Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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November 26, 2012

Introverts vs. Extroverts ~ Writing Style Throwdown, Part 2

Last Monday, Orly Konig-Lopez argued for the introverts. If you missed her post, click here and take a peek.

Some of you commented, but I'm guessing we're going to get more today because the extroverts are in the house, jumping up and down, shouting "TALK TO ME."

That's the way we extroverts roll.

I did a post awhile back on whether being an introvert or an extrovert affects blogging, but I'm going to extrapolate this out to writing in general today. First things first though...

What does it mean to be an “introvert” or an “extrovert?”

I’ve found that very few people know the real definition of introverts vs. extroverts so I’ll share it with you here, courtesy of the Rockstar Counselor Guy who told me.

It’s all about energy:

  • Introverts gain energy from time spent by themselves.
  • Extroverts gain energy from time spent with others.

Are you scratching your head, wondering what that even means?? I understand.

Most people think introverts don’t like people, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of introverts like people just fine, they just get tired out by too much contact with them.

For an extrovert like me, if I need an energy lift, I go to where the people are. This doesn’t mean I even want to talk to them. Truly. A lot of the time I don’t. I just want to be around them, sucking up some energy from the buzz of the room.

I know all you introverts are gonna freak out over this, but...When I get stuck on a particularly difficult scene or chapter:

  • my #1 way to get unstuck is to go to Starbucks.
  • #2 is a bar or restaurant. It doesn't really matter which one, the point is the people.

I talk to everyone I can on the way in and then sit down in the most crowded area possible and soak up all the buzz. It gets me all zingy, then I tune them out and let the words flow.

I focus better with a ton of noise. (I don't know why.)

In college, other people went to the furthest reaches of the stacks in the library, searching for quiet. When I went to the library, I either wanted to pee or go to sleep.

I think all you "silence people" are insane. How do you not go crazy with the sounds of your clocks and pets and appliances?

What did I do in college when I needed to ace a test? I went to work (I waited tables all through school) and studied at the bar. Or in the student union. Or out on the quad where everyone was walking by. It worked like a charm and taught me to really focus no matter what.

So, I'll just keep enjoying all you introverts when you choose to peek out of your cave. In the meantime, I'll be at Starbucks or in the bar, making new friends and finding new characters to write about...because that's how I roll.

Not sure whether you're an introvert or an extrovert? Here’s a link to a free Myers-Briggs questionnaire and report. (Be sure to tell us your results in the comments!)

Where is your favorite place to write? Do you need silence or noise? Would you describe yourself as introverted or extroverted? How would others describe you?

Announcement: 7th Annual Top 10 Blogs for Writers Contest

Here are the rules:

  • Nominate your favorite blog in the comment section (see link below).
  • You have only one vote (only your first will be counted).
  • Please include the web address of the blog.
  • Explain why you think the blog is worthy of winning this year’s award.
  • A blog must be nominated more than once to make the cut.

To nominate a blog, go here http://writetodone.com/2012/11/12/nominate-your-favorite-writing-blog-7th-annual-top-10-blogs-for-writers-contest/

If you love it here at WITS, we hope you'll throw our name in the ring. Nominations close Dec 3rd.

About Jenny Hansen

Jenny fills her nights with humor: writing memoir, women’s fiction, chick lit, short stories (and chasing after her toddler Baby Girl). By day, she provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s digging this sit down and write thing.

When she’s not at her blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA and here at Writers In The Storm. Jenny also writes the Risky Baby Business posts at More Cowbell, a series that focuses on babies, new parents and high-risk pregnancy.

0 comments on “Introverts vs. Extroverts ~ Writing Style Throwdown, Part 2”

  1. I am so not of this extrovert camp. Just reading this post was exhausting. I am an introvert, all the way. I have taken the Myers Briggs a number of times - today I got INTJ...but it's never the same, the only consistency is the I - MAJOR introvert. And at times, I know it is to my detriment - I intend to comment on blogs, or respond to comments I get. I mean to interact more on Twitter, but...
    Gaining energy from solitude is one thing, but I am nigh on becoming a complete hermit.

    1. Lynnette, I'm a hermit about getting out and about, but that has more to do with taking the time to get myself together than the people thing. Yes, my constant is the "E."

