Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Perks of Shyness

When I was a child I was painfully shy. I’d rehearse what I wanted to say to someone I didn’t know very well, continue rehearsing it in my mind until it started sounding ridiculous to me and I gave up even saying it. It was difficult, especially (as I’m sure for many), the awkward middle school and high school years. I hated that part of myself. Yes, hated. It was miserable at times, and it made it worse when others would point it out. Sidenote: If you know a shy child, don’t put him or her on the spot about it.

Since talking to people and socializing wasn’t my forte, I retreated into myself and spent tons of time reading and writing. It was my reprieve. I was whisked away into other worlds, it was a wonderful escape, for hours. I would go to the library with my mom and siblings and couldn’t see the library receptionist behind my stack of books that she had to scan for me. I wasn’t much of an outdoorsy person during those years. I’d lie in bed or find a cozy spot to curl up and read. I loved it and looking back I cherish that time. I remember feeling so peaceful and relaxed. The social anxiety dissipated, even if momentarily.

What I didn’t realize was that I was learning rapidly. Not only about different cultures, history, people etc. But about good writing, sentence structure, words that evoked the best images, and compelling characters that felt like good friends to a shy child. It was subtle and I had no idea at the time, but in looking back I’ve realized that my shyness caused me to gravitate to books and writing in my journal, or writing stories and poems, and all that time I spent was a positive investment in myself and my passion. I do a lot of writing for my day job as well, so it’s paid off not only for my creative writing, but in other ways.

I believe that the key (or at least one of them!) to being a better writer is to read, and read constantly from all different sources, topics, and genres. I’ve also found reading to be a source of inspiration when I hit a dry spell or when I’m not in a “writing mood.”

When I went to college and became a “grown up”, I was forced out of my comfort zone several times. I had a career goal I was striving for and it was in the field of human services (who’d have thought?!). I changed, I grew as a result. My core personality is the same and I’m still an introvert, but I no longer have that crippling social anxiety. I don’t have to rehearse what I’m going to say. I make friends easily. I was forced to move beyond that anxiety, if I wanted to be successful in my day job.

Which brings me full circle. I stopped reading for fun or entertainment. Partly because graduate school and (later) a full time day job was demanding and when you have text books and homework, additional reading doesn’t sound so appealing, even if it is fiction.  I also had a social life, a serious boyfriend, and new coworkers to befriend. I stopped writing in my journal, sporadically wrote poems when I felt inspired, but that was it.

I didn’t realize it, but I missed it sorely, and I’ve had to consciously make an effort to make time to read, and I do now! I’m back into my habit of turning pages, staying up way too late, even though I have to work the next day.

It’s exciting to see how reading inspires my writing again. I’m also trying to be more aware as I read. What is it that keeps me captivated? How can I replicate that in my own way?

Little did I know that my shyness had a purpose. I try to keep an open mind since not everything that feels like a curse in the moment, is necessarily a bad thing. It may open doors, other opportunities, or have unplanned byproducts that you don’t see until 20 years later!


Kelsey St. James said...

I'm an utterly shy person as well. I think one of the reasons I love writing so much is that I'm able to say what I want whereas sometimes in real life I can't. I wrote a blog post about it a while back check it out if you'd like. :)

T L Doezema said...

Sorry for the delayed response, We just bought and moved into a new house. I will definitely check out your blog post!