The Introverted Writer

Here is a question from Trisha:

I consider myself a deeply introverted person. I write because I can express myself on paper so much better than in conversational settings. When it comes to getting published, how do you think the personality of the author is weighed in respect to publishers and agents considering an author for publication? In other words, does a more bubbly personality get considered over the quiet, or perhaps even awkward type? If it is the case, do you have any advice for the severely introverted author seeking publication?

I suspect that most writers are introverted, to a certain extent. The art of writing is solitary and often introspective. Did you know that J.K. Rowiling is considered an introvert? It hasn’t affected her success.

Ultimately the categories of shy vs. outgoing oversimplifies the complexity of each person’s personality. Let’s briefly explore the topic:

Reality Check

We are in a culture that celebrates the extrovert. The business world, in particular, can reward the successful extrovert. The term “born salesman” is a case in point.

[By the way, Susan Cain has written a tremendous book called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Intended for the business professional it has ramifications in all of life. Visit her site quietrev.com for some great resources on the topic.]

One cannot avoid the fact that an outgoing person at a writers conference will stand out. And the publishers demand for “Platform” points toward an author’s engagement with a significant audience.

If there are two manuscripts with equal strength on the same topic but one author is outgoing and “media ready” and the other is not as ready, which one do you think the publisher will choose?

It is Perfectly Normal

The notion that being shy or introverted is a bad thing is simply wrong. As I wrote above, a lot of writers are inherently introverted. Very few books are written by multiple hands at the same time on the same keyboard. It is a solo venture.

So, embrace who you are. You are the only person who can write your book or communicate your ideas. God knew you before you were formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). God is not disappointed.

Start Ignoring Your Self-Talk

Last week Tamela wrote about the dangers of comparison. This is where it starts. “I’m not like so-and-so.” And the journey begins pounding yourself into feeling like no one will ever give you a chance.

The fear of rejection can be debilitating. It is hard for the introvert to be told “no thanks” since it only confirms their worst fears. Moment of Truth: You will be rejected. That is the nature of the profession.

Therefore, the next time you hear that voice in your head, start learning to ignore it. Trust me, the voice will never go away. But eventually the noise is so faint it won’t have power over you. (I know from personal experience.)

Make Your Ideas Unforgettable

I mentioned Susan Cain above. Here is a woman who classifies herself as introverted and yet she ended up doing a TED talk and writing a bestselling book that’s been translated into 36 languages!

Your writing and your ideas are what is going to carry the day. Make your idea one that cannot be “considered of equal strength on the same topic.”

Try Not to Sell Yourself Short

Being painfully shy is something real. The are many who are debilitated by social anxiety and crippling fear. I am not denying that in any way.

Could it be that there is more to you than you let on? Given a chance we might be surprised. So how do you overcome that barrier?

Joining a local writers group may be a first step to acclimating yourself to the community. Then consider going to a small writers conference one day.

Maybe do what one of my clients did at her first conference. She didn’t talk to a single faculty member. Not one. She watched and learned. The next year wasn’t as hard as she became more confident in herself in the environment of writers. Eventually she was able to bring her ideas out for evaluation. She just finished her fourth non-fiction book with a major publisher.

Start putting your work out there. You don’t have to start with a full novel or a full non-fiction book. The periodical market is always looking for content. There is an incredible 100 page section in The Christian Writers Market Guide (Print or online) that lists possible places for your work.

Hope that helps!

 

23 Responses to The Introverted Writer

  1. Henry Styron January 30, 2017 at 6:25 am #

    Thanks much, Steve. As an almost pure introvert myself, let me add that “shyness” and “introversion” aren’t necessarily synonymous. Certainly there are shy introverts, but what fundamentally makes us different from our in-the-majority extroverted brethren is that (in simple terms) we get energy from alone time, and extroverts get energy from people. We introverts value people but we tend to be choosy with our social interaction and prefer dealing with people one at a time rather than in groups. I’m not shy in the slightest, but even at large gatherings I still much prefer dealing with individuals one on one, and too much “people time” leaves me exhausted. It would seem that extroverts do tend to have lots of advantages in a social world but, as you’ve well said, God made us as we are for a purpose. I might echo your excellent advice to “Trisha” and also remind her that introversion is hard-wired in our temperament but it’s not the same thing as crippling shyness, and shyness can by the grace of God be overcome. Thanks again–always enjoy your posts.