      Social media, in my opinion, has been a huge boon to the introverts because you get to hop on for 5-10 minutes, interact, then retreat back to the cave. 🙂

  2. I've taken the Meyers-Briggs test numerous times. I usually come up INTJ, but sometimes INFP. I wondered why. Then one test I did had me scoring my answers myself and then it made sense: my scores on the last two axes were almost 0. So I actually come up INxx.

    I've also discovered that in my writing group almost all of us are Introverts. It helps explain why our group works so well as a group of friends. 🙂

    Finally, knowing the basic difference between E and I people can be a good tool for characteristion in writing. Especially when you need to write someone radically different to yourself.

    1. LOL, Liz...you are an excellent commenter. 🙂

      And I think that people who straddle the line actually get much further than those who are all one side or the other.

  3. INTJ, all the way. Ironically, I love to go to Starbucks like you. I love the smells and the white noise of the chatter, espresso machines and other things being made. But I don't interact with people. I like to get lost in the white noise so that the real world fades away and my world comes into focus. I don't do restaurants or bars too much because there's nothing more annoying than a bartender or waitress checking in on me, breaking me out of my focus. I can't do complete silence. I must have noise of some kind to keep the other part of my brain busy.

    1. Oh yes, I love white noise. That's so funny. I can tell you're nicer than me. If I'm really in the middle of it, I ignore them. Otherwise, I'm happy for the break.

      Ironically, my honey is an introvert, but he loves people and conversation. They just wear him out, so I make sure to schedule non-social time after he's been in a people-fest. 🙂

  4. I missed the introvert post, need to go read it-but omg, the energy in a room full of people bombards me and exhausts me. However, I do not like absolute quiet. I need the TV on while I work AND sleep (it keeps away nightmares). It's been quite surprising that I'm almost as much of an introvert online as I am in person.

  5. I've always thought I was both - but lean more to the extrovert side (what else would you expect of a human Labrador Retriever?) Took the test this morning - 60% Extrovert, 40% Introvert. That makes me either well balanced, or Schizoid. I'd believe either!

    Great post, Jenny - can't wait to see our reader's comments!

    1. Thanks, Laura! They're getting into the fray for sure. Although I want to know where all our extroverts are...probably out chattering somewhere. LOTS of introvert comments here. 🙂

      1. Love the post, Jenny.
        Power to the “hermit brigade.” And lookie there, you just made another case for introverts - we don't have all the distractions of people, people everywhere. We have focus! We read, we comment. The extrovert camp is off flitting from group to group and ordering funny-concoctions at Starbucks.

        1. LOL...thanks, Orly! And you're not dragging me away from my nonfat latte....NOOOOO!

          I read and comment too, but I do get terribly distracted by---

          Oooooh, glitter!!

  6. I'm a strong introvert, but I do love all you extroverts. I've actually long envied the extrovert ability to write in public. I freeze up trying to write around people. It's like they're in my space, and I need to get rid of them. I was always a "find the quietest, most private place in the library and hide there" type of person in school 🙂

  7. INFJ who suffers from sensory defensiveness. I do my best writing when I have on familiar instrumental music loud enough in the headphones to blot out even the remotest possibility of other noise. I have to wear the right clothes because something that doesn't fit just right is like a dripping faucet turned up to 11. Since random unexpected noises affect me like a needle in the ear, I can't be truly creative in a noisy environment unless it's so noisy it turns into white noise. Food court in a shopping mall could work, if I lived anywhere such a thing existed. Out here in the Wisconsin big woods, quiet is easier to come by than food courts and shopping malls.

    But I love noise, when I'm refueling the thinking part of my brain. Just because I can't create in it doesn't mean I don't crave it. Live music, a busy coffee shop, a house full of friends -- all great for firing up the parts that need to be refilled. A room full of extroverts thrashing and wailing is glorious for the synapses and I love you all.

    And then I leave before I overload.

    1. Joel, you poor guy!! I've seen those oversensitive senses at work with the autistic kids I worked with and I could see how painful it was. You're so lucky that you don't have all the autism added to the sensory mix for you.

      My favorite sentence in this comment? "A room full of extroverts thrashing and wailing is glorious for the synapses and I love you all." LOL...thrashing indeed.

      1. Not to worry, Jenny. Like a pearl, I've cultured a life which leaves me largely in control of my environment, and am married to a marvelously patient understanding lady who loves me because of my weirdness, not in spite of it. She helps keep it all under control.

        It has an upside, too, because I get a first-hand look at how wonky most of our brains are.

