5 tips for introverted writers

5 tips for introverted writers

I’m an introvert.

Most writers are – our career choice typically makes sure that we can work alone, for long periods, without having to deal with many meetings, phone calls or interaction with the public.

And while we don’t dislike being around others, too many people or extended socializing tire us out. We introverted writers would much prefer to head back to our writing (alone) and recharge our batteries.

That doesn’t mean writers are dysfunctional. Quite the opposite – we’re just different from the extroverts in the general population, and we bring good qualities to the table:

  • We listen and observe before we talk.
  • We reflect and think before we act.
  • We stay focused more often than not.
  • We aren’t afraid of solitude or self-reflection.
  • We shine the light on others, not ourselves.
  • We’re calm and collected, with quiet energy.
  • We engage one on one and make meaningful connections.

And if that’s not enough, you should know that introverts make for great leaders – some famous and successful people are known introverts.

Alright. That’s all well and fine, but introverted writers are still people who live in a larger world, and there are lot of activities we still need to deal with, despite our introvert tendencies. The average writer has to deal with phone calls, and face-to-face meetings can be part of doing business. We need to engage with others on social media lest we become invisible, and we sometimes have to attend networking events or give presentations.

That’s not always easy. And sometimes we just have to deal with life – some introverted writers face challenges with loneliness, hanging out with friends, overthinking, and figuring out how to leave the party when you’ve had enough.

I know I did. And while I haven’t found the secret to eliminating my introversion completely, I’ve definitely been able to make it a simple personality trait versus allowing it to control my life. Here are my favorite tried-and-true tips:

Join a Class

Left to my own devices, I’d probably never leave home. I rely on intimate relationships with my spouse, family and a few select friends to fulfill my needs for human connection.

As a writer, limited socialization equals limited novelty. We need to get inspired. We need rich life experiences and interaction with the world. We need to open ourselves to new (and possibly uncomfortable) situations so that we can learn and thrive.

My solution to increased socialization that left me refreshed, not exhausted, was to join a class – a singing troupe that performs in local theater events. I only had to show up for a mere 2 hours a week, and the environment was nicely matched with my artistic penchants.

Even better, the group was small, with low turnover, so I didn’t have to deal with continually meeting new people. It was comfortably familiar. And it was fun – I learned about singing, acting and performing on stage… yes, in front of lots of people.

I’m a better person, and a better writer, because of the experience. I’ve grown become comfortable with activities that would normally make the average introvert writer run screaming.

And I came to realize that almost every person in that singing troupe is just as introverted as I am, and they joined the class for the same reasons I did – to get out a bit, to socialize with a few people, and to stretch their wings. Great minds think alike!

Say Yes to Calls

I know many introvert writers dislike phone calls. Seems normal. Writers like to write, and they’re good at it. It takes them seconds to whip out an email full of clear thoughts.

While sticking to email does work well for us writers (hey, I did it for years), it’s important to remember that email doesn’t work so well for at least half the population. They don’t prefer writing over speaking, and for some, typing more than a sentence or three is a dreaded chore.

Before deciding you won’t take calls and thus can’t work with these types of people, here’s a thought:

Emails actually prevent you from building meaningful relationships – which we introverts tend to prefer. You can connect more intimately over the phone, one on one (another preference of introverts), and you’d be surprised how much you might enjoy the call. Plus, phone calls are short. It’s an easy way to get a little human interaction without exhausting ourselves.

Even better, we can cut the call short at any time we need, without having to plot our grand escape.

Stress-Out Sessions

I have a quirk about phone calls. I’m very good at them, and once I get past the first awkward minute, I have a great time.

Before the call? That’s a different story.

I used to stress for hours about upcoming phone calls, and it would distract me from my work. I couldn’t just “forget” about the call until the time came – the more I tried to forget, the more I thought about it. I couldn’t get anything done. Workdays with phone calls were pretty much a wash.

So I scheduled in stress-out sessions.

Here’s how that works: I literally schedule a 15-minute stress-out session into my calendar before every call. I do my work, and when it’s time to stress out, I stop everything and give it my all. I pace the house. I smoke too many cigarettes. I worry about everything I can, as much as I can.

