An Introvert Steps Out: How the Author of ‘Quiet’ Delivered a Rousing Speech

Susan Cain in The New York Times:

CainI awoke one January morning from uneasy dreams to find myself transformed. For seven blissful years I had spent my time reading, writing and researching a book about introversion. But the publication date had arrived, the idyll was over and my metamorphosis was complete. I was now that impossibly oxymoronic creature: the Public Introvert. Having never given a single media interview in the first 43 years of my life, I appeared that day on “CBS This Morning” to promote my book, a critique of our overly loquacious culture. Then I shuttled uptown to my publisher’s office to continue talking — for 21 radio interviews. My book is about the power of being quiet. About the perils of a society that appreciates good talkers over good ideas. And about the terrible pressure to entertain, to sell ourselves and never to be visibly anxious. I believe all this passionately — which puts me in an interesting pickle. Promoting my work requires doing the very thing my book questions: putting down my pen and picking up a microphone. Now, in what I’ve come to think of as my Year of Speaking Dangerously, I’ve gone on national TV to talk about being the kind of person who dislikes going on national TV. I let my friends talk me into having a big book party, even though my book advises introverts to stay home on New Year’s Eve if they feel like it (I usually feel like it). And in February I took the stage at the 2012 TED conference before an audience of 1,500 people to critique a society that favors the kind of person who craves an audience.

For me, TED embodied the paradox that lay at the heart of my book tour. On the one hand, TED stands for everything I love. Its mission is to promote “Ideas Worth Spreading,” and how many tranquil evenings have I spent at my kitchen table, listening as thinkers of various stripes delivered eloquent soliloquies from deep inside my laptop? TED takes scholars and turns them into rock stars. On the other hand, this approach emphasizes the need to be a rock star in the first place. TED presenters share their brain waves from a backlighted, red-carpeted dais while giant cameras glide overhead, capturing their every gesture from multiple angles and projecting them onto Jumbotron megascreens. Implicit in the stellar production values is the notion that people might pay less attention without them.

More here.