          1. Not just awesome (which she is.) Only reason I can create art. My first marriage was to someone who, well, wasn't so attuned, and for 23 years, I created nothing. In the 9 years with Best Beloved, I've written 100+ songs, and published 10 books with half a dozen more in progress right now.

  8. I like this post too! I am an ENTJ, and I think the way it manifests in my writing is by how much I need interaction with my writing friends. I need to talk through story logic and plot problems, and explain characters. I need to hear what people see in my story to help me improve it. There is a limit to how much good thinking I can do alone. Whenever I fantasize about being a full-time writer, I have to remember how much walking into my office and seeing my colleagues keeps me sane. If I ever had the luxury to stay home and write, I think I would be like you, Jenny--and make Starbucks my office and the baristas my colleagues!

    1. Oh yes! I reward myself with social media while I'm writing, Amber. It's a great perk. On the downer side, I can get lost in social media so I have to set timers. 🙂

  9. INFJ here, I've taken the test before but I can't say I remember anything else beyond the I. And while I can do a lot of writing when there's noise around me, it's not so much that I get a charge out of other people but that my writing makes me better able to tune everything out. It served me incredibly well in high school until some bozo would lean over my desk and ask me what I was writing.
    All the chatter and bustle becomes just another kind of white noise that doesn't mean anything and unlocks the creative part of my brain. It's not other people that bothers me, it's the feeling that I have to interact that makes me tense but when I got to Starbucks with my laptop and headphones, I know I don't have to talk to anyone and I can relax.

  10. I am definitely one of the introverted crowd. I prefer to spend my days in my cave, but I haven't really figured out how to get rid of my sales job and stay in the cave full time. Haha. I actually fall more into the middle of the road with a lean towards introverted. I have no problems with being in crowds or anything like that, but I prefer to be by myself.

    I like to write with music on but I do have problems focusing if there is a lot of activity around me. It is something I am trying to work on.

  11. I am an introvert through and through. Funny, though, when I was in college, I was a HUGE extrovert. I loved being around people and making new friends, etc. I've found as I've gotten older, I've gone into true hermit mode. Apparently, I am taking after my father, who could be quite happy living in a cabin atop a very high mountain. I could do that - as long as I have internet. =D

    1. Wow! It's rare to make that switch. Probably you were an introvert the whole time, but you extended yourself. As we get older and more tired, we start hoarding our energy. 🙂

  12. I used to take all of the Meyers-Briggs tests online, and each time I'd come up with ENFP. Until, that is, I had a stroke, and suddenly (or so I thought) I started coming up INFP. Then I found a professionally-administered Meyers-Briggs test I had taken almost twenty years ago, and it flagged me as an INFP. In fact, I remember the person going through the results with me (I had taken a battery of tests for a career planning seminar that I had attended) said that I would do well in an area where I didn't interact with anyone. Then everything fell into place: I had been an instructor for years, and the job left me exhausted at the end of each day, and I had no idea why...

    1. Holy cats, John. As an instructor you have to be ON all the time, and you never get any peace because your students won't leave you alone. You must've been absolutely fried...

      1. When I would send everyone on break, I would find somewhere that I could be alone. Sometimes that was a stall in the men's room, where I usually didn't have to deal with anyone (of course, there was always someone who'd follow me in and keep asking questions while I was in there...). I also remember drinking a little more heavily, and I think that kept me from realizing that maybe being a trainer was less than optimal. Oh well, too soon old, too late smart...

  13. Jenny , took the test just now and I am somewhat like Laura Drake ... a half of this and a half of the other. It does say I have "introverted" leanings ... with tons of feelings 🙂 I agree that I am half'n half ... I'll make it a point to vote for WITS ... because I do believe you guys are the bomb !!

    1. I can absolutely believe that you and Laura scored similarly. She and I usually run near each other in the results too. 🙂

      Thank you so much for casting your vote for WITS! We'd think we died and went to heaven if we ever made the Write To Done or Writer's Digest lists!!

  14. I am a total introvert. My family has trouble believing this because they don't understand what that really means. No, I don't dislike people or want to hide inside all the time, but like you said, I get tired from the exposure. My husband is constantly telling me to take my writing outside of the home and the mere thought of it brings a bit of panic each time. Ha. It shouldn't, but it does. This last week on vacation my family wouldn't let me leave the pool area for the entire day. When we finally head back to the room I practically ran just to have a few minutes of total peace and quiet all alone. I was so exhausted from sitting on a lounge chair surrounded by noisy people all day. Totally crazy!

