Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Introvert Writer (In)Action

A man I know saw me writing at my keyboard the other day, shaking his head in disbelief. "I don't know how you do it." I asked him what he meant. "I mean--just sit there, doing nothing. I couldn't stand it, I'd go nuts."

I explained, as politely as I could, "I'm a boring guy, I like the quiet."

Active, social people--extroverts, I love 'em--often do not understand introvert professions. Until the man showed up, I'd been sitting at the keyboard, yes (I do take walks on occasion to get away from the screen). But where was I going virtually with my machine?
  • Cape Canaveral to RSVP for the SpaceX launch I'm attending Monday. 
  • Philadelphia, to correspond with Darlene the Science Cheerleader, who will be at the launch, too, because of the SciCheer payload going up on the rocket. 
  • New York, to review a website for which I might want to write.
  • The International Space Station itself, to see what's being done with the aforementioned payload.
This doesn't just happen when I'm writing. I could be sitting down reading, or along a street, on a boardwalk, or on a bench at an airport or theme park, just sitting quietly and thinking. It's vexing behavior to talkers because they're processing everything aloud.

If someone asks me, I describe myself as "boring" because it takes too long to explain everything that's buzzing around in my head, and as I've learned through long, hard, and painful experience, everyone doesn't want to know everything I'm thinking. Let's take a typical example: taking a long walk through some of the more expensive neighborhoods around Southwest Orlando, where I'm currently living. I'll walk for anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours, outwardly just looking at things. If I see people, I might wave, but I keep walking. I come back sweaty, exhausted, and refreshed. So okay, what was I thinking about for two hours?
  • Wondering how many square feet some of the lakeside mansions are, how people use the space, and how often.
  • Speculating on how many people around said lake own a boat and how often they use them.
  • Noting the varied architectures in the neighborhood, from Colonial to Italianate, Spanish, French, and Frank Lloyd Wright American. 
  • I wonder what most of the people who own these homes do (or did) to earn their money to afford them.
  • Noting that suburbs tend to spread outward as the "city" spreads, I wonder what some of these homes will look like subject to urban blight, vandalism, or urban blight (I am not a fan of cities).
  • Counting the number of lights and security cameras around particular homes or walled complexes, wondering how much security they really buy and at what cost.
  • Speculate on just how close we might be to a violent revolution against "the rich," on what side I'd stand in such a revolution, or whether I'd even have a choice in the matter (I'm house-sitting in one of these neighborhoods).
  • Wondering why some rich neighborhoods decide to build sidewalks and some do not. If it's a neighborhood/volitional choice, I then wonder what statement the neighborhood is saying about pedestrians.
  • Reminding myself that I need to buy new walking shoes soon.
  • Wondering what the circling police helicopter was looking for--not me, fortunately.
  • Thinking, not for the first time, that I really don't want a big house, expensive luxury car, or all the worries/responsibilities that go with them.
  • Wondering what the zoning laws are like for "upscale" neighborhoods.
  • Speculating on the diversity of the inhabitants' ethnicity, politics, and interests.
  • Avoiding road kill, trash cans, yard waste, and animal scat.
  • Tuning out my thoughts occasionally and just looking around or listening to iTunes.
  • Alternating between "winging it" on which street to explore and checking my Maps app to see if I'm going the right direction.
  • Wondering, not for the first time, why there area always so few residents visible. I walk past mile after mile of well-tended yards, and most of the vehicles I see belong to the paid landscaping people. 
  • Wondering what the landscaping guys think about these neighborhoods.
  • Piecing together a list of features I would want in a home if I had "more money." This is more than an intellectual exercise--my house-sitting days end in October. 
  • Realizing, with this latest move (Illinois-Florida-Virginia-Alabama-Florida again), that I once again have the opportunity to reinvent myself and my life, and then trying to figure out what I might want to be.
  • Wondering what rich neighborhoods on alien planets look like.
  • Wondering just how legal it is for gated communities to keep pedestrians off the sidewalks.
  • Checking the email on the phone and realizing that I have a few more task requests from Science Cheerleader.
  • Trying to guess how useful or productive I'll be later in the day after wiping myself out from a two-hour walk.
  • Planning where I'll go for my next walk.
If I had tried to talk aloud about all that, I would be exhausted. But walking time is loose-mind time. the brain can roam as the body roams. I enjoy the contemplation that can often only come from solitude or time away from other people. Yes, it's "unsocial," but if you read the list above, you can see how social my concerns and random ruminations are. I'm not thinking the thoughts of an alien (okay, at least not most of the time), but I'm turning over thoughts in my head that don't always make for typical or easy social conversation in a country dominated by sports, TV, and politics.

So there you have it: that's what "doing nothing" looks like. Are you sorry you asked now?

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