Monday, January 25, 2016

The Extrovert As Writer

When it comes to “ease of peeling away from real life to write,” the extroverted writer is at a distinct disadvantage. To begin with, we defy the traditional stereotype of writers being quiet, reserved individuals who observe life at a distance and go home to discover rich depths in their souls and write about it. Because stereotypes are often based, in the main, off truth, this means that the majority of our fellow writers won't empathize with our wiring. They won't understand how hard it is to cut the chatter and buckle down to a writing session. To the extroverted writer, peeling away from social life and other humans' presence is quite an effort before we've even opened a Word document to begin pouring more energy into our WIP. To leave the presence of other humans means to cut ourselves off from our “charger” so, unlike the introverted writer, being alone is not rejuvenation, it is slow (and sometimes rapid) depletion.

As an extrovert, the way we experience life is very different from the majority of other writers. Rather than writing out of careful observation and analysis of the world without, the extroverted writer builds his work out of a plethora of personal experiences. In the words of Anais Nin, we “write to taste life twice.” And in order to taste it twice, we jump at the chance to taste it at all. Any bottle, any flavor, any way. We want to live. Later, we'll write, but for now to live is the thing. It is easy to become wrapped up in tasting once. It is easy to choose to continue tasting, rather than to savor the flavors and mellow them into a literary vintage because, I don't know, we might miss the most savory experience yet if we've pulled away and stopped tasting for a time!

I can see many of your faces bent in puzzlement and I freely admit that the extroverted writer is somewhat of a unicorn. At the time of writing this article, of the seventeen writers who responded to the question on Facebook twelve were self-identified introverts and three were ambiverts. Only two of the self-proclaimed writers define themselves as thoroughly extroverted. I don't pretend to be apt with numbers and statistics, but it is fairly easy to see that only two out of seventeen in the surveyed writing population would identify as extroverts. When I look at it from the logical angle, it makes total sense: what sort of person has the most to say? He who has hitherto said the least. And who speaks in social situations less than your average, observing introvert? Introverts crave quiet, if not solitude, and such conditions are naturally more welcoming to the Muses who don't feel pushed out by the Life of the Party already abiding in the house. Introvert writers, are, in my opinion, the real MVPs.

Great, my fellow extroverts are thinking, is there any hope for me? I am here to tell you that, yes, thankfully there is hope – quite a lot of it. Here is a list of things the extroverted writer is very, very good at:

Writing authentic dialog – extroverts are experts at conversation. It only makes sense that we'd be able to translate this capacity into writing. In this respect, your chat 'em up is a lovely, pre-forged tool for hacking through the forest of traditional filler dialogue. You know where you're going with this.

Including vibrant details – one advantage of living on the go and tasting lots of life, is that you have much to give back. You walk into a new place and take everything in, scanning the environment for every possible conversation, adventure, and interaction and then systematically sampling them all. An introvert will go into the new place, pick a chair, sit down, and observe everything within that corner of the room. Use your “birds eye view” to pick out details the stationery observer misses and include them in your fiction.

Writing from personal stories and experiences – the more people you meet, the more places you go, the more first-hand reconnaissance you'll have as lumber for building your stories. When you pair your affability with question-asking, you'll often be rewarded with the gift of hearing peoples' stories...and I can affirm the fact that truth is often stranger than fiction. In addition to getting accounts from those you meet, you'll also be far more likely to meet with your own adventures than you would be at home on your Macbook, googling the effects of the Black Plague and what they mean for modernity.

Writing believable characters – though the extroverted writer might have to work harder to plumb the depths of human experience (after all, we tend to not think as sensitively as an introvert might), when we harness our considerable energy and brainpower, we are able to understand as thoroughly as any classic deep-thinker. In fact, our understanding of a person or character will often be very complex because the knowledge is paired with deep and often intuitive care for the person or character. Writing them, therefore, is a chance to interact a second time with someone of whom we are very fond and which extrovert will not absolutely pour out her soul for that?

Lending prose new paint – because extroverts are usually possessed of excellent people skills, we are good at gauging how our words will affect our readership and tailoring them to exact a particular reaction. We're accustomed to using this skill in daily life as we interact with people and it is therefore easy for the extroverted writer to foresee readers' reactions and curate a certain tone to court the projected reaction. I love nothing better than writing a piece in a particular voice for a particular reaction and hearing feedback from readers that affirms my ability to achieve the goal I had in mind. This ability is especially helpful in journalism, blogging, and non-fiction, as it can be hard for some personality types to state the facts from any angle but straight-on. Not so for the blendable, bendable eight-armed extrovert! Octipi, unite!

I hope that my fellow extroverted writers (if such there be) will find themselves refreshed and inspired by this list. We may not be as naturally equipped as the amazing introverts for the writers' life, but we also have a few super-powers of our own. When paired with determination and a daily hour sector'd off strictly for no-contact writing, the extrovert can overcome his native sociability and become the writer he has always wished to be. Then, when the word-count goal is met, it's back to hobnobbing with us. We have people to meet and places to see.


Skye Hoffert said...

This made me evaluate myself.I used to think I was an introvert, but I enjoy people, and I am usually the one to strike up conversation. I do love my alone time, but I hate locking myself away to write, because life passes me by when I do. I just might be an extrovert.

Christine Smith said...

I adore this! It is so great finding other extroverted writers out there. I always feel alone in that category (which is not a good thing for an extrovert).

I do so often have a hard time stopping socializing to lock myself away for hours and write. But, on the other hand, writing is where I can be with OTHER people (fictional though they may be) and experience all sorts of exciting new things. And I do think writing believable characters is my strong-suit. Perhaps that's the extrovert in me.

This post was a great encouragement. Thank you for sharing! ^_^

Rachel Heffington said...

Skye and Christine, I'm so glad you found this post useful! It IS important to know we aren't alone! Hurray for writers who love people so much, they encounter the daily conundrum.

Danielle Meitiv said...

Yay! I just found this and I am so happy to hear that I am not the only one who struggles with writing as an extrovert. Great post!