Writers – the introvert and the extrovert

booksAh the humble introvert, often considered a lonely soul. Watching life rather than living life. As a writer and an introvert (and since I must obviously never get out) I often contemplate this type-casting, and what it means to me as a writer.Leonid_Pasternak_001When we think of writers in the stereotypical sense, we often consider them to be introverts. The image of the person secluded away, tapping contentedly on his or her keyboard working at a new novel, with very little social interaction is to most people the image of writer / introvert.

Extroverts by definition, enjoy being out-and-about, socializing, interacting, and dare I say it living?

So, do introverts make the best writers? Most writers? And are they really what they seem? 

Ok, so first question – Do introverts make the best writers? 

What sort of book are you writing? Top 10 party holiday destinations – a personal account? hmmm, possibly not many introverts are going to be jumping up and down and say me me, can I write this one!

While I clearly made up this book to illustrate a point, I am pretty sure there is a whole swathe of books out there (real example above!) that only an extrovert could write. Not sure if they sit at home in the darkened cupboard writing it in isolation though? Perhaps they write collaboratively. Many people write all kinds of books from factual to fiction in a collaborative way, and while some of these may be still a combination of individual efforts, many will be brainstorming type situations with lots of interaction and ideas bouncing about between real people (the ones in your head don’t count).

Extroverts are naturally more sociable; there is no getting around this. Does this stop or prevent them writing. Of course not, they may just decide to sit in a bustling cafe and write instead of a quiet room.

Are introverts really what they seem?

No one is totally introvert or extrovert. Yes, they can lean heavily to one side or the other. This therefore implies that even the heavy introvert has actually ventured out of their darkened writing cupboard at some point. And as a writer it would make it tricky to write about stuff if you have only ever read it in a book.

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As a society, we still aspire to be the fun-loving extrovert who is easy in any social situation. It seems to me that many introverts and extroverts see this as the utopia of social grace. Ok, so extroverts tend of be far more magnetic, they draw the eye – possibly because they go out of the way to – but hey who’s splitting hairs. As an introvert I would be the first to admit you are most likely to find me trying to become one with the wallpaper at any kind of big social event if I don’t already know the people really well (and sometimes even if I do).

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That said, and contrary to popular belief, introverts are actually very capable to being out there, what is different is that they don’t actively seek it. For me being an introvert or an extrovert is about what energizes you – centers you. Extroverts are energized by social interaction; it makes them feel happy. Conversely, make an extrovert sit alone for the day; they are likely to feel very flat, depressed even.

So the opposite is true for an introvert. I work in a busy office all day, and interact constantly with colleagues, present and meet with new areas of the business who are stakeholders of what myself and my team do. My day is full of interaction from the moment I arrive to the moment I walk out the door. But at the end of the day I am exhausted and I cannot wait to get home to the peace of my own home, and my keyboard where I can put aside all the hectic-ness of the day. I need this down time to feel happy and centered, to be at peace, and to re-energize myself.

There are introverts and extroverts who are the epitome of their kind, but there are also a lot of others who break that ‘type’ mould. Introverts and extroverts can both bring something unique to the world of writing. Whether you are introvert or extrovert or somewhere in the middle, be proud of your uniqueness, and the blend that is you. Whether your a people watcher, or the person who is watched, write about what interests you, what you are passionate about!

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6 thoughts on “Writers – the introvert and the extrovert

  1. I’m always suspicious about attempts to generalize about writers. I can’t remember all the times I’ve read statements about “all writers” that don’t apply in any way to me. And Hemingway was a great short story writer (I’m more divided about his novels), and by most definitions an extrovert.

    Also, I think the categories are too broad. Most people would probably think of an introvert as somebody who would be shy in social situations and also uncomfortable on stage, but I don’t think there’s any relationship between those two things (I’m very shy in social situations unless I know everybody, but I have no trouble performing or doing training classes in front of large crowds).

    Look at Thomas Pynchon. Well, you can’t – he has no public persona at all, but he could be the life of the party in social situations. Or not.

    I think your final paragraph is the point – anybody can be a writer, no matter how they classify themselves. Just learn how to write! As my father used to say there is only one rule in writing: write well.

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    1. Thanks Anthony, I am starting to look forward to your comments 🙂 Some great examples there, and they definitely make you rethink. I love the diversity of people and that they all bring something different to the mix. Your comment about being on stage reminded me that there are an amazing number of famous actors who are introvert (whether it’s training or delivering Shakespeare, it’s still a scary stage as far as I am concerned). My recent read on the subject was Quiet by Susan Cain, it’s about introverts, and very insightful 🙂

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      1. Now that’s an interesting question that I hadn’t thought about: whether we write about introverts or extroverts. I’ve only thought about it in terms of the writers, not the characters…

        I think in general that I write about characters who are more extroverted than I am. I’m very influenced by movies, so my stuff is mostly about what people say and do; there’s not a lot of deep introspection. Certainly the two characters I’ve been writing about for the longest (a famous amateur detective and a mass murderer) are pretty extroverted, in different ways. The protag of my current story is pretty introverted, though.

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      2. I actually make a conscious choice quite early on as to the characters personality type including if they are introvert or extrovert. I have to be really careful not to make my characters too internally focused, I guess that sounds like the opposite to you 🙂 extroverts don’t have an inner dialog so they speak out loud more because that is how they think. So a scene with an extrovert would have a lot more dialog. I am a big people analyser, and pretty much analyse everyone I know – then I use the bits that appeal in my book context to bring my characters to life. That stuff about writers putting people in their book is kind of true in a Frankenstein sort of way 🙂

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