As a somewhat introverted person and aspiring novelist, I have a tendency to sit in front of a computer and watch the world go by electronically. (Isn’t it amazing what electrons can do for us?) Like many introverted people, I spend a lot of time alone. Not lonely, mind you, but alone—there’s a big difference. And from what I understand, many other writers are also introverted to one degree or another, and like to work alone. That’s what you might call the “default” mode of writing. That is, the single writer sitting alone in his/her apartment/house/office toiling away at the desk with whatever writing tools suit him/her best. Computer, pen and ink, pencil, and paper—they’ve all been used in the past. But now the internet has been added to that writing situation and it begs the question: how has that changed writing?
The internet allows an introverted person to interact with the world around him without having to be involved in it. More than just a window onto the street in front of his/her house, the internet brings the world to the writer. I wonder how writers such as Charles Dickens and Emily Dickinson would have liked the internet. Charles Dickens, not noted for being particularly introverted, wrote about the poorest of the poor in England in the 1800’s, and was familiar with the times because he experienced them first-hand. He was out in it. But would he have used the internet (assuming in the manner of a science-fiction novel that it was available back then) to enhance his experience? In comparison, Emily Dickinson might just be the most introverted writer of all times. She rarely left her house in Amherst, Massachusetts, and became a recluse early in her life. Yet she was a brilliant poet, and we still read her writings today. What would she have thought of the internet? Could she have used it to enhance her poetry? It certainly would have brought her more than the view from the window of her home. I wonder if there are any other writers as introverted as her.
In any event, I don’t feel as bound to the house as Ms. Dickinson, nor do I get out as much as Mr. Dickens is reported to have. Yet I do get out, and enjoy the experience. Many introverts refuse to interact with more than a few friends, but I enjoy the outdoors, though I don’t interact with people as well as, say, an extrovert. The internet is a way to get research done, keep up with the news, find out what friends are doing, keep in contact with family, market books, set up readings, look for bookstores and other markets, advertise one’s wares, and, generally, stay connected with society. All of that is very important for the sophisticated writer, and all of that can be done at home. But getting out is still very important because you can experience things you can’t get on the internet. Riding the train on the internet isn’t the same as riding it in person. I speak from experience. Still, you won’t find me hobnobbing with the rich at a high society ball. I’m not into that.