Sunday, March 4, 2012

Introversion and writing

I talk a lot about introversion online, mostly on Twitter and my personal journal. Until the last few years, I didn't even realize that there was a non-judgmental word for the fact that I didn't enjoy social situations, and would rather spend a Saturday curled up with a book than spending time with a lot of strangers.

But it turns out that one is more likely to meet other introverts online than in public, thanks to the very nature of introversion. I can't speak for all introverts, but I know for me, interacting online isn't draining or taxing like meeting strangers is, unless I'm reading the comments sections on news stories.

And so I've been able to learn a lot more about my personality type, to the point where I've not only accepted it, I've embraced it. Introversion isn't just a matter of "shyness," it's a matter of what recharges a person. Introverts feel refreshed spending time by themselves, and are happiest living in their own heads. We can interact and make small talk and meet other people, and we even form deep and lasting friendships. The social persona, though, is not what drives us. If you don't know much about introversion, you may want to pay Psychology Today's primer a visit to know what I'm talking about.

I mention it today because I've been thinking a lot about its relationship to writing. A couple of authors have mentioned on their blogs that they're introverts, and another retweeted an article about networking I linked to with the text, "To an introvert, saying Never Eat Alone is like saying Never Go to the Bathroom Alone." The more I think about it, the more I wonder if there isn't something about introversion that gives  writers an advantage.

After all, it's my introversion that makes me so content to spend hours at a time talking to the imaginary people who live in my head to find out how they should manifest on the page. It's my introversion that makes me so content to spend hours and hours tapping out words. It's my introversion that makes me want to pop in my headphones and explore where a few story elements can take me instead of talking to all my friends when we gather at a coffee shop.

There are certainly extrovert tendencies that make them good writers. It must've been an extrovert writer who founded the first writing group and taught the first writing workshop. Extroverts have an easier time going out to meet people like those who'll populate their world, and getting firsthand accounts of things they need to write about. Extroverts will be more likely to understand what others won't pick up in their story without it being spelled out, where I regularly wonder why people can't follow a leap of logic I've made in the middle of my story. Extroverts, too, will have an easier time with going out and telling random strangers why they should read the book, where introverts will enjoy promotional events that aren't emotionally draining.

The trick with writing as an introvert, then, is to borrow extroverts' strengths, while using the advantage they have in being content spending so much time alone to use it for writing and reflection time. Extroverts can make up for their need for stimulation by joining a writing group, allowing others to read their writing for a sense of validation and accomplishment, and taking comfort in the advantages they have in getting published and selling well.

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