Being a Writer and an Introvert

This is a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately. As I expand my online presence as a writer, and push my career forward, I have had to make a lot of changes, and forget about my comfort level.

I’m not quite sure how a field that has evolved to require authors to perform more marketing on their own has drawn so many introverts, but I know I’m not alone. The best explanation of the difference between an introvert and extrovert is how they recharge. In other words, in public an introvert might look and act like an extrovert, which some people are surprised by, but they need to be alone to recover from the exertion it takes to interact with other people. By comparison, an extrovert feels recharged when they are around people. Hanging out with a group of friends is relaxing for them.

I didn’t think it was a big secret that I was an introvert, and I thought my social awkwardness was a fairly good clue. But since I’ve been contemplating the struggle of being an introvert and a writer, I’ve started talking to people about it. Here’s the surprising thing that I’ve discovered, it turns out I’m not socially awkward. I just think I am.

In fact, the overwhelming response I’ve received when talking to people about this, is surprise. No one knew I had this struggle. I’ve been told I come across as compassionate, genuine, and funny. Although if I were to wish how I acted when I conversed with people, those would be the things I’d like to achieve. But let me tell you how the interaction happens from my perspective. Someone approaches me and starts talking. My brain tells my mouth to respond without my mouth receiving the message, my eyes fully dilate, and my heart starts pounding. Then when my mouth starts working, inside my head there’s a five-alarm fire and people are running around screaming. I don’t know about you, but this imagery makes me laugh and depicts the sheer panic I feel. It’s nice to make light of the situation when I’m not in the middle of it.

Some of you may even be surprised to know that I also had this same panicked reaction to posting comments on other people’s blogs. For those of you who don’t get to see my novel-length comments I leave other writers, I comment regularly. But this was way outside of my comfort zone. As was this blog. For the longest time, I would feel panicked the day my blog posts came out. The whole day.

Despite all of this, I push myself all the time to do these things that make me uncomfortable, because having a career as an author is more important to me than feeling like I have things calm and under control. Plus, there’s a reason I write posts that I think will help other writers. I’m drawn to helping other people, and I feel like if I can help them through talking about my own struggles, or sharing tips and shortcuts of what I’ve learned so they don’t have to spin their wheels finding the same information, than I feel satisfied.

My author platform isn’t a gimmick. I have such a passion for writing that is stronger than all of my fears. When I decided supporting other writers satisfied my desire to help other people, I realized it made me feel more complete to have these two things about my personality come together. I had to shift my thinking a bit and not worry about all the competition there is for getting published, and this works much better for me.

I’m aware that it’s a little naive to think that I can share my passion and encourage other people to pursue theirs, or that I can make a difference in someone’s life by sharing my work, my journey, and things I’ve learned about writing. But I believe that while some things may seem improbable, they’re still worth the effort. I may not be able to change the world, but maybe I can make a ripple.

 

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How does it affect your life as a writer? Are there any other aspects of your personality that make it challenging to be a writer? How do you work through it?

25 Comments


  1. // Reply

    This is a great post. I don’t think I’m an introvert, but I do enjoy my own company. When there is a rare weekend when my wife and kids are away, I don’t tell anyone. I spend it in total, blissful isolation, but I think that’s more to do with having young kids and just enjoying being in a quiet room.

    As for your writing and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, I think you deserve high praise. I relate to a lot of what you’ve written here, especially about it not being a gimmick and your passion for writing being stronger than your fears. I guess that manifested itself when I quit my job, a decision that still terrifies me daily.

    However, I am hugely appreciative of the comments you leave on my writing, so thank you. It means a huge amount. Big transatlantic hug coming your way 🙂


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Ben. That makes complete sense that you appreciate the quiet time, not because you’re an introvert, but because of having small children. It’s a great time to catch up on reading and writing when you have some time to yourself too.
      It’s good to hear that there are things in this post that are relatable to other writers. And you’re incredibly brave for leaving your job to pursue your passion. I don’t know about you, but I find that I’m so much happier than I’ve ever been since choosing to pursue writing. Even though it is terrifying at times.
      Your comment made me very happy, so thank you for your encouragement and support. 😊


  2. // Reply

    Great post, Mandie and I never mind your long comments. 🙂 When I was younger, I was an introvert, but I’ve been working with students for the past 8 years now and I have to interact with them on a daily basis. This helped me to open up more.

