When I mention to someone that I’m an introvert, I’m usually met with some sentiment of surprise. This is less of a comment on my own outspokenness and social nature, and more of an indication that a lot of people misunderstand introverts.
INTJs in particular — I’m astonished how many of you have contacted me about one of the most popular posts on this blog about the peculiarities of INTJs. From what I’ve heard from my readers, introversion is still a bit of an enigma to most of society. (Thank you all for sharing your experiences with me!)
The definition of introversion is simple: an introvert is someone who gains energy by time spent alone.
That’s it, folks. When you think about traits commonly associated with introverts — like shyness or social anxiety — those are separate from being an introvert, although can coincide.
I highly recommend picking up a copy of the book Quiet by Susan Cain, which gets more in-depth into the definition of introversion:
As an introverted writer, I’m going to share some of the observations I’ve made about making my way through the world and what I wish everyone knew about working with introverts. Let’s get started!
We Crave Space and Alone Time
…and it’s not about you!
This is especially true when I’m stressed, on a deadline, or have been busier than normal. I need time to get grounded, sift through my thoughts, and reset — and I need to go through this on my own.
The key difference here is that as introverts, we need to process alone where as extroverts process things best with others.
I’m not saying that I don’t need to talk things over with other people, but I prefer to observe and absorb what’s going on around me in solitude, first. Just like plants need sunlight to bloom, we need alone time to flourish and find the fullest expressions of ourselves.
This is especially true for introverted writers: in order to examine and write through the lens of our lives, we need this alone time to fill up the creative well. Otherwise, we run into writers’ block.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed or creatively drained, I’ll turn off my phone, my email, my social media, and just read or write with some of my favorite music and my cat. I’ll go for a walk on my own, do some yoga, and take a whole day to get back to a place where I feel like I can be my best self and have the best interactions with other people. Without this time, I feel like I’m not able to be as good of a listener or be as supportive when spending time with others.
So, one of the kindest things you can do for the introverts in your life is to give us space and respect the time we take for ourselves.
We Need Moments for Meditation and Introspection
I recently started my yoga certification training so I can teach yoga for writers, and I find so much joy in the deep moments of meditation and rest that come from my yoga classes.
Yoga is the perfect exercise for introverts: it prioritizes reflection, meditation, and introspection, and isn’t performative. There’s no pressure to be social, and if you walk into a yoga class and just want to sit quietly by yourself until it starts, that’s the norm. In yoga, you do what you need, and there’s no judgment, yet you’re still part of the community of breath happening around you.
I want that kindness and understanding to extend beyond yoga, especially in a world that tells introverts to “speak up” without realizing that being quiet is a virtue, too.
I remember being told over and over again in school that my quietness was an aberration, to speak up and be louder. I internalized that, pushing myself to be the opposite, and I still find myself feeling pressure to be louder or more aggressive when that’s not my nature — in fact, my natural qualities and introversion are strengths, not weaknesses.
It wasn’t until college that I realized, in the presence of writers just like me, that my preference for quiet observation isn’t something to unlearn.
We Don’t Like Multitasking
This isn’t true for all introverts, but I’ve found that a majority of us don’t like to multitask. We prefer to focus, unhurried, on one task at a time. If I’m having a conversation, I want to focus on the person I’m having a conversation with. If I’m watching television, I want to focus on the story that’s unfolding in front of me. I want to experience the current moment and observe what’s going on right now.
Part of this stems from my appreciation of mindfulness and living in the present moment, and part of it comes from my dislike of chaos and busyness. It’s not like I can’t work in chaotic environments — hell, I survived a year and a half working as an assistant at an agency — but I prefer immersing myself in my work in calming, creative environments. I remember feeling so desperately drained after my days working at an agency, in part because of the workload and in part because I was constantly interacting with people without a break to take moments to myself. (This is why aspiring writers shouldn’t have to go the agency assistant route — but more on that in another post!)
This is why so many writers are introverts: we self-select solitude and introspection, which are important elements of the writers’ life. It’s not that extroverts can’t be writers — in fact, they make great TV writers and collaborators in writers’ rooms! — but the general shape of a writers’ career lends itself to those who crave those hours spent alone living in their own worlds.
So, when working with introverts, give us the space and the option to focus on one thing at a time in our own environments without distractions.
We can also bring calm and clarity to chaos, but we’ll need time to refuel after a draining day of putting out fires with you.
We’re Not Necessarily Shy
If you look at my calendar, you’ll find that I’m constantly meeting up with or spending time with people I care about: colleagues, friends, new acquaintances, my writers’ group, my new book club (which is happening in three days and I still haven’t read the book yet — don’t judge me!!), my fellow yoga trainees, my roommate, classmates in my yoga and dance classes — the list goes on.
I enjoy meeting new people, love working in writers’ rooms, and consider collaboration one of the highlights of the creative process.
I don’t consider myself shy, and when I share with others that I’m an introvert, I think they’re mistaking introversion with shyness or social anxiety, when these are not synonymous.
In fact, I think introverts can be especially profound conversationalists and the life of a party in a different way than extroverts are. Neither types are superior, but I think as a society we’ve just relegated introverts to a lesser status when it comes to socializing, and that’s just not true.
Being Introverted in Hollywood
Susan Cain’s book goes into how things like open floor office plans and endless group projects in school put introverts at a disadvantage.
The same can be said about Hollywood: it’s a town that prioritizes social connections and the ability to succeed at things like general meetings or pitching.
As writers, it can be tough to learn how to articulate our ideas under pressure, in situations that play against our strengths and don’t necessarily speak to our ability to actually write the damn thing we’re trying to sell others on.
So, we have to learn how to play the game on our own terms, in a way that plays to our strengths as introverts.
I prefer one-on-one drinks to networking events. Networking events can feel draining and false, so instead I try and meet with people who are inspiring for coffee or drinks instead of just going to a ton of crowded bars to meet a bunch of people quickly and yell over the music with for awhile. I also think the model of grabbing drinks with a friend and then both of you bringing someone else that the other person should meet is a great way to meet new people in a non-mixer setting. This way, us introverts can network authentically while still playing to our strengths.
We also need to approach meetings and pitching differently. Pitching in particular is a performance art, and we have to put in much more practice when gearing up for a big pitch.
As storytellers, we need to realize that our magnetism and ability to entertain comes from a different place than our extroverted friends.
As introverts, we may be less adept with playing off the room and off-the-cuff ideas, so practicing and writing down a pitch is going to be a key part of the preparation process.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember when making your way through the world as an introvert is to know when to play to your strengths, and when to work on your weaknesses — and to be kind to yourself throughout this process.
And on that note, I need to go sequester myself in my apartment for the rest of the day and read this book for my true crime book club. Have a great rest of your weekend!