An Introvert’s Guide to Writing #1

If you are a sociable writer with an outgoing personality and 800 Facebook  friends, hey, that’s cool. A lot of writers, though, aren’t and don’t. Some of us are more internally focused. Can you make it in the world of publishing if you’re the quiet type? I hope so, because I’m one of those. With these impeccable credentials, I hereby set out to guide other introverts in the wild world of publishing.

About Introversion

First, a word about introversion. It is not a disease, or a social handicap. Being an introvert does not mean you hate people, are irritable, or were too-soon potty-trained. You have a right to prefer your own company at times and draw inspiration (or energy) from yourself rather than the maddening crowd. One reason we sometimes feel shame over introversion is  because being around other people for too long can cause us stress and anxiety. This makes us wonder if we really like people, since we aren’t delighted to network a room for an hour and a half. Give me twenty minutes of networking and I’m, like, so done. If I meet a particularly appealing conversationalist, I can become recharged during that ten minutes and then can sail out into the room again. But 25 three-minute conversations – gaah!

No, I am not shy. Shyness is a bit of a handicap, but fortunately, you can train yourself to get over it. Many introverts love to give speeches, be on stage, and manage people. If you are shy, practice putting yourself forward. You learn you can do it, if not always enjoy it.

Introverts are a minority. As such, we are subject to the snobbery of extroverts, the pity of social networkers, and the suspicions of glad-handers. This is not going to change. The important point here is for us not to believe the images others have of us. The world needs people with a strong inner-direction. Often introverts have very vivid inner lives and imaginations. This is why so many writers are introverts.

OK. That’ll be $125 for this session.

Promotion, Introvert Style

But wait! I promised some guidance. Here follows the first installment of advice for introverts to navigate the world of publishing. Let’s start with a biggie: promotion.

There is good news here and bad. Let’s start with the bad so we can end on an upnote. Bad: You are not going to shine at networking. This doesn’t mean you have to be clueless about talking to others at industry events (Hey, they’re writers, mostly! You have a lot in common.) Just lower your expectations for how dazzling you’re going to be. You will make nice to people, ask them about themselves, learn industry pointers, enjoy the gossip, and reveal a bit about yourself. Will people remember you? You may be surprised. If you weren’t bloviating about your latest book and finding a way to mention your awards during a discussion of the liver pate, some folks will find you especially appealing. I know I would. So let go of your envy of the guy holding forth over there about his book tour. You can’t be him. And he doesn’t get to be you. You are good enough. You are meeting people. Concentrate on remembering their names. Write them down once you’re back in the hallway. I write people’s names on my convention programs. That way I can go back and look at all the neat people I met in, say, Corpus Christie.

Bad: You will dread conventions. This is why we’re going to limit the number we’ll go to. Suppose you have a book coming out. Don’t you need to show the flag at as many conventions as you can afford? No. Your time, if you are seriously dreading the trip, may be much better spent working on the next novel. The jury is out on whether you garner readers from going to what, in the science fiction/fantasy arena, are called cons. You will meet editors who can buy your stories, it is true. So attend some events of this sort. But if you are going to flee to your hotel room anyway, or sit mute in the bar wondering how to start up a conversation with many well-lit, shouting people, better to pass on it. Believe it or not, the extroverts at these events are gathering energy and inspiration, and will come home raring to go on their project. This is not us. I’m not giving permission to become a hermit, however. Just pick your writing events. And on the positive side, you’ll have more pages than they will, and you just saved the air fare!

What if your publisher expects you to attend this stuff? First off, this is great if they are paying attention to where you are and aren’t. Certainly if your editor mentions a convention and hopes you’ll be there, that is candidate for your short list.

As introverts we must play to our strengths. Those strengths have to do with depth and dedication. This is where the good news I promised comes in.

Good News for Introverts

The good news for us is the world of the internet. It’s a great stomping ground for introverts.  Much of the interaction is not in real time, and is not truly one-on-one. You can:

  • deal with it only when you’re in the mood
  • pick your own topics
  • consider your comments and revise them before hitting “send”
  • professionally promote in your bathrobe

As an introverted writer, you cannot escape the obligation to promote and engage people on the internet. Remember, it’s the alternative to those energy-sapping networking events! With practice, you can learn to use internet outlets and eventually enjoy the experience.

Blogging is going to be your forte. Yes, you. Here is where your depth puts you in a good position. You can study the issues, keep abreast, weigh in on controversies, and develop a unique viewpoint. If you still balk, here are some ideas for blog topics:

  • Review books. You’