Devoted as I am to the QUIET Revolution, I must admit that sometimes it is really weird to be constantly seen through the lens of introversion. Wherever I go now, that is the first thing people think about me: Here comes the introvert!
Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church, went through a similar experience when his book came out. For today’s post, he shares just what it’s like:
The Introvert Brand
I wrote a book called Introverts in the Church, and I swear that it is a serious book. I didn’t realize I would have to remind people of this when it was published. But one of the first book reviews, written by a dear friend and mentor, began like this: “Introverts in the Church. No, this isn’t a joke.” And here I thought the title was significantly less funny than other working titles I played with:
- Introverts in the Shack
- Three Cups of Tea…By Myself
- Outliers: Introvert Edition
- Introverts in the Hands of an Extroverted God
- Good to Introvert
- Girl Meets Introvert, Keeps Looking
- The Life You’ve Never Wanted
- Left Behind, and Happy About It
Surprisingly, my publisher rejected those title options. I had thought we settled on a boring but descriptive option, but apparently my book title also works as a punch line.
As many authors can attest, however, after a few months of talking nonstop about your book topic, you get the writer’s equivalent of the late-night giggles. Everything becomes a punch-line. You catch yourself applying the topic of your book to every conceivable situation. I started seeing introverts the way Haley Joel Osment sees dead people. As I poured the milk on my cereal, I pondered, “I wonder what type of cereal introverts prefer? Shredded Wheat has a lot of substance and depth, but Lucky Charms has layers of meaning, and the more you eat it, the more you learn about it.” Then you realize that you’re psychoanalyzing your cereal and you seriously consider pouring the leftover green-colored milk over your head. Yes, I went with Lucky Charms. I’m an Irish introvert. We’re magically delicious.
It doesn’t help when people you encounter in social media tend to reduce you to your book topic. Once I was asked to write a blog post on how introverts and extroverts can partner in ending the international orphan crisis. Granted this is one of the pressing global issues of our time, but is the fact that I need to retreat into solitude after extended social interaction really a significant factor in solving it?
Another time I tweeted that my book was selling better on Kindle than in paperback, and the first response was “Maybe introverts are just thrifty.” I’ve received a few Facebook birthday wishes that said “Happy Birthday, introvert.” Or there was the time I confessed that in college we smuggled in a student from another school to be our flag football quarterback (he was the brother of a friend and also just happened to be a Heisman trophy candidate that year) and someone replied “Totally sounds like something an introvert would do.”
This happens in real life too. I haven’t received as many speaking invitation as some of my peers, and I’m convinced it’s because people assume that I, as a self-acknowledged introvert, will be a train wreck of a public speaker, and that I may not even be willing to leave the house. Once, when I did miraculously venture out to meet with a prominent pastor and bestselling author (to protect his identity I’ll call him “John O. or “J. Ortberg”), he told me: “We made sure you would interact with as few people as possible on your walk from the church lobby to my office.”
Because of all this, it’s unclear to me whether this introvert thing is a genius piece of branding (in addition to being, you know, my personality type) or else an inescapable straitjacket that will limit me and make me a bit of a joke. In twenty years, will people say, “That book really changed things in church culture and Adam has become a significant voice”? Or will they say, in a sexy deep voice: “Adam McHugh: he is the most introverted man in the world. He doesn’t always go to church, but when he does, he prefers not to talk to you.”
Time will tell. Let me know what happens. I’ll be at home.
Adam S. McHugh is a writer, Presbyterian pastor, spiritual director, hospice chaplain, and the author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He has been published in The Christian Century and The Washington Post and is working on a second book that he wants his publisher to call The Listening Life. He is also going to be a guest chaplain in the U.S. House of Representatives on February 28th and is already nervous about it.
Writing this from the plane — I’m finally returning to my family after a few days on the West Coast. If you were in the San Francisco airport early this morning, I was the one hauling gigantic, bleeping, honking toy garbage trucks through the terminal. The batteries from this trip’s batch of presents for the kids were, unfortunately, included.
During the past couple of days I gave talks at Microsoft and Google. Incredible experience — the audience at both companies was so keen and so thoughtful. If any of you are reading this: THANK YOU! Next week, I’m off to Washington D.C, to speak to the U.S. Treasury and Noblis.