    As for my writing, I am comfortable with what I write.


    1. // Reply

      Thank you! And thank goodness you don’t mind those comments. 😀
      It’s interesting that you say that you used to be an introvert. I have certainly had different stages when I’ve been much more social, and even comfortable in social situations. I think being a writer has allowed me to close my world a little, so I’m out of practice, which is probably what leads to the panic. I’ve never felt entirely comfortable in really large groups though. Regardless, the level of comfort I’ve felt in a social situation has never changed that I need that quiet, alone time afterwards to recover. I can enjoy the interaction very much, but there is just something a bit draining for me.


      1. // Reply

        I am not one for large gatherings either. If I can choose, I’d rather be alone in my solace. Maybe I am an In/Ex or somewhere in between! 🙂 Incidentally, being a writer has allowed me to open up my world.


  3. // Reply

    Mandie, I love your long comments and thoughts^^ When I see your comment on one of my post, I get happy inside =) I also love how you opened up to us about yourself. I answered your questions below:

    Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
    I’m actually an extrovert, but as get older, I feel like I’m turning into an introvert.

    How does it affect your life as a writer?
    I feel like it’s been good for me. It’s easy for me to meet other writers and talk about my stories.

    Are there any other aspects of your personality that make it challenging to be a writer? How do you work through it?

    For now, I think it’s receiving feedback on my work. Before, I didn’t take feedback well because I always wanted to be the best, but I’ve learned that no writer starts off the best. Getting feedback is part of the process.


    1. // Reply

      Oh, thank you, Aka. That is so sweet of you to say. Your blog was one of the first ones I started following and commenting on, so I was quite lucky because you put a lot of positivity out there for other writers as well.
      Feedback is a tough one. Sometimes I take it really well, and other times it’s hard not to take it personally. In the case of the latter, I have to let it sink in for a couple of days before I can feel okay about it. I find criticism for short pieces is easier. It’s in a smaller dose, and because it’s short people take extra time to comment on what they like about it as well. Novels are harder because they’re so long, and people don’t always take the time to note things they like throughout, sometimes it’s just an overall impression at the end. When you have hundreds of pages of corrections, and one line of praise, it’s hard not to give the problems more weight. I know I’ve read feedback for a novel and left wondering, “Well was any of it good?”


  4. // Reply

    As others have said, I love your long comments Mandie…you always put a lot of thought into the things you say and I really appreciate that. I would never have guessed you struggled with the comment thing!

    Like you, I am an introvert…but it doesn’t seem like that from the outside. People always think I’m friendly and sociable, but I find it extremely tiring being around people. I’m more comfortable in a roomful of strangers than one-on-one…mostly because I can just sit in a corner and get on with some writing, instead of having to make conversation.

    I sometimes think being introverted helps my writing…part of the reason I write is to create characters that I can relate to…it’s less tiring than taking the time to relate to a real person 🙂


    1. // Reply

      I was thinking about you earlier, Scarlett, because I was trying to remember the last time you’d posted a horror flash fiction piece. I need a steady diet of horror.
      I like your perspective of how being an introvert works for you as a writer. I have a weird ability to block out an entire coffee shop when I’m writing, but that’s probably one of the rare times I feel comfortable in a room full of strangers.
      One of the benefits of working through my fear of commenting on blogs is connecting with other writers. It’s been very rewarding. And thank you for your kind words about my comments. It’s a relief to know they are appreciated. 🙂


      1. // Reply

        I took a short break from posting stories to focus on writing a few longer pieces, but I’m hoping to post some flash fiction next week.

        You just described my favourite kind of day…sitting in a coffee shop, writing and paying no attention to anyone else. I guess that makes me anti-social.

        Your comments are definitely appreciated 🙂


        1. // Reply

          That’s great to hear you’ve been working on longer pieces. I’ll wait patiently to read your next flash fiction story. 🙂


  5. // Reply

    Wow, you must have read the results of my Berkman tests. People seemed shocked when I tell them I’m an introvert. I’ve labeled my condition S.A.D. (Social Anxiety Disorder). I don’t have a problem standing in front of a crowd giving a presentation or speech, but throw me in a room full of strangers and tell me to mingle and make small talk and I become a nervous wreck.If at all possible, I avoid those situations like a plague.