    • Barbara Brutt January 30, 2017 at 6:49 am #

      Yes, Henry, I think you’ve added a good point to this already insightful article. Being shy is different than being an introvert. Thanks for reminding us of that (I even sometimes forget).

      I also consider myself to be an introvert, and the idea of building an audience and networking can be highly intimidating. But when I break that idea down into individual relationships/acquaintance-ships, it’s not so overwhelming. But, I always need to create space for myself to recuperate. In my most recent conference experience, instead of eating meals with others (I realize I missed out on valuable social time), I ate alone so I could recharge. That thirty minutes of quiet and thinking allowed me to join in the schedule of events with renewed energy and interest in the knowledge and writers around me.

      • Steve Laube January 30, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

        Barbara,

        Breaking it down into smaller relationships is a brilliant way to put it. Thank you!

    • Steve Laube January 30, 2017 at 3:50 pm #

      Henry,

      Extremely well said. Thank you for the clarification of the difference between an introvert and a person who is shy.

  2. Henry Styron January 30, 2017 at 7:15 am #

    Thanks, Barbara–an excellent personal example of what I was talking about. Thanks for sharing; I enjoyed your story.

  3. Diana Harkness January 30, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    I think I fall on the far end of the introversion scale. I put aside my novels because, if published, I would have to do book signings and groups of people I don’t know with multiple ongoing conversations enervate me. I now only write letters, essays, and book reviews. I will check out the writer’s guide.

  4. Brennan McPherson January 30, 2017 at 8:03 am #

    Great article! It’s a shame that silence tends to be valued less highly than “speaking your mind” in America. Both are valuable. In Chinese or Japanese culture, the extrovert who “speaks their mind” will likely find themselves subtly shunted out of business deals and relationships because those cultures view silence as evidence of self-control and wisdom. Sometimes what you don’t say is as important as what you do.

    I could imagine many publishing professionals might prefer (on a personal level) working with someone who is more introverted because they might just be introverts themselves.

  5. Barron January 30, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    The suggestion about periodicals is brilliant for building self-confidence.

    I have written for three magazines and there’s a nice confidence-boost from seeing your work on the newsstand.

    And, periodicals need fresh articles every 30 days.

    • Steve Laube January 30, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

      Barron,

      Exactly! The market for articles is constant.

      We have a class by Dennis Hensley at The Christian Writers Institute (http://www.christianwritersinstitute.com) that teaches a writer how to sell the same article more than once. As Doc Hensley says, “I have published 3,000 articles. That doesn’t mean I’ve written 3,000 articles, it means I’ve sold articles 3,000 times.”

  6. Beverly Brooks January 30, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    Thanks to Trisha for the question.
    Thanks to you for the encouragement that we can make it and especially the word that God is not disappointed in us … His creation.

  7. Afton Rorvik January 30, 2017 at 9:52 am #

    Thanks for this wise, encouraging post, especially these sentences:

    So, embrace who you are. You are the only person who can write your book or communicate your ideas. God knew you before you were formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). God is not disappointed.

    So helpful to remember that being an introvert is a gift, not a disease. 🙂

  8. Linda January 30, 2017 at 10:01 am #

    I have always been an introvert and over the years I have been described as shy, reserved, stuck-up and a loner. I agree with Henry that I do need a certain amount of solitude. Too much people time leaves me feeling drained. That is often why I have trouble finding time to write too, because I really need time alone to be able to hear the story in my head. It is hard to find that in a world where we are bombarded with so much every day. I grew up on a farm where it was easy for me to get away and listen to my stories. It made me a closet storyteller for most of my life. Only in the last few years have I begun to share those stories with the world. Still not easy, but I’m learning.

  9. Rita Gerlach January 30, 2017 at 10:17 am #

    This post brought to light not just the introvert that writes, but introverts in other fields. I have an adult son who is an introvert. He likes to be alone, to study, read, and he avoids social events. I tried to understand why he is the way he is, until I began reading about introverts. That is him to a tee. Then I began to understand myself. I am a combination of introvert and extrovert. I too like being alone. I close the door so I can write undisturbed. I avoid tense situations and conversations. I long for peace and quiet. But put me in a social setting, I enjoy lots of conversation…as long as it isn’t about politics, LOL. Seems like every time I’m in the grocery store, I meet someone and end up in a lengthy conversation. I’ve also become away of my characters that are introverted and how they portray that part of their personality. And then there are my dear extroverted characters that compliment the shy ones, usually by cheering them on, cheering them up, and nudging them out of their comfort zones. It’s a wonderful journey.