And now, for my usual recommendations for the weekend:
1.Ward Sutton’s Drawn to Read, from the Barnes and Noble Review: This is a review and distillation of QUIET -in graphic novel form. And I swear I’d recommend it even if it had nothing to do with my book. It’s absolutely genius, and hilarious, and I am now Ward Sutton’s #1 fan.
So here are two more of his reviews:
2. Ward Sutton, on “That Used to be Us,” by Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum.
3. Ward Sutton, on “Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead,” by Neil Strauss.
And now, here are some of the latest highlights from the QUIET media blitz:
-QUIET will debut at #4 on the New York Times Bestseller Lists and #3 on the Washington Post Bestseller List!
-My NPR interview (which I discussed earlier in the week) generated a lot of attention and turned out to be the station’s #1 most recommended segment. NPR’s All Things Considered hosts Melissa Block and Audie Cornish also highlighted QUIET again in a separate segment, reading aloud outspoken emails from introverts.
-The Washington Post: Q&A session with ‘On Parenting’ blog author Janice D’Arcy.
-Newsday: Q&A session I did with the fabulous Charlotte Abbott about QUIET.
-Fortune.com discusses QUIET in their article entitled Can Introverts Succeed in Business, and Andrew Keen praised QUIET in his very smart CNN.com opinion piece, We Must Avoid Facebook’s ‘Creepy’ Cult of Transparency.
-MediaBistro.com: Brief review of QUIET after its debut at #3 on the IndieBound Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller List.
I’m also thrilled to report that QUIET debuted at the #2 hardcover nonfiction spot on the Heartland Indie Bestseller List!
Whew, that’s all for now. Hope you have a great weekend!
But first, I have some very happy news to share with you. I just found out that QUIET will debut at #4 on the New York Times Bestseller List!!! Thank you, dear readers, for making this happen.
And now, for some thoughts on happiness:
Gretchen: What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Me: Writing. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was four years old. But as a grown-up, I trained myself to love my work by doing all my writing in a sunny café window while sipping on a latte and snacking on chocolate. Over time, I came to associate writing with the pleasures of that window seat. These days, I don’t need the coffee or chocolate, or even the café—though they still help! But I love the feeling of entering into my inner world. It’s like going through a magic portal every time I sit at my laptop.
Gretchen: What is your most surprising way of feeling happy?
Me: Recently I’ve been thinking about a state I call the “happiness of melancholy.” Why do supposedly sad things, like minor key music or the evanescence of cherry blossoms, make us happy? I think they help us appreciate the fragile beauty of life and love.
To read the rest of my happiness interview with Gretchen, please go here.
More news from the ongoing QUIET media blitz coming soon. Stay tuned!
What are your thoughts about happiness — what it is, and how to achieve it?
The QUIET media blitz continues. Here are some of my latest appearances (and a couple of book reviews):
NPR/All Things Considered - Quiet, Please: Unleashing ‘The Power of Introverts’: Audio and a transcript of highlights from my NPR interview.
TechCrunch TV - Keen on… Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts
My interview with TechCruch’s Andrew Keen. This was one of my favorite interviews yet. I am decidedly un-techie, but I love the way tech people like Andrew think and relate to the world.
Office Hours — Audio of my hour-long radio interview with the Great Dan Pink. Dan is extremely smart and charming, and I was ‘specially impressed by the attentiveness he showed to the people who dialed in to ask questions.
Shelf Awareness - Book Review
Tomorrow I’m off to the West Coast, where I’ll be speaking at Microsoft and Google and chatting with various news outlets. Stay tuned!
Oh, the irony of being an introvert on book tour! Yesterday I gave TWENTY-ONE interviews, starting at 6:45 a.m. and concluding at 10 p.m. Today wasn’t much different.
This is not an ideal scenario for someone who dislikes the spotlight. But for now, I’m in a state of awe and delight. The QUIET Revolution appears to be taking hold! Media organizations all over the world are reporting on the “Rise of the Introverts,” as CBS This Morning colorfully put it. The response to QUIET, the book, has been nothing short of miraculous. Huge thanks to all of you for helping to make this happen!
