I don’t like the words introvert and extrovert. The common definition of an introvert is a painfully shy person or someone who thinks only of him/herself, while an extrovert is an outgoing, sociable person with interests outside him/herself. In our society, which rewards the gregarious, being an introvert seems to put one at a disadvantage. Introverts, however, are not always shy, and apparent extroverts can be uncomfortable in crowds. And introverts are no more self-centered than extroverts.
According to Laurie Helgoe, author of Revenge of the Introverts published in Psychology Today, “It’s often possible to spot introverts by their conversational style. They’re the ones doing the listening. Extraverts are more likely to pepper people with questions. Introverts like to think before responding—many prefer to think out what they want to say in advance—and seek facts before expressing opinions. Extraverts are comfortable thinking as they speak. Introverts prefer slow-paced interactions that allow room for thought. Brainstorming does not work for them. Email does.”
Colin DeYoung, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, says that introverts do best in quiet conditions and extraverts do better with more noise.
So being an introvert is neither a disadvantage nor an advantage, simply a different way of processing information. Which could provide an answer to a conundrum I’ve been considering for some time now: why some authors can effortlessly flood a page with words, and others struggle to find a few words.
All the books about how to write say not to edit as you go, but to let the words gush out of you, to write the first draft as quickly as possible. As much as I like the idea of letting the words flow and seeing what transpires, nothing shows up on the page unless I sit and ponder. So, even though few writing coaches admit it (and why would they? They are probably all extroverts) there are different approaches to writing: extrovert and introvert.
A writing extrovert would be someone who can write anywhere — on a bus, in a crowded room, in a coffee shop. Even when alone, they like to write accompanied by sound, either music or the television. And no matter what, the words gush forth as fast or faster than fingers can type.
A writing introvert would be someone who can only write when alone and in absolute silence. The words come slowly to these authors. Once involved in a scene, however, these writers get into the flow of writing, and the words can come more quickly, though still slowly in comparison to the writing extroverts. And, though they are gradually shifting to computers, their preferred method of writing is by hand so they can get the best mind/hand connection.
Of course, few people inhabit the extremes of this writing spectrum — most authors find themselves somewhere in the middle.
It’s apparent what kind of writer I am — an extreme introvert. I need the quiet so I can find the few words that bobble to the tip of my mind. What kind of writer are you?