October 18th, 2013

Does an Extroverted Writer Have the Advantage? Maybe Not

By Laura Drake

I’ve read a lot of blogs lately about introverted writers, whining  pointing out how hard it is for them, nowadays.

There are probably more introverted authors than extroverts. After all, it’s darned near a cliché – the writer living in seclusion, typing away in obscurity. That’s all you see in movies: As Good as it Gets, Something’s Gotta Give – even, dare I mention, The Shining? Misery? (don’t throw tomatoes, I’m not judging!)

As an extrovert, it’s killing me that the introverts get all the press, even though they shrink from it!

But there are extroverted writers. The obvious ones that jump to my mind are: Kristen Lamb, Chuck Wendig, Jennifer Weiner . . . I’m sure you could add to the list.

Before I go farther, you know the difference between the two, right? In the simplest terms, an extrovert is a person who is energized by being around other people. An introvert is energized by being alone.

But which writer has the advantage– the extrovert, or the introvert?

Seems obvious, right? The extroverts love the promo, the press, the spotlight! They have it easier.

Not so fast. I’m here to point out some of the disadvantages the extroverts deal with.

medium_4238293601Oh look! A bright shiny thing!

Since extroverts get their energy from the outside, we have a hard time putting in the solitary hours to write. It’s lonesome in that writing cave!

Tools to cope:

  • Write in public. The library, the coffee shop, the mall
  • Make your own company. Write with the TV on. Listen to talk radio. Write in the kitchen, with the family around you.

Day_228_of_365_at_2010-08-16T.M.I

Since we love to hang on social media and engage others, it’s easy to get complacent – to forget that we’re not having a conversation with our friends only. The world is reading over our shoulder. And making judgements about us and our writing, from the way we present ourselves.

Tools to cope:

  • Don’t forget why you’re there. It’s not to reveal your political bent, your religion, your opinion about alternate lifestyles.
  • Never miss a good chance to shut up. If you’re typing, and have that little tickle at the back of your brain, making you think twice – DON’T post!
  • Remember mom. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Yeah, I know big-time authors who don’t follow the above. But I’m not yet a big-time author. Are you?

medium_3231178720Time Suckage

We LIKE Twitter, FB, Linkedin, Pinterest, email, Goodreads, Google, and . . .

I’ve done marathon sessions only to wake up four hours later, my butt aching.  The only reason I stopped then was because I was about to wet my pants. Literally

Tools to cope:

  • Set an alarm – and then stop.  (I can ignore it, too.)
  • Schedule phone calls, appointments, etc. to break up your computer time
  • Software to focus: Write or Die, Internet timeout software
  • Old school – go in the back yard, to a park, and take a pen and paper. Yeah, that still works.

See? Being an extrovert can be as much a disadvantage as being an introvert!

Which are you? What’s your biggest stumbling block with your type?

HER ROAD HOME coverLaura’s ‘biker-chick’ book, Her Road Home, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble now!

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photo credit: JefferyTurner via photopin cc

42 comments to Does an Extroverted Writer Have the Advantage? Maybe Not

  • Orly Konig Lopez

    Great post, Laura!
    As one of those whiny, err pointy, introverts my biggest stumbling blocks are a numb tush from hours of sitting and the squeaky voice from hours of not talking. Okay, that’s not exactly true – I talk to the cats. Ohhh, there’s another … crazy – having long, drawn out discussions with pets and appliances (maybe I need to get out more).

    I’ve always envied writing in public. Can’t do it. I need my quiet space. I can edit in public and once upon a time even managed a first draft of a picture book. I love people watching though … not so much sharing a table and small talk, but I’m happy observing and taking notes. Lots of notes. 🙂

  • I’m introverted…I guess. I mean I’m not really “energized” by being alone. I’m just not really outgoing. I’ve always been a writer (though no one knew it except those close to me) and I received my first paying writing job yesterday at age 38. Had I been extroverted, I may have pursued my dream at a much earlier age. But then again, I may not have been ready and will now be more successful. So I’m not really sure where the advantage lies.

    • Wow Billy! Congratulations!!!! I know you feel like 38 is late but I didn’t start writing until after 40. AND my local RWA Chapter has a lady who just sold her first book – a romance – at the young age of 96!

      See, you’ve driven me to multiple exclamation points. And my recovery was going so well up til now. Suffice it to say, I’m very excited for you!

      • Thank you. It’s a pay-per-article job at a small local newspaper; but, before I downplay it, it is VERY exciting for me. Thanks again.

        • I think you are right Billy that extroverts probably start writing in public and for public consumption much earlier. I thought of the germ of my first story about twenty years before I wrote it. At the time I thought, what do I have to say that would inform anyone? Not that I ever lacked confidence in life. I could always do things, really anything I put my mind to, but I guess in my thirties I didn’t have confidence in my ideas. But an extrovert might have just put it out there anyway. 🙂

  • That picture with the Oh, look! A shiny bauble! is both my best friend and my nemesis. A best friend because I gather tiny baubles of personality traits, sayings, ridiculous interesting hats to wear while I’m writing to use for quirky characters.