And then it’s done. I can cross stressing out off my to-do list and move on my phone call, worry free.

You can do the same for meetings, parties, or get-togethers, by the way… just schedule in a stress-out session, make it the best you possibly can, and then go do whatever you need to do. It helps.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stayed at events well past the point where I wanted to go home. I felt obligated, as if leaving “early” would make me seem rude or reflect badly on my manners.

As a result, I often found myself feeling stuck chatting while chatting with a group of people and warring with an internal itch to get away. I liked their company… but after 15 minutes or so, it was too much. I needed a break.

So at the first opportunity – sometimes with no opportunity – I’d make an excuse and head for the bathroom, the lobby, or a quiet corner where maybe only one person was hanging out.

I wanted to be at these events, but they were painful. I spent entire evenings altering between having a great time and feeling like a thief, sneaking breaks whenever I could just to breathe for a minute.

Classic introvert behavior.

I’ve since learned it’s fine to leave. Period. I don’t make excuses. I don’t overthink. I don’t ruminate about hurting people’s feelings. And I know I’m not being rude. “This has been great, but I really have to go – thanks so much for having me!”

I’ve also learned that most hosts, even extroverts, are glad when people start to leave. Their event went well, and they appreciate that it didn’t last all night.

Don’t Make Excuses

I don’t let my introversion define me – and I don’t use it to avoid certain activities.

Too many introverted writers play avoidance behavior, falling back on the old “I’m an introvert” excuse. They never go out, they never meet new people, and they never try new experiences.

They become sheltered hermits.

Excuses that shelter you from the world only lead to stagnation, dysfunction, unhealthy habits and self-sabotage.

You need to get out. You need social skills. You need to be around other people, even for a short time. And being an introvert doesn’t mean that you’re incapable or unable to cope with certain situations. In fact, you just might be surprised at what you can do, and what you might enjoy that’s outside your norm.

Put yourself out there a little more than usual, integrate short but fun experiences into your life, and stretch your comfort zone just a little bit.

You’ll become a better person – and a better writer – because of it.

Check out Susan Cain's bestseller book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. It made big waves in the business world and empowered millions of introverts to be proud of who they are.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Chandita says:

    Loved this article ! You have everything nailed to the T . Needless to say I identify myself as an introvert :). You are so right about taking a class. For me it was joining the toastmaster’s club which I enjoy a lot. I guess we introverts don’t mind socializing if it’s towards a purpose – singing , telling stories , making the works better :)(?)

    • I think it’s the fact that when we find something we enjoy (for you, Toastmasters; for me, singing) in a smaller group of regular faces we can become familiar with, we can develop those meaningful, one-on-one relationships introverts really enjoy.

      The class gives us some fun, we get a *touch* of socializing, and we get the win-win of getting to know people on a more personal level.

      And the bonus? We get practice at dealing with coming into new groups :)

  2. Chandita says:

    Oh sorry – I meant – making the world better …

  3. Great post, James. I can relate to it in many ways particularly seeking breathing space in gatherings. I’m getting comfortable with phone calls. I now intentionally request fellow writers, and existing and potential clients to have a skype session.

    However, clearly, I’m a victim of overthinking which is causing me much trouble to put myself out there. Even giving me doubts with my writing, portfolio, and what not and ultimately holding me hard on client hunting. Would love to have your thoughts.

  4. Ha. I can’t believe you’re an introvert. Your online personality is nothing close. But it is understandable. I’m pretty much the same. I don’t stress so much about phone calls – although I would rather discuss something by email so I can have a record of what was decided on. Phone calls lose that and I worry that I leave something out, even though I have a pretty good memory. I’m the kind that labours for 30 to 45 minutes over a short email to make sure I can’t be misunderstood. Thanks for another great article.

    • Oh, believe me, I’m definitely an introvert – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m shy 😉

      And I definitely agree about having a written summary after a call, at the very least. It’s important that everyone is on the same page and that you and your clients have a written record of what you’ve agreed on. Good for you on taking care of that so-oft-overlooked aspect!

