It seems like everyone is talking about introvertism and extrovertism these days. It might have something to do with the surge of books on the topic: There are books about introverts in the church, about why introverts should be valued more in our extrovert-driven world, and about how introverts can tap their “hidden power”.
Even the good old Myers-Briggs test seems to suddenly be getting its second wind—every time I turn around, someone on Twitter or in a blog post is mentioning their “type,” if it seems relevant. (I’m a ENFP, in case you’re wondering—the E stands for extrovert.)
I happen to be hyper-aware of all of this, because it’s a topic I’m extremely interested in and have written about a lot. My extrovertism—and my ability to understand and accept it—seems to be at play in every aspect of my life: in my divorce and my marriage; in how I perceive myself and my relationship with my parents; in practical matters and creative matters; and in my social life, spiritual life, and work life.
Being an extrovert who spends all day alone, working on my writing, has been an ongoing challenge and blessing for me. Writing, after all, is by nature a very solitary activity, but there are many collaborative career options out there. The first 10 years of my writing career were spent working for newspapers, communications firms and design firms, so I was always with people—interviewing them, brainstorming with them, or trying to shut them out long enough to focus on the writing itself.
When I decided, in 2002, to take the leap into full-time freelancing, it was the thought of working alone that worried me most. Making it work has been a matter of finding a happy medium: I’ve learned to love being alone more than I ever imagined I would, and I’ve also learned to build as much community, interaction, and collaboration into my days as possible. Social media and blogging have been such important parts of that connectedness. (Here’s a post I wrote about this last year: Living stories together, writing alone.)
But I still feel isolated, more than I’d like. My longing to connect with others, as a writer, is a bit like having this itch I can’t scratch. It was when I started going to conferences that I felt satisfied—filled up with the goodness of shared ideas and encouragement and understanding that I needed to settle back into my freelance life for a while. After a couple of four-day sessions at the Festival of Faith & Writing (2010 and 2012), a week at a Glen Workshop, and a few days at STORY Chicago last fall, I began to always think in terms of “When’s my next conference?”
Right now, the answer to that question is May 24-26—the Renew and Refine Retreat for Writers. I’m especially excited about this particular retreat, because it’s built around a vision Ed Cyzewski and I developed after having been at a couple of conferences together in 2012. Part of what I love most about the format for the weekend is how perfectly it meets the needs of both introverts and extroverts alike (which apparently isn’t the case at most conferences, according to several introverts I know). :) It focuses less on what we need as individuals, and more on meeting somewhere in the middle—making space for everyone to be who they are, and to thrive there together. And yet, our individual needs will be met in the process. I think that’s because our plans for this venture happened in the most organic of ways—when an extrovert (me) and an introvert (Ed) met together in the middle to plan something that would ultimately be a “dream retreat” for both of us. Here’s where we landed (this is just an excerpt from our website):
As writers, we each have unique challenges and goals, but there are certain things we all need: Access to inspiration and creativity; rhythms and structures to keep us motivated and on track; guidance for setting goals and navigating roadblocks; a balanced sense of who we are as intellectual, emotional and spiritual beings; and the support and encouragement of a community who understands the rewards and challenges of the writing life.
Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, I hope you’ll check out the retreat website and consider joining us! Don’t miss some of the great details, like the gorgeous lodge setting (a fireplace, deck, lake, and wooded trails!); sessions with Lisa Colon Delay, the wonderful spiritual director who will be joining us for the weekend; and the amazing food we’ll be eating, created by my husband, Jason (if you’re on Instagram you can glimpse many of his past food creations—he’s @jason_berg).