    1. Geesh! You'd think your family would know better! I can't believe they made you stay by the pool all day long. Not the way an introvert likes to vacation. 🙂

  15. Butbutbut... what about extroverts trapped inside introverts? They can't either shut up or speak, so they write! And introverts trapped inside extroverts? Hmm, what do they do... execute people to get some peace and quiet?

  16. My mother used to describe herself as an introvert who operated as an extravert. I never understood what she meant but I knew I was definitely an extravert. I love interacting. Heck, I start conversations with plants sometimes.

    It wasn't until I first saw the definitions you are using that I got what my mother meant. She and I are both closer to the cusp than I realized, because after awhile I desparately need to be alone to recharge my batteries (which is more like an introvert).

    When it comes to writing, I don't need complete silence but I prefer it. Favorite spot to write is on my screened-in porch.

  17. Jenny, that way of understanding the differences; introverts get energy from solitude, extroverts get it from others, is clear enough that even I can remember it! Ha ha 🙂 My eldest sister is an extrovert and whenever she's got 'stuff' going on, she seeks out all the people she knows, to talk it through endlessly with them. I could never get where she was coming from with that. It's the polar opposite to my approach, as an introvert, I like to seek my answers within and then share that later with one or two select people...

      1. Thanks for asking, Jenny! No, my sister and I are chalk & cheese. We can handle each other in small doses. When I'm around her, I regularly feel I need to retreat into a dark cave to get my breath. However, I do see that her way of seeking the constant counsel of others, has accrued her a great team of loyal friends. She's also got her head screwed on the right way. So, it's working for her (as Dr. Phil would say!). 🙂

  18. INFJ - Tilting way to the Introvert, barely registering on the intuitive & feeling and a little stronger on the Judging. But as someone said earlier, each time I take the test it is a little different. So I'm kind of wishy-washy in the middle, but by gum I am an introvert every time. I do love getting out amongst people from time to time, love the energy at conventions, but it does take me time to recover. I do like to go to Panera's to write sometimes, the soft jazz and the background noise when they aren't busy to bursting, are creative stimulants for me. Great post, Jenny. It has confirmed for me that my stepping down from a stressful management position was exactly the right thing for me to do. Thanks!

  19. I took the test and am a INFJ. I know you aren't surprised Jen. 🙂 I love my extroverted friends though. They are always so bubbly. I do love getting together with friends and become Mrs. Motor Mouth but I think that's because I do spend a lot of time alone in my quiet office writing away, unless I'm cleaning house and plotting in my head. 🙂 I'd be interested to see how many introverts are also the eldest child in the family and vise-versa. I'm the oldest child in my family. I always had to be the responsible one. Maybe that's why I have to step back and think out all the pros and cons before acting. But I think that also makes me a better plotter. I look at the big picture and all the what ifs. My what ifs drive my scientist-minded husband nuts! Oh well, takes all kinds to make the world go round.

    1. I'm not remotely surprised. My honey is an introvert and he's the youngest child (who takes care of everything for the flaky older brother). Plus I know plenty of older children that are extroverts. I think it's just the luck of the draw. 🙂

  20. Gah! Now I'm all confused, because whether or need relative silence, or the chatter of the masses, depends. I wonder if this has to do with me being equally left- and right-brained? And what does that make me? An allvert? An ultravert? A univert? God help me. 😉

    1. Ellen, it's about which recharges you. I love people, love being at a concert or coffee shop or speaking to a big crowd. But I absolutely need my time alone or I'll collapse.

      Very few people have the same overwhelming need for both crowds AND solitude to recharge.

  21. I am absolutely an introvert! However, I like to write in coffee shops or restaurants, as long as I have my handy-dandy headphones with me. I must block out all of those fabulous people to get much done. One of the big fallacies about introverts is that we are antisocial. I'm very social; however, I need time by myself to regroup and refuel. Great post!

  22. I love the posts about personalities and how it affects our writing life 🙂
    I'm INFP/INTP and scaling very high on the introvert scale. If I don't get long breaks all by myself during the day, I get very frazzled. I can easily hole up home and dive into my projects, not leaving in a week 😀 Thank goodness there are the kids and real life obligations pulling me out occasionally. I need a calm and quiet environment when I create. These days I can't even listen to music anymore when I write.

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