{Written for Story Slam: March 2017: Theme: Legacy}

I am a mix of two distinct cultures. One is … painfully obvious. The other, I keep safely tucked away in the background. But it’s there, it’s quiet voice informing my decisions, demanding I take pride in it as well as the other.

I’m no dummy. I lead with the culture that benefits from a legacy of those who have come before, aggressively staking a claim for their kind, and to hell with the others. In a nation of extroverts and introverts, the extroverts have won.

Extroverts get all the attention. They get all the things—because even when an extrovert fails, they celebrate the effort, the fact they took a risk, the thrill of putting it out there and of having been a part of something. Fucking show-offs.

Introverts, even when they succeed – especially when they succeed – just want to go home. So very happy it’s in the past and over with.

This country is designed by and for the extrovert. School sports, dance shows, team-building exercises. Extroverts end up with all the praise, all the people clamoring to celebrate them, see them, work with them, pay them.

Introverts quietly go about their business, getting things done, dealing or not dealing with the cultural bias that expects them to quietly make do with the silence that comes with being a “starving artist.”

In my world, heavy with writers and poets, population density skews heavily to introvert. Writing is a solitary task, and my introvert side gets that. But life, inspiration, and story fodder happen when you come out from behind the laptop and engage with life. No person, no introvert, is an island. But I think we have romanticized the notion that writers are hermits and recluses—because it shuts extroverts the hell up. And the legacy of that bullshit is the idea that withdrawing from the world has anything to do with creativity.

I’ve been testing this theory in To Live and Write in Alameda since 2014. Overwhelmingly, the response from introverts who participate in real life write-ins, discussion groups, and lit nights like Alameda Shorts and Local Voices, has proven this theory correct. We’re human beings, and we’re designed to be here together. We’re designed to connect and interact.

My LinkedIn profile says, “Writer, writing coach, herder of introverts.” I chose that title for three reasons: It annoys the hell out of my introvert friends. It describes what I do at a fundamental level. And it is nothing like herding cats—despite what people say.

I know. I have the cats. All the cats. Herding cats takes kibble. A schedule. Praise. Cuddles. Worship them, and they’ll follow you anywhere. Cats pretend to be aloof, independent, content to spend the afternoon in a puddle of sunlight. But you start scratching behind their ear, rub their belly, work that spot on their back at the base of the tail—they’ll love you forever.

You can’t do that with an introvert.

Don’t touch them. They can get their own damn food. They don’t give a rat’s ass about your schedule, in fact, they’re highly suspicious of other peoples’ plans. And if you love bomb them with oh … how … beautiful they are, they’ll hiss and scratch worse than any cat. Worship them? Don’t even say nice things; that’s creepy as fuck.

So you have to tempt the introvert with safety. With comfort. With other introverts.

Getting extroverts to show up is easy. I can do that shtick. I’ve made the events happen with all the people and the food and drinks and the music and the sports and the dancing with the zany promotions and contests for prizes! prizes! prizes! As long as I got my three days in pajamas after each event, I was happy.

Because, introvert.

I see the beauty in a quiet soul, an introspective imagination, a reflective mind. This is where true love and art reside.

The extrovert in me plans an event or activity, and says, “Come on everyone, let’s do this! You’re going to love it! It’s going to be great. So great.”

The introvert in me secretly hopes no one signs up, so I can stay home with my cats.

The extrovert thrills with every RSVP. The introvert hyperventilates.

The extrovert facilitates, turned on and tuned in, short synapses firing, feeding off the energy of the group, ideas sparking, excitement bubbling, enjoying every minute, fully alive and soul on fire.

The introvert needs three days of leave me the fuck alone to recover.

Small talk, the currency of the extrovert, is anathema to the introvert. Introverts take their time making connections, tentatively agreeing to acknowledge each other, testing the waters. Introverts nurture deep and meaningful connections, true friendships of easy laughter and shared experiences. But it takes a minute to get there.

So, I mix structured, purposeful talk with organic socializing at write-ins and discussion groups, trying, and often failing, to walk the line between cultures. I think, “Ahh. I can breathe. I’ve made a safe place.” I look around a table of eight or so writers gathered together in friendship, purpose, and support, knowing six of them would rather be at home and had to mentally prepare just to get out the door, and I’m so grateful and I get so excited to see people enjoying this safe and comfortable place, that here’s a thing that works, a thing that serves all kinds of people, where every writer can be heard and acknowledged and I get so excited I jump all over it like an untrained puppy at a picnic.

My introvert considers and plans and makes a safe place, and my extrovert stomps all over it. Not meaning to. In an effort to relate, to validate, to show I’m listening, I interrupt. I jump across. I anticipate the end of a sentence. All the wrong things. “Go Baby Go.”

Why? Someone’s got to normalize mixing extroverts with introverts. It’s the 21st century, people.

Because: extroverts get their books read. It’s up to authors to build and develop their author platforms. Extroverts are all about it. The hermit recluse writers of yesterday no longer exist. Sorry, introverts, it’s an extrovert’s world. Those who can take a deep breath and talk about themselves and their work, will have it read. So, we practice.

So, I’m the puppy. The buffoon. The pain in the ass. I make writers talk about themselves, their writing, their process. I cajole and I push and I put on the spot. I embarrass myself with how much I go on about the importance of author platforms—because “Starving Artist” is a label of repression. It’s a brutal, destructive legacy that keeps us quiet and hungry.

The door opens for the cat that cries, not the one that curls up and waits, down the street, under a bush, because it’s not sure about the door.