    Another area where I’m awfully uncomfortable is offer critique. I’m a member of a writers group and also a Toastmasters club. Both groups evaluate presenters work, point out areas that need improvement, and offer helpful suggestions. I’m terrible at this. Even though I’ve been active in these clubs for a long time, for some reason I still don’t feel qualified to offer constructive advice. This frustrates me, as I do want to contribute and help others grow.

    Forgive the long ramble. I really enjoyed this post. It hit close to home for me. 🙂


    1. // Reply

      I didn’t think you rambled at all. I found your comment quite interesting. I think that people tend to have an image of what an introvert looks like, and how they behave in social situations. Even as an introvert I have images that are inaccurate. I think these ideas are so strong that they even influence how I assume I behave, which I discovered was incorrect.
      Plus, as you mentioned you have, I also have social anxiety mixed in there, which is a separate issue.
      As for the issue with critiquing other’s work. It may be the idea that you feel that you have to be an expert to offer useful advice. Perhaps, if you think of it this way, if you were a passenger in a vehicle and the driver was changing lanes, but you saw there was a vehicle in the next lane, you would warn the driver, right? Each writer has blind spots in their writing. There are errors that if it was someone else’s work they could see, but because they’re too close to the story, they can’t. I’m sure that you would have valuable insights that other writers would appreciate. It’s been my experience that each writer/reader has their own set of things they are particularly good at spotting. Things that everyone else missed.
      Personally, although criticism is sometimes hard to hear, I’d rather it came from people in my writing group who I trust than hear it for the first time from a stranger.


      1. // Reply

        You’re right. Sometimes I do offer half a thought. I have been right a few times. It’s just that I’d like to feel more comfortable and confident with my critique.


  6. // Reply

    Mandie, great post! I’m an introvert and always will be. I have to push myself into the world or I tend to become a hermit. It’s those quiet times where creativity happens for me, though. What really bugs me is when a person does something horrible and the press alway says, “It’s always the quiet ones. . . “. There’s a great book out there titled “Quiet” I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it yet. I found everyone else’s comments very interesting, so I ventured out of my shell to share. Christy


    1. // Reply

      So happy you stopped by and commented, Christy! It is intimidating, but I’ve found these conversations, with other writers and people who just enjoy the writing and reading world, so worthwhile.
      That’s an interesting point about the press saying “It’s always the quiet ones.” I’d never thought about that before, but I can see how it carries the negative connotation that there’s something wrong with people who are quiet.
      I just looked up the book you mentioned. It must be this one “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I haven’t read it, but it sounds like a good book. I need to put that on my list of books to read.
      Thank you for stepping out of your shell, and I hope to hear from you again on a future post! 🙂


  7. // Reply

    I grew up an introvert than turned extrovert… I really don’t know if it’s the introvert part of me waking up that made me start writing…. hmm


    1. // Reply

      That’s really something interesting to ponder, Björn. I wonder if the solitude of writing recharges most writers’ creativity, or if there are writers out there who find the process of writing and being alone very draining. On occasion, if I spend a majority of the day writing I can feel very drained, but that’s not the norm. I usually feel energized by the process.


  8. // Reply

    Great post, Mandie! I’m an introvert and totally get what you mean about needing time to recharge after a social situation :-\ But I agree, it’s important to keep challenging ourselves 🙂


    1. // Reply

      Thank you, Rachael. The great thing is that I can already see signs that the effort is worth it to make these changes. Luckily, I have the quiet time with my writing to balance the effort.


  9. // Reply

    Thanks, for the post, Mandie! After reading about this in some books,and thinking about it,I don’t believe your personality is only one way. Or that it has to be that way. It may be difficult to change but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Ultimately we all choose what we are.

    Also I want to tell you, your comments mean a lot to people. I know they mean a lot to me.


    1. // Reply

      I think you’re right. Changing things about our personality can be so difficult, but rewarding too. We’re constantly learning, and hopefully that leads to change. I’d hate to spend so much time learning just to stay the same.
      Thank you for your kind words. They are greatly appreciated, and I take them to heart.

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