Here’s a small taste of what’s been going on in media-land:
CBS Author Talk: Video and a partial transcript of my interview with anchorman and self-described introvert Jeff Glor about Quiet.
CBS This Morning - Rise of the Introvert: Video of my round table discussion with Charlie Rose, Gayle King, and Jeff Glor.
Scientific American - The Power of Introverts: A Manifesto for Quiet Brilliance: Gareth Cook interviews me about QUIET and the fallacy of groupwork.
Time.com - My article on the powers of introverted children.
‘O’ Magazine - Secrets of a Super Successful Introvert: How to (Quietly) Get Your Way: My article explaining how everyone, even extroverts, can benefit from tapping into their soft-spoken side.
Toronto Globe and Mail - Giving Introverts Permission to be Themselves: Article describing QUIET.
USA Today - Time for Introverts to Get Some Appreciation: A Review of QUIET by USA Today’s Sharon Jayson, including an introversion quiz.
People Magazine - Review of QUIET.
This media round-up is in lieu of my usual “What to Read This Weekend” post. Hope you enjoy it — as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Have a wonderful weekend. Me, I’m planning to get plenty of rest for the week ahead. I’ll be speaking at Microsoft, Google, the Women’s Media Group, and many more…
Today is launch day! Six years in the making, my book QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, is finally being released into the world. Please join me in the grand unleashing of the QUIET Revolution.
To mark the occasion, here are three ways to celebrate:
1) Take a quiet moment to yourself today. Read a book. Sip a latte. Look out the window. (Then do the same thing, every single day, for the rest of your life.)
2) If you live in NYC, join me for a Q and A tonight with the ridiculously eloquent author Naomi Wolf. Naomi is a close friend and an excellent poser of questions. She’ll be in charge of the Q’s, and I’ll handle the A’s. (McNally Jackson Bookstore, 52 Prince Street, 7 pm!) And come say hello afterwards.
3) Read one of the first reviews of QUIET, from the New York Journal of Books, which calls it a “must-read.” Here’s an excerpt:
It has been said that if you encounter a few or even one worthwhile idea, useful story or statistic, or actionable insight then the lecture or course or book is well worth the time and the investment. By this measure, Quiet is worth a entire library as it is so brimming with insights stacked on evocative stories, substantiated by authoritative research, and supported by telling explanations.
One measure of an extraordinary book is that it prompts the reader to reframe his or her view of the world, to recognize and reaffirm patterns, to consider implications that might not have previously been entertained. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking is this type of extraordinary book. Read the rest here.
And last but not least, don’t forget to order QUIET for yourself or a friend! Even if you’re a longtime reader of this blog, the content overlaps by no more than 10-15%.
Thank you for all your support this past year. It has meant the world to me.
For this week’s reading picks, I’m recommending two poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This is Edna week for no particular reason at all. I mean, it’s not her birthday or anything like that. She just had some really good poems.
Here’s the first one
We were very tired, we were very merry-
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
It was bare and bright, and smelled like a stable—
But we looked into a fire, we leaned across a table,
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon;
And the whistles kept blowing, and the dawn came soon.
We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry;
And you ate an apple, and I ate a pear,
From a dozen of each we had bought somewhere;
And the sky went wan, and the wind came cold,
And the sun rose dripping, a bucketful of gold.
We were very tired, we were very merry,
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.
We hailed “Good morrow, mother!” to a shawl-covered head,
And bought a morning paper, which neither of us read;
And she wept, “God bless you!” for the apples and pears,
And we gave her all our money but our subway fares.
An Ancient Gesture, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
Penelope did this too.
And more than once: you can’t keep weaving all day
And undoing it all through the night;
Your arms get tired, and the back of your neck gets tight;
And along towards morning, when you think it will never be light,
And your husband has been gone, and you don’t know where, for years.
Suddenly you burst into tears;
There is simply nothing else to do.
And I thought, as I wiped my eyes on the corner of my apron:
This is an ancient gesture, authentic, antique,
In the very best tradition, classic, Greek;
Ulysses did this too.
But only as a gesture,—a gesture which implied
To the assembled throng that he was much too moved to speak.
He learned it from Penelope…
Penelope, who really cried.