    My nemesis because the walking, talking shiny-bauble-turned-new-character has a back story. [Yup! I’m trying to spin the tendency to engage people into a writerly mission of great value.]

    I get in trouble.

    [A complete sentence and thought and truism.]

    I get in trouble because I don’t want to be a spectator. I want to engage(!). I offer this soon-to-be-novella comment as proof.

    For me, for now, the solution lies in where I choose to write. It’s not at home. It’s no longer at Starbucks. It’s in a small, only-one-female-has-joined-so-far, private club at the back of Ole Main Street Cigar and Tobacco Shoppe in Grapevine, TX. It’s in a place where putting the toilet seat up after use is considered polite behavior.

    Comfy leather recliners, muted flat screen TV’s, and a bit of buzz from customers. Until 7:00, it’s sparsely populated. Men come-and-go, sit for a spell while they smoke a cigar. They meet and greet, then read, or tap their iPads, or watch the images on flat screens. [Lick Lizard Towing is currently my favorite for quick peeks while searching for a word.]

    Bonus! The room is large and well-ventilated so it’s not a smoky fog. Call me crazy — it’s okay, I’m used to it — but, I love the scent of cigars and pipe tobacco. It’s a Testosterone Zone, and worth my $25/month membership fee.

    My iPhone’s timer? Priceless! I set it for social media, for writing without bopping to the Internet, for creativity enhancing naps. Tom, the proprietor, has standing orders to smack me on the head if I snore during a timed, restorative nap.

    Write on! <=== awkward close, but my SM timer is about to sound

    • Gloria, I knew you were an extrovert, before, but after I met you, I KNEW it!
      Your man-writing cave sounds wonderful – and your voice shines in the description.
      Keep it up!

      • Another good thought. (Loving this discussion Laura.) What you said :I get in trouble because I don’t want to be a spectator. I want to engage(!). – rings so true for me in reverse. As an introvert I have to really work at not being a spectator, describing what my characters are doing from my chair across the room (Otherwise known as *telling* ouch!) One way I handle it is to transpose my third person ms into first for an edit and I find the characters really come to life.

  • I’m an extroverted introvert. I love my quiet time alone but will turn on the TV to a movie I don’t care about watching just to have the quiet hum of voices and background music. Old westerns are great as background! I write while in the family room, with or without people around, but I’m most productive creatively (not editing/revising) when alone. Thanks for sharing, Laura!

  • I agree with you, BOTH types of writers face differing challenges, so neither has an advantage. I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator test and am technically an introvert, although my score on that spectrum was approaching the “middle ground.” It is definitely easier for me to sit alone and write and think and “be” (so that part of this ‘job’ is easier). I have a hard time with social media, especially Twitter, because I am not particularly good at “small talk”…nor, frankly, am I all that interested in it. Never was, which is why I was always a bit “different” from other friends when I was young.

    I love communities like this, where there is room for short but meaningful discussion, and also an avenue to feel connected to something outside of my office! LOL

    Thanks for the post. Enjoy the weekend!

    • Jamie, it sounds like we’re twins from different mothers! It’s really great to find out we’re not as “odd” as we might have believed growing up. I never could figure out the small talk thing, either. If it’s not important, why talk about it?

      Enjoy your day, everyone!

    • And thank you, Jamie, for hanging with us here, talking writing!

  • Okay, Laura … I might have to side with Betty as an extroverted introvert. I love to talk and engage and be the center of attraction. Yet, I cherish my solitary time. After a few hours in my writing cave, I get antsy for human babble. I enjoy blogging and Facebook and don’t “get” Twitter (no matter how many times you told me it’s great) … I have this Ying/Yang thing going one that sits my Virgo/Libra cusp. Born on the day the sign changes and the day autumn begins, I seem always to have one foot in sun and the other curled up with coffee watching the leaves fall.

    Great post, as always 🙂

  • “Never miss an opportunity to shut up.” Love that!

    I’m most definitely the stereotypical introvert who sucks at small talk and views large crowds and cocktail parties as tortuous trials. Not that I am “quiet” once you get to know me. I love peace and quiet when I write, though the internet surfing is distracting for me also. The only time I write at the library or a coffee shop is when I’ve been distracted and my word count is suffering. Then I go in public and make a pact not to get up until XX amount of words are written.

    I’m jealous of writers who make cool sound tracks to fit the theme of their books! Would never work for me though.

    • Deb, I didn’t notice you were introverted when I met you – but then, we found we root for competing college teams, and any shyness got kicked to the curb in the trash talk.

      GIG ‘EM, AGGIES!

      • Okay, for once I agree. Gig (whatever that means) the Auburn Tigers!

        In thinking about your post — wouldn’t you say extroverts have an advantage in networking at conferences and workshops?

        Oh, and ROLL TIDE!

