are in danger of a tiredness that can tamper with your soul and your joy in God. Find your own rhythms of engagement and retreat. Deepen your spirituality and your prayer practices. Find opportunities for intellectual engagement and develop hobbies that spark your imagination and creativity. If you have a hard time saying no to social invitations, look at that tendency in yourself and discern what void you are trying to fill. Consider how your inability to say no may actually be preventing you from what you truly need.

3. Develop 2-3 intimate friendships. We may not require the quantities of social interaction that extroverts do, but we need a couple of people that we can safely share our vulnerabilities with. You just may discover that you are not alone.

4. Sleep, sleep, sleep. Several neurological studies have demonstrated that introverts require more sleep than extroverts, to restore our brain chemicals and to help prevent quick feelings of overwhelm. 8-9 hours of sleep is standard for many introverts. Sleep is good, and God given.

What other suggestions do you have for combating the onset of a dangerous tiredness?