  10. Carol Ashby January 30, 2017 at 10:24 am #

    I was a mid-level Myers-Briggs introvert when I started my tech career. After 4 years, I tested as a very strong extrovert. What changed me? The necessity of frequent vigorous discussions with my colleagues. The quiet person who politely waited her turn to speak never got a turn. That wasn’t what I was paid for, so I changed my style. That appears to have flipped my personality type.

    I’ve seen many other colleagues do the same. If you force yourself to act a certain way, that way becomes comfortable even if it isn’t natural. What you’re likely to find is that people really are interested in what you have to say and want to hear from you. Just remind yourself of that, and start sharing. First it becomes comfortable; then it becomes fun. What’s most fun of all is to introduce the introverts you meet to lots of the people you know and make the transition easier for them.

    Maybe I always had extrovert tendencies. I’m actually energized by meeting strangers and getting to know them. I don’t need any “alone” time to recover afterwards. I can also be completely content to spend long periods of time alone by myself, like a true introvert. Maybe I’m really a chameleon.

    One thing though. Extroverts hate rejection just as much as introverts. Maybe we’re a bit more like athletes who are trained to “shake off the hurt” and keep moving, but it still hurts.

  11. JPC Allen January 30, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    As an introvert, I have been terrified about starting a blog and building a platform. I prefer one-on-one conversations. Exposing my ideas about writing to just anyone who found my blog, was so intimidating. But like Barbara Brutt said, when I break the process down into smaller parts and go slowly, I find creating a platform more manageable. And writing for a blog has taken my writing skills in a different direction.

  12. Joey Rudder January 30, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    Thank you, Steve. I really enjoyed this post, especially, “God knew you before you were formed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). God is not disappointed.”

    That makes me smile. God is not disappointed in my longing and desire to create and the need to be alone with Him to do that since He designed me to have that longing. And He’s not surprised either when the words come and I cry, and moments later I try to cook dinner and burn it beyond recognition.

    No, I don’t think He’s disappointed. My husband on the other hand… Well, not everyone can create potpourri chicken; my infamous dish that smelled wonderful but was an inedible sludge!

    Thanks again 🙂

  13. Tessa Emily Hall January 30, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    This is awesome. Society has, at times, caused me to be ashamed of my introverted personality. But I’ve discovered that it’s not a weakness; rather, it’s a strength. It gives me the ability to observe in social settings, which then serves as inspiration when it comes time to write. I also don’t think I would have the attention span I do to write for hours and hours if I wasn’t introverted. However, I still enjoy social interaction–as long as the interaction is meaningful and worthwhile. From what I’ve noticed, introverts are deep thinkers, and I believe that’s what gives us the ability to write deep books. I love Susan Cain’s book because she brings out the fact that introverts play a valuable in society. While we have weaknesses where extroverts have strengths, we also have strengths in areas that are weaknesses for extroverts. An introvert’s approach to a social setting might be different than an extrovert’s approach, but they each bring something meaningful to the table. That’s why one personality isn’t more important than the other.

    The only problem that comes with being introverted is often shyness/social anxiety. (Not every introvert deals with this, of course, but many do.) I think if we fight to overcome this then we can do as Susan Cain has done and leave a unique impact on society.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    Tessa

  14. Sheri Dean Parmelee January 30, 2017 at 3:00 pm #

    Steve, being known by you as the “woman who stalks my blog” at ACFW conference, you know I am not shy. To me, a stranger is simply someone I haven’t talked to yet. I think that there is a place for both types of people in the world of writing, and that the marketplace is stronger as a result.

  15. Glenda Zylinski January 30, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

    Strangely, I straddle the fence on the issue of introvert vs extrovert. While I come alive in most group settings, I feel the need to process events and replenish my energy, too. I’ve spoken to a conference crowd of 2,000 plus, years ago, but now find that kind of spotlight intimidating.

    Do you recommend watching and learning for a newbie conference attendee as a rule? I’m scratching out a memoir and was hoping to shop it in August 2017.

  16. Peggy Booher January 30, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

    When I saw the title, I thought, “Steve, you wrote this for me.”

    Thanks for the encouragement, especially when you wrote, “You are the only person who can write your book to communicate your ideas. God knew you before you were formed in the womb. (Jeremiah 1:5). God is not disappointed.” I need to remember that.

  17. Anonymous May 1, 2017 at 2:41 pm #

    Her name is J. K. Rowling

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