  5. *raises hand as a fellow-introvert*

    Great tips, James. At the start of my freelancing career I avoided phone calls. Now I accept that they are necessary sometimes. To make them less stressful, I prep for them by checking out the people I’ll be talking to and trying to find something to break the ice. That helps both of us. :)

    • Sharon!! So good to see you here, and you brought back a bunch of memories for me.

      You’ve added a good tip here, by suggesting that people can make situations less stressful by finding something easy to talk about. Anyone can do this – check out prospects’ About pages and find that tidbit of trivia, and bring it up. “I heard you love white-water rafting and regularly tackle some Class 5s… that’s amazing! How often do you hit the rivers?”

      Makes for *great* icebreakers that help you get past the initial awkwardness, and it creates a lovely bond with your potential clients. Good idea!

  6. I’m a hybrid. I used to say I was definitely an extrovert: I love going to parties (as long as I love the music), concerts and hanging out with friends. I don’t mind meeting new people or talking to strangers. I can and do dance without liquid encouragement.
    I hate phone calls and the idea of interviewing someone in person.
    I love being by myself and writing.
    And did anyone say marketing? Aargh! :)

    But I’m trying to improve my marketing side. I started doing Skype interviews and landed a client afterward, so that’s a start. I also don’t miss my local writer’s group’s meeting. There is hope for me. :)

    • Hybrid’s an interesting way of putting things, and it made me grin. It’s so hard to figure out which group we generally camp with, when we enjoy activities from both sides.

      When I find myself trying to figure someone out, I always revert back to the old “how do they recharge their batteries” question. For example, I thought a friend of mine was an introvert, until I realized he’d regularly drop by or call when he’d been alone for for a day or two. That contact brought energy back to his voice and step, and that’s when I realized he was a sure-fire extrovert who needed people to recharge.

      Also, laughed out loud about the dancing without liquid encouragement… I’m totally going to steal that! 😉

  7. Megan Eppler says:

    I can’t believe how well I can relate to this post. I’m one of those people where if I have a missed call, I put off calling whoever it is back for days and stressing out about it because I absolutely dread talking on the phone. And then when I actually do, it’s really not that bad.

    I especially loved your last point. As a new (introverted) freelancer, I find myself constantly making excuses for why I don’t have the workload that I would like to have. I’m just an introvert, so I can’t market myself the way ambiverts and extroverts do, right? We should never make excuses for ourselves; it’s a concept that I have come to recognize in the last couple of years and I have put off doing things I wanted to do because of my own made up fears. My head is saying that there are limitations to what I can do when I know in my heart that I can do anything that I want to do (cheesy, but true). I just need to do it and put aside the excuses.

    Thanks for the article!

    • Well, when something is difficult or scary to us, it’s always easy to come up with really solid, “logical” excuses on why we can’t do certain tasks or don’t have certain things. (Heck, even I make great excuses when I’m not keen on doing something!)

      And yes, you can do anything you *want* to do… which is the key word right there. Figure out what you really want to do, and examine why you’re not doing certain tasks. Is it truly just fear? Think about ways to make it less scary. Is it lack of skills? Go get ’em! Or maybe you discover that there’s a really good reason you’re not doing certain tasks… and in that case, you can accept you won’t do them yourself, and find a different way to get them done.

      There’s always a way to get around our own personal limitations, I think!

  8. Hi James – I nodded at pretty much every paragraph in this article, I think we might be leading parallel lives! I also found Susan Cain’s book life-changingly awesome.

    I think as introverts, it’s our responsibility to constantly monitor our predilection for reclusive scenarios, because if we give in and become hermit crabs, our productivity (and sanity) suffers in the long run. However, it’s also important to determine how much we can push our comfort zone in order to grow – push too far too quickly and we always burn out (it sounds like you’ve got this figured out with your singing group).

    While I agree with you that phone conversations are more intimate, I am certainly a believer that great relationships can be created and maintained from screen to screen. My business partner and I (who is also an introvert) run a business from two different sides of the Atlantic solely via instant messaging and email, and there is certainly no lack of camraderie or enjoyment!

    Great article.


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