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.
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.
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.