21 Aug

Off-Topic Tuesday: Silence is Electrum

I frequently discuss the strange dichotomy of my writer’s desire to remain undisturbed and my baser human need for socializing. It’s probably because I feel that tug-of-war all of the time, whether it’s related to writing or not. The recent round of “care and feeding of an introvert/extrovert” blog entries and subsequent Facebook links just went entirely around me. I don’t feel like either, or maybe I feel like both. It’s hard to say, hard enough that I think the label is pretty pointless. (And I’m wary of people who deliberately seek labels for themselves.) I’m usually very social when I need to be social, and pretty antisocial the rest of the time.

Here's Johnny!
“Who feels like being sociable?”

People often seem surprised when they realize I have “the other half” of what they knew me as. People who are accustomed to the grouchy asshole me are shocked to see me laughing and carrying on at a party. And the ones who met me at the party are surprised to hear what I sound like on the phone when they call while I’m working. Most accounts portray me as, well… a grouchy asshole. (I’ve tried to explain that if I was as irritated as I sounded, I wouldn’t have even answered the phone but, apparently, that’s not the point.)

As far as work goes, I get to be antisocial almost the entire year. Other than emails, that take only minutes out of a day, I’m in my room banging away at the keyboard. And emails are a much more “removed” interaction. They can be deliberated and edited with care, to be dealt with when the time is right. But, there’s virtually no face to face interaction. That’s great for the antisocial writer in me, but the social one has an itch that’s impossible to scratch electronically.

GenCon LogoSo hooray for GenCon! For the first time in about ten years I attended the convention. As an added bonus, I didn’t even have to man a booth in the hall. But I didn’t get to do much gaming. Instead, I spent my time making the rounds trying to visit with people I “met” digitally, getting to know them firsthand. I maintain there is a great deal to learn about someone just by looking them in the eye. I have no science to back that up or anything. But I find that I understand someone so much more once I’ve been able to observe them in person for just a few minutes. I had a great time, despite the fact that the convention was very different for me than previous visits, split about evenly between working trips (as an employee of a game manufacturer) and gamer trips (with my childhood gaming buddies).

GenCon: Talking About Writing

This trip was a strange mixture and I clearly need to adjust the balance as I get used to it. I traveled with one of my friends from my original gaming group, my first DM in fact, and met up with as many friends as time permitted. But I also felt like it was a working trip. I (hopefully politely) stalked a few people I specifically wanted to talk to, and attended every seminar and panel I could that pertained to any subject my freelance writing touches on. It was a strange sort of “continuing education” weekend in some ways and I have a spiral notebook full of all the things I learned. I was a Star Wars lunchbox and Trapper Keeper away from the first half of my life.

In all, it was a blend of silently taking notes and loudly carrying on that bizarrely defines whatever it is that exists in the DMZ between introverts and extroverts. It’s an impossible, alchemical mixture of extreme distaste for human beings in crowds (or in general, if I’m honest) and a passion for sharing excitement with those very same people.

Fitty Cent Piece
A modern day electrum piece.

I’ve always considered electrum pieces to be D&D’s most ridiculous currency, the fifty cent piece of the world of Greyhawk. It’s never quite enough to accomplish anything but complication. So I don’t think silence is golden, as much as I value it. Instead, it’s worth only half as much as the thing that every adventurer, and writer, is after: gold. Some social activity needs to make up the difference, because working alone in silence isn’t enough.

One thought on “Off-Topic Tuesday: Silence is Electrum

  1. Yeah, I figure the whole introvert/extrovert division basically goes out the window at a con. When I attend one, I’m there to see people and try new things, so I’m deliberately deciding to be social. I know there will be huge crowds, so I can prep myself for them beforehand. I did take more naps than usual at GenCon, but I was coming off of almost two weeks of work and vacation travel, so I was fairly exhausted by that point. It wasn’t the con that did it.

    Also I am totally with you on phone usage. This is why I like e-mail. I’m not interrupting whatever the recipient is doing, and he or she can get back to me on his/her own time.

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