Don’t Be an Introvert Writer

Don't Be an Introvert Writer

Every now and then, someone I don’t know (and you don’t know either) comes along and pitches me a guest post. Thomas was one of those people, and he wanted to write for the introverts amongst you. The result was some pretty good advice. Enjoy!

Freelance writing requires you to take responsibility for yourself in a way that other jobs don’t. Sure, it’s great to hit the snooze button and give yourself an extra hour of R&R once in awhile, but before you know it, you’re getting up at noon and puttering around before you answer your customer emails.

It’s all too easy to fall into bad habits, starting with procrastination. For starters, institute a schedule and stick to it. This means getting up at a decent hour, working for a set amount of time, and taking breaks. You have the option of flexibility, but don’t push it until you settle into a rhythm with your work day.

Once you’ve got that under control, arrange outings. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what you’re doing and lose track of time. Before you know it, Friday arrives and you’re still wearing the same pair of pajamas you put on Monday morning. And you went the whole week without an ounce of inspiration to fuel your writing. Ouch.

Getting out of the house can be a big help. Your mind isn’t a computer, and treating it like it can process data endlessly is a great way to ensure brain drain. Just like your body needs to rest after exercise, your mind needs frequent breaks from the rigorous mental gymnastics you put it through on a daily basis. A change of scenery can do the trick, and a little variety helps you avoid stagnation.

By the way, you’re not a lone wolf. You need to meet up with the pack once in awhile. People who spend excessive amounts of time alone tend to suffer from anxiety, stress, and even memory loss. Although writing is more or less a solitary act, isolation can cause many problems that hinder your ability to perform.

Don’t underestimate the effect of socialization on your psyche, and the subsequent effect of your attitude and mental state on your writing. At the very least, have someone to bounce ideas off, and set up some time with friends throughout the week. You are, after all, one of the lucky few who have the flexibility to rearrange your schedule – take advantage of it!

Your mind, like your body, must be trained to perform in certain ways, and a regimented schedule is a necessity when it comes to earning a living as a freelance writer. But you can’t chain yourself to your computer so get out of your stuffy office and allow your brain a breather once in awhile. With balance between schedule and outside time, you’ll find your work comes faster and easier, and your efforts produce better results.

How about you? Are you an introvert writer? Do you make time for getting out? How do you feel after you do?

Thomas Warren is a content writer for Go College, one of the oldest and most trusted resources to guide students on how to finance and succeed in college.

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Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. Yup I guess outings are necessary to relax your mind and brain.

    It changes your mood after a lot of work. And your mind is refreshed and may come up with new and better ideas.

    But sometimes, there isn’t enough time (or so the mind tells us). So thats a problem for me.

    Nabeel

  2. I’m like you Nabeel. I know I need to, but the demands of the seem to prevent it from happening. 🙁

    Personally, I need to make this a higher priority.

  3. We’re supposed to leave the home officer sometimes? Oh no!

    Just kidding…

    I definitely agree with setting a schedule, though. That’s what makes things happen (at least for me).

  4. ooooh… guess I gotta go outside a little more.

    I like to get up and go mobile… coffee shop, park, airport, whatever. Although a I do the bulk of my work at home, there is a TON of truth in the fact that you get dumber if you don’t eventually get some human interaction.

    Just like plants need wind to grow, writers need some reassurance that they are not just going at it alone each time they sit at the keyboard.

    -Great post.

  5. Good points in your post. But I do take issue with your title “Don’t be an Introvert Writer.” I’m an “introvert writer” — but the word “introvert” gets a bad rap. Being an
    “introvert” simply means you get your energy from being alone (that is the definition of an introverted personality by the way–it has nothing to do with being socially awkward or inept or being a hermit or being shy!)

    For introverts, social situations drain energy; being alone gives you energy. If you are an extrovert it’s the opposite: socializing gives you energy, being alone too long drains energy.

    Even as an introverted writer I do get “out there” quite a lot…I’m a writer, editor and publisher…but I realize that I get edgy if I’ve had too much social interaction and make sure I schedule alone time right after an interview, a party, conference, etc., to recharge. Just as it is not good to spend too much time alone (I wish though I had the luxury to spend an entire week in PJs and not talk to anyone–I would be totally energized by the end of the week!) it is also just as dangerous to your writing and inner life if you spend all your time socializing and draining your energy (if you are an introvert, that is. If you are an extrovert you will crave social time in order to get energy!)

