Writing is a lonely calling. Solitude and reflection are integral parts of the writing process. Writers need to spend a lot of time alone. Though I could not locate any scientific data to back this theory, I believe most writers would call themselves introverts.
In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, author and former corporate lawyer Susan Cain promotes the virtues of introverts in a world that seems to favor the qualities of extroverts. “The business world and much of American culture is skewed toward extroverts,” Cain said at a recent conference. Introverts are widely misunderstood. Seen as lesser contributors and even as anti-social by some, introverts “simply process knowledge and engage with their surroundings in a different, quieter context.”
While extroverts draw energy from being around other people, “introverts feel their most alive, their most engaged, and their deepest sense of equilibrium when they are in environments that are less stimulating,” Cain said. These periods of solitude allow introverts to be at their most creative, she said, citing among other examples, the best-selling author JK Rowling.
Author John Green, who has penned a number of acclaimed Young Adult novels, puts it this way: “Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story, but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.”
Here are some of the qualities of introverts and how these are beneficial to the writing process:
• Listening. Introverts are generally good listeners. They prefer listening to talking. While one would think extroverts can mine more rich material for their stories because they are out in the world more, introverts in social situations do a lot more watching and listening. I like to sit in a coffee shop and watch people, listen for snatches of conversation that I can use or adapt in a story.
• Watching. Introverts are keenly aware of their surroundings. They may not feel comfortable going up to a stranger and starting a conversation, but they can spot clues from a person’s body language or choice of clothing. I’m not suggesting extroverts don’t have this trait, but I believe its more acute in introverts.
• Reflection. As Cain said, introverts have a deep need to process knowledge, rather than to react quickly or make snap judgments. It’s this quality that is one of the most essential to any successful writer. Giving meaning and context to a set of facts and emotions is crucial to the storytelling process.
• Solitude. Introverts crave periods of solitude. They are not at all uncomfortable about being alone for long periods of time. This “alone time” is like gold to a writer. Achieving 1,000 words per day requires several consecutive hours behind a closed door or hunkered down in a library or a café with your nose in your laptop. Extroverts get jumpy when they have to spend that much time alone. Introverts thrive on it.
What about you? Are you an introvert? If so, has it helped or hindered your writing process?