Why Introverts Make Good Writers

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?

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32 Comments

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32 responses to “Why Introverts Make Good Writers

  1. I know that if I have to be around people too much, I become exhausted – it’s as if my nerves are on the outside and people rub against them, irritating me and causing me psychic pain *lawd!* — where i live here is perfect for me – but, the dark side of it is that my reclusive nature sometimes makes me too isolated and I can be lonely at times.

    • Kat,
      I am an introvert, but I also enjoy being with people. My job requires it and I have worked hard to be comfortable in social situations, but I do need my “alone time.” I value the time spent writing and reflecting. Thanks for your comment.

  2. I’m listening to that book on audible right now. She does a fantastic job presenting introverts, and has helped me understand my husband better.

    I see a lot of your points, introverts do make great writers, or at least, writing would be well suited to them. As more of an extrovert myself, however, I’m lucky to be able to still cope with the periods of time with myself because that’s when I get my best writing done, and that’s what makes me happy, so it doesn’t matter who is or isn’t around.

    So for extrovert writers, it’s not as difficult as it may seem in comparison.

    • Katie,
      Agreed. I didn’t mean to suggest extroverts do not make good writers. I actually enjoy being with people in social situations. In my job I have to engage with a variety of people on a regular basis. I’ve developed my extrovert skills but I am still an introvert at heart. I value my time along as a writer. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I’m very introverted, but the problem, sometimes, with introverted writers, is we’d rather hole up and write. But in order to feed our creativity and fuel our writing, we need to get out and live, mingle and have conversations too.

    • Julie,
      I agree. My job requires me to engage with people on a regular basis and I’ve come to enjoy being around people. My solitary time is important to me, though. I agree that being out in social situations fuels our creativity and can be a good source of story material. Thanks for your comment.

  4. I’m an introvert to the extent that grade school was hellish torture for me; but eventually, to survive, I started pretending I was gregarious and outgoing, and some of it stuck. It’s all grist for my mill, for sure, but even home alone I’m still fighting for my writing time/alone time. In my forties, I find my family and some friends still don’t get the whole recharge thing.

    As for writing alone, I’ve changed that– I try to make opportunities to write with and around others regularly– with my writers group, with other local nano-ers in season, and with my writer hubby-man. It yields extra dimensions for the work, sometimes, and always for the “work mind.”

    • Mary,
      I am an introvert, though some of my friends act surprised when I say that. It’s an extrovert world and I’ve adapted well but I treasure my writing time and solitude. Thanks for your comments.

  5. Michael Jenkins

    I am an introvert,always has been. I crave solitude,crowds of people make me extremely nervous. I can deal with it sometimes but not often. I easily get drained from people,being alone helps me think.

  6. I can definitely see that! I am an introvert in the truest sense of the word and I recently found with my bestselling debut novel, The Called, that I am a decent author. I love the alone time.http://christianfictionreviewguru.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-beginning-of-end-called-book-1-by.html?m=1

  7. I guess I’m an exception to the rule. I’m definitely an extrovert and always have been. I can sit and write all day because I enjoy it, but I get lonely and bored and need to get out regularly and be around people. Sometimes I’ll even go write in a coffee shop just for that reason.

    • Thanks, Laurie. Sounds like you have found a good balance between the solitary time needed to write and the time necessary to spend with others. We are social beings and we all need meaningful social interactions and relationships. Thanks for stopping by,

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  11. Kelli

    Three years ago my therapist told me I’m an introvert. After checking the resources she gave me, I felt a heck of a lot better amd not so alone.
    I’ve always been very quiet and tend to hole up in my room with books rather than deal with going to parties (that part has a bit to do with social anxiety). My family was all extroverts and I was actually “encouraged” (made) to go to parties in high school. Lord that was torture, especially since the other kids took my silence to mean “hey she’s a snob”.
    I agree that being alone is essential for my writing. Any background noise is too distracting, plus I have a habit of acting out certain scenes or speaking as a character, which means weird looks from the family.
    This is spot on. So glad to know I’m not alone!

  12. nkemecandi

    Reblogged this on Nkem Udu Can.

  13. Hmmmm … I dont know any extroverted writers so presumably introversion is a trait of many writers, but introversion doesnt make one a GOOD writer. Many other ingredients need to be present, too. I can’t read more than 2 or 3 paragraphs of most of the stuff published today, including some of the biggest sellers. To me, it’s all plot, no art.
    I write for a newspaper which requires my interviewing people and attending lots of events. I enjoy that part of my job, but sitting down to write the stories — not so much.
    I also write creative fiction which I’ve done for decades. The main reason I keep at it, is because I experience something in that process that I find no where else.
    Somebody said: Writing fiction is that place where memory and creativity meet, a perfect description of what happens when you sit down and let the music flow.

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  16. yeah, actually i’m introvert, i like calm situation and low noises of people
    for who aren’t talkative or “can’t talk well”, writing is the best thing i can like make many fanfictions (me). but, it takes much time and moments to get an inspiration… well i guess that’s my problem for find a (absolutely) right place and time to start my imagination in the storyline…

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