    Here’s a great article in the Atlantic, “Caring for Your Introvert.” http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/

    Marcia

  6. I have to say I’m pretty guilty of this although it hadn’t came to light as much as it did after reading this. Writing isn’t my primary for of employment or anything like that, but I write for my own site and one other. When it comes time to get ideas down, I “chain” myself to the MacBook Pro until it’s done. A lot of my writing is done at night, otherwise I’d probably take advantage of the mobility and move around while brainstorming (which I should really do more of anyway).

    Great read. This is sound advice to anyone who writes as a living or as a hobby.

  7. @Marcia – In Thomas’ defense, I switched the post title he’d suggested because this created a better hook for readers.

    In regards to the definition of introvert, though, that’s not quite accurate. Psychologically defined, an introvert is a person who avoids social contact and primarily focuses on his or her own feelings and thoughts.

    This personality type does tend to display behaviors such as “shy”, “awkward”, etc. in most cases.

    That doesn’t mean that introvert is a negative personality trait or that introverts can’t overcome these obstacles to social contact. But they do exist, and denying it isn’t helpful.

    That said, extroverts have their own set of behaviors and traits as well, and not all of them are preferred or glowing! 🙂

  8. I’ll admit that I absolutely need to get out more. I don’t go outside all that often. I’m a stay-at-home dad right now and working on turning my blog into a full-time business. I have a lot to offer but I’m sure the world outside has a lot too so I should probably take more breaks from the computer.

  9. I find when I’m in a rut, I’m always refreshed by going to one of my favorite coffee shops. I’m always amazed at how much more productive I am when I hoof it out somewhere. Just being around other people can be energizing. You realize there’s a whole fabric of life out there and that the 13′ screen on your MacBook is a very small portion of that fabric indeed.

  10. The key to good habits is decent balance, and that’s what is suggested with this post. While an introvert focuses on their own feelings and reactions, an extrovert focuses more on the external reality. These individuals are very caught up in the social aspects of life and can, more often then not, be distracted from what they need to take care of for the day.

    I am an extrovert and I have experienced the destructive habits that come with the mindset. What was suggested for an introvert doesn’t topple over into extrovert habits, it balances out the two.

    Its the difference between going to Starbucks every Wednesday for a change of scenery and going in every day for the sake of appearing like a writer. I have done both and I can wholeheartedly say that the suggestions given are the smarter choices to make.

    Thanks for the great post and reminder on what to do!

  11. Great advice, and thanks for the reminder. I have no problem day after day after day of being alone and writing and whatever but then suddenly I’m like OMG I have got to get outta here lol Then nobody’s around to hang with, so I have to get in a better habit of scheduling time with friends.

    On the other hand, when I’m in the middle of a big project that takes a long time, outings with friends or taking a break can sidetrack me in a serious way, and it can take awhile to get my focus back (not like I don’t have anything else to do either) so sometimes I take safe route and stick with what I’m doing until it’s done. Fortunately have loads of online friends and that helps during the times I’m not seeing the in real life friends.

    It’s all about balance, in the end 🙂 Thanks!

  12. I was just asking a friend about this today, who admitted having the same problem: the ability to prioritize that which we know is good for us and necessary, over that which is pressuring us.

    Pressure wins. Always. But then it never goes away! There’s always something new that requires our life-blood. And it’s draining. (No pun intended.)

    Oh, to be healthy and balanced! I’ll at least start with printing this off and reminding myself with it.

  13. I recently set a strict schedule for myself. It has prevented me from slacking off and working till the wee hours! And I agree that human contact is very important, even for recluses like me. I feel so much more energetic when I chat with someone during the week. Ideas also come to me more often when I get out of the house and do stuff besides sit in front of the computer.

  14. @Nabeel – “Sometimes, there isn’t enough time – or so the mind tells us.” That’s a huge part of the problem right there. And for most freelancers, saying there’s no time or they’re too busy is huuuge BS. It’s great you know that from the start; you have an edge on the others!

    @Heather – I think for people like you and I, it gets doubly tough to make some free time because our playtime IS our work. It’s a love-hate relationship, eh?

    @Laura – I’ve had a few weeks in the past where I walked out on the porch for a break and the vast size of the sky surprised me. When you start to think, “Wow. That’s one big open space,” you know you’ve been cooped up too long, lol

    @Joshua – A new jazz café opened up recently just down the street from me. I’m going to combo work and getting out, methinks!

    @Daryn – You’re right that this applies for anyone in any job, not just for writers. (We’re drama queens; we like to think we’re the only ones ensconced in attics!)

    @James – You’re just awesome. S’all I’m saying. Go get ’em, tiger.