        • Yes, at conferences for sure extroverts have the advantages, Deb. Workshops? The networking part, maybe.

          Remind me, next time I see you – I’ll demonstrate ‘gigging’ 😉

          And don’t think I don’t know that you responded just say Roll Tide. In my house, that’s detergent….cleaning Alpha Dog’s underwear. I’m just saying…

  • Laura, I’ve often described myself as a walking paradox — an extrovert who as a writer has to become an introvert. Your suggestions are great!

  • i don’t know what to think,as a given, i don’t tell people my story. As true as it is .its unbelievable.But the the thing is,when i do take a snap shot of one of the things that happened.I always try to show how i learned or turned,it into a positive. I love writing,but find myself at a cross road.If i write about funny or general things,i’m lucky if 5 people view it. if i write about serious issues or personal issues that hit a nerve and i get replies. i really,also think its alot to do with a fan base and i hate to say it ‘cliques’ that have developed on some blogs. I just know this. I have loved to write since i was 9. And have journals going back that far. I just can’t seem to find a niche that makes me noticeable. I will print out all my poems,stories for my grand babies and someday they will have my work. By nature i love to socialize and meet people and hear their stories ,adventures etc. But i don’t know how to find a area that i can talk and chat and write completely open. Because i don’t want to be a ‘oh poor me” person.So i guess i’m extroverted with caution.

    • Aerobabe – I think that you’ve tapped into what makes people want to read. The emotional part about being human is what connects us. I think that in the deepest part of us, we feel alone, and reach out for that connection.

      My suggestion would be to keep writing the close to the bone stuff. That’s the emotional glue that ties people – together, and to your writing.

  • I’m an extrovert forced into an introverted life due to illness. My primary career for over 35 years was playing music, but ill health (MS) forced me to retire early. I’d been writing and publishing short non-fiction on the side since age 17, but making a living kept me from focusing on writing as I longed to do. Now I have the time, but worry my inability to travel for publicity’s sake may hamper my second career. I’m hoping to become the romance writer’s Elizabeth Barrett Browning instead!

    • Oh Kaye, today’s cyber-world works to your advantage…writers are traveling for signings, etc less and less nowadays. Only the biggies (King, Rowling, etc.) do that. Hey if that would be your worst problem, right?! Write on!

  • Well, you know I’m an extrovert, and I love reading/writing/studying in bars and coffeehouses. I write best in the evening when the hubs has the TV on or the Little Bean is watching Disney Junior. It’s a blessing and a curse.

    The best part of the new writing world? Social media! I get to get on and get a fix as a reward for sitting all alone in my chair with my writing. 🙂

  • Without hesitation I would say I’m an extrovert (how else would I survive teaching high school?). I see myself as a ‘gusher’, I’m that person on the bus that tells you their life story and then some. It’s not until I’m home that I get that little twinge that says, ‘hmmm…too much information?”. Still I think it’s one of my best features too. 😉

    • Little Miss W – you and I are sisters!
      I always say that If writers were dogs, I’d be the Labrador that drools all over you…

      I just love people, and hope they love me!

  • No contest. Extroverts have it easy these days because writers can no longer hide in their ivory towers. We have to SOCIALIZE in the media or we get lost (and no sales).

  • I’m a painful introvert unless I know people and then I’m a motor-mouth. My crit partners will jab me in the side and say “oh, there’s so and so, you need talk to her.” My inner voice always says, don’t bother that person–she’s being pestered enough. Writer her letter instead.

    That said, I don’t mind talking on line at all. Nor do I mind striking up a conversation in the grocery line. They don’t know my name and I don’t have to prove anything! I was raised that you never ever hype yourself like you think you’re all that. It’s pretty darn tough to change. I’m such a dork. Ha!

    • I know, Sharla, you’re a wonderful mix of the two! I’m such an extrovert, that I can’t understand the worry you feel about putting yourself out there. I know it’s hard for you, though.
      Sigh. It’s not easy on either side, is it?

  • […] Laura Drake (Writers In The Storm Blog) with Does an Extroverted Writer Have the Advantage? Maybe Not […]

  • I’m an introvert. Being with others in person or engaging online drains me, and I need to be alone in order to get the energy back.

    But I can see how hard it would be for an extrovert. I imagine one of the hardest goals for them is to sit down and write instead of going online to engage with others.

    I enjoyed reading this post and seeing things from the extrovert’s side. 😀

  • […] By Laura Drake I've read a lot of blogs lately about introverted writers, whining pointing out how hard it is for them, nowadays. There are probably more introverted authors than extroverts. After all, it's darned near a cliché – the …  […]

  • Weirdly I’m an extrovert who prefers being alone! I get energized by others around me and I’m the life and soul of a party, but I like my own company even more and don’t really care less what other’s think of me if they’re not friends or family. I suppose, in a way, because I have so many friends online, I still get my energizing recharge from others without having to go out and about all the time. I enjoyed it when I do but I enjoy being a recluse too!

    Great advice for the struggling extrovert! Thanks 🙂