Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Challenges of Being a Writer and an Extrovert

 
We all know the stereotype of the lone writer, laboring away at his opus in a dark corner, shunning all human contact. While it’s not completely accurate for most of us, this stereotype exists for a reason: Many writers are introverted. An unscientific poll of my Twitter writer-friends revealed that 92% of those who responded consider themselves introverts – and these are people who choose to interact on social media daily.

I am so far away from that “I,” I honestly cannot imagine what it’s like. I can academically know that introverts prefer less social activity, but I will never truly understand it. Just as introverts can never truly understand my rampant need for human interaction, how I feed off the energy of others working around me, how I only take pleasure in knowing or enjoying something if I can share and discuss it with others.

Introverts “recharge” by quietly drinking tea at home and I “recharge” by surrounding myself with and talking to as many people as I can manage.



My ideal writing situation is sitting at a table in a public place with 2-4 other writers tapping their keys along with me. As you can imagine, my extroverted tendencies present some serious challenges to my writing:
  • I CANNOT stand to sit at home alone. I fidget. I’m easily distracted. My blood pressure literally rises. I call friends for dinner, lunch, watching a movie, anything. It’s like the opposite of social anxiety.
  • I’m a joiner and belong to a lot of groups. I also like to organize so I end up organizing a lot of groups. Bye bye free time.
  • I want to accept every social invitation that comes my way. And since I (by design) have a lot of friends, there are no days without social invitations. Every day I am not at a social event, it’s a conscious hard-made decision.
  • But the biggest challenge about being an extrovert is: The rest of you are not! I want to meet you in person, have coffee and talk about books. I want you to meet me at the library and sit in a group while all of us write, feeding off each other’s creative energy. Like, every day.
Twitter is a great middle of the road for us, but it’s not nearly the same. It’s like when you’re craving chocolate and all you have is a tootsie roll.

I just wanted to leave you with some tips about how I handle being an extroverted writer, for the handful of us out there. And let me know how you handle it, too!
  • Join a local writers group or three. Yeah, that two hours a week is the upper limit for a lot of introverts and is barely an appetizer for us, but it is much better than nothing. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find someone to have in-person writing sessions with.
  • Put a strictly-defined limit on your socializing. Depending on the week, I’ll tell myself that I can only plan/accept social invitations three or four nights that week. Something else pops up that I really want to go to? OK, I can go – if I write for no less than an hour before I leave.
  • Don’t limit your working partners to writers. There are other people – like web designers, students, graphic artists, programmers – who also have quiet work they can do from anywhere. Having one of them working next to me is just as effective as a writer.
  • Fake it. If you can’t find anyone to write with you, go to a crowded starbucks, mall food court or café. For me, it’s not as good as working “with” other people, but it does help ease my anti-social anxiety. 
  • If ^ that's not possible (because, for example, you're a night owl and all these places are closed when you're writing), try writing with the TV & music on. It sounds crazy, I know, but it helps me sometimes.
  • Remember: the time is going to come for a conference or for you to promote your book. You may envy the introverts while writing, but your preferences for human interaction are really going to help you shine when those opportunities arise.
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Don't forget to come back tomorrow to pitch EIGHT editors from Entangled Publishing!

    21 comments:

    1. How refreshing! I've never seen a post about being an extroverted writer. Thanks for sharing your perspective. I just read an article about how our culture of working in groups actually hinders creativity and deep thinking. It resonated with me, but I'm introverted - I see your point about extroverts thriving on social interaction. I think most of us need a balance of both in varying degrees to continue to grow and thrive.

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      1. Yeah, I don't usually like to collaborate so much with people on something like writing, but just to be around them.

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    2. This is a really interesting post, because I have always thought of myself as an introvert, I am very happy in my own company, but sometimes (esepcially in the last year or so) I have found myself craving more of an extrovert life. I have found myself organising nights out with friends, and going to a writer's group. In fact one of my favourite things about NaNoWriMo last year was the write ins I attended. It was so refreshing to write with a group of people. So I can see myself trying to strike up a balance between the two, and while I still consider myself more of an introvert, I have become more extrovert than before.

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    3. Anti-social anxiety is exactly how I feel! Well how I felt before having children. I actually have a theory that writers without children need music and people and writers who have had children cherish the peace and quiet.

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      1. I wonder if anti-social anxiety is an actual thing...?

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    4. I'm an introvert through and through. BUT, I would work very well, I think, taking a laptop to someplace like B&N or a cafe with another writer and working like that. It would help keep me focused. If I'm sitting at home, I get distracted by too many other things.

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      1. yeah, being an extrovert combined with OCPD makes it nearly impossible to for me to work at home - there's always something to be organized/cleaned!

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    5. I feel you on this one. I'm an extrovert as well but I could not handle writing in a crowded Starbucks. Not when I can sit at my kitchen table with kids running all over my house and the TV blaring away. There is just no replacing that.ha

      I do have introvert moments though. Mainly I think it's the shock of being around so many people most of the time.

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      1. it's a sliding scale from I to E... I just happen to be WAY on the E side :-)

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    6. I'm an extrovert, so sometimes I get lonely when I write. So.Much.Time.Alone. I think thay's why I love Word Warring with my friends so much.

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    7. I love this article. I honestly can't write by myself. I have a writing friend who lives in Oklahoma, and Monday-Thursday, at the same time each night, we log onto facebook and write together. We do word wars and share what we've written, and we help each other brainstorm. I've gotten so used to it that if I want to sit down and write during an off time, I can't do it. My mind whirls in circles. I end up editing during that time.
      I think it's great that there are other extroverts out there! I've heard a lot of people who are the "stay at home hiding" writers, and I just can't bring myself to do it alone. Thanks so much for this article, and the tips for those times when you HAVE to be alone to write. :D

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      1. I'm so glad you liked the post :-) I know we're minorities in the writing world, but I wanted to let others know they're not alone! :-)

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    8. omg--LOL! This is so me. I can't write in loud, noisy places or if someone's in the room with me, though. I'll just sit there and talk to him/her. It's awful when hubs decides to work from home. But I'm planning to join the local RWA group. We do need those human connections, and most of our silly writer friends are such introverts. But WE are out there~ :o) <3

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    9. THIS! Why did I not know there are others like me out there. Extroverted writer. THAT'S IT!

      Now why don't you live next door?

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    10. Thank you! I've been struggling with this big time lately!

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    11. Thank you, for this post ! :) I always question my authenticity as a writer because of my love for meeting people and extroversion,

      And it's always a struggle for me to focus

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    12. Just read your post and I'm an extrovert who just started freelancing. I completely relate to your article. Thank you for posting, it made me feel so much better!!

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