    @Eric – I sincerely tip my hat to you and pat your back for staying at home with the kids AND working. Been there, done that, still doing it. There’s hope for us, I hear!

    @Jake – Only 13″???! How do you manage to get anything done?! 😉

    @Cal – Yeah, we tend to stick with our comfort zone, and making it the “big one” while neglecting the other isn’t good. Balancing the two brings out the best of both worlds, I feel.

    @Leah – *grin* “OMG I have to get outta here…” I think all freelancers know THAT feeling, eh! Also, kudos to your friends for always being there. Hang onto those ones!

    @Jeannie – I think the trick is figuring out why we’re not prioritizing what we KNOW is good for us. Hmmm…

    @Kathleen – I always bring a scribble paper and pen when I leave the house. I’m *always* coming up with new ideas the minute I’m past the doorway. And if I’m not? It’s because I’m relaxing full on. S’awesome.

  15. James,

    Thanks man.

    Yeah it can be hard at times because you have to be there and then have to work weird hours some days but it’s worth it.

    Thanks for the reply! 🙂

  16. Thanks for this article. I’ve devoted the past couple of weeks to my writing, and it was only this week where I’ve left my apartment. You absolutely have to have a life and not only to further your writing. It’s good to get fresh air. I say this now, but give me two more weeks when I’m freaking out that I haven’t worked enough! I have discovered that I need to make friends with coffee. All this writing and reading has made me crave coffee, and I am not a big coffee drinker.

  17. Hi
    I can definitely relate to this post, considering I am currently sitting in my PJ’s working and its a midday Saturday. I did get out of the house this week and socialise though, which as you say is very important. It can be easy to spend too much time at your laptop with no social interaction. You will definitely have more to write about if you get out of the house and out into the world for a while.
    Cheers
    Thea Easterby
    http://www.writechangegrow.com

  18. Interesting post and great discussion here. “Introvert” has a different meaning for each of us, I suspect. It was introduced by the psychologist Carl Jung, who described it as a person whose motives and actions are directed inward.

    Many writers—as half of our population-at-large and 60% of gifted kids—are introverts. And it is indeed true that introverts are energized by alone time, where extroverts are recharged when they are around other people.

    It is also true, at least for this introvert, that I need to make that extra effort to go out and socialize. But when I do, I find that I really enjoy it. (Just not thinking about it.) : )

    And when I get back home, I am exhausted and it is time to be by myself again.

    Tell me, would you consider social media with its rich conversations to be getting out and being around others? Because I do THAT a lot! (Can you sense a little “does that count for my ‘socialization’ time” here?

    Thanks for making me think.

  19. @Judy – Good question. I do think that conversations via social media count. I’ve often used Twitter to supply my own “people time” needs, and it works fantastically!

    @Heather – Aye, that’s the catch – being able to balance “people time” with “work time” and making it all fit. Kind of sucks to say it, but scheduling helps!

    @Eric – I’m having one of those weird hour days myself. On again, off again, on again… lol

  20. James–just to follow up on your comment: “In regards to the definition of introvert, though, that’s not quite accurate. Psychologically defined, an introvert is a person who avoids social contact and primarily focuses on his or her own feelings and thoughts.”

    Most psychologists today go with the Myers Briggs definition of introverts: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/extraversion-or-introversion.asp

    Which is more accurate, to the introverted personality type, I believe, being an introvert myself.

    By the way, “shy” and “awkward” are not necessarily personality traits that all introverts share. An “introverted personality type” is simply one that gets energy from being alone. I’m not denying that these problems exist among introverts, but it is simply NOT the defining traits of an introverted personality.

    If anyone is interested in understanding more about the introverts in their lives (or more about themselves if they are introverts), please take a look at some these books:

    The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by
    Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D.

    Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie A. Helgoe

    The Happy Introvert: A Wild and Crazy Guide for Celebrating Your True Self by Elizabeth Wagele

    Living Introverted: Learning To Embrace The Quiet Life Without Guilt by Lee Ann Lambert

    The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler

    There are many more book 🙂

    Happily introverted,
    Marcia

  21. Thanks for the list of books, Marcia! I was checking out books on Amazon a couple months ago, but couldn’t decide despite the reviews. I’ll see if I can get any of the ones you listed at the library (or inter-library-loan) and check out the rest on Amazon.

  22. I find the biggest challenge for me is just to pick a schedule and stick with it. I’m busy most of the time and often times find myself putting off writing for some other mundane task. I guess when you have a schedule, though, you always know when you need to do something and when you don’t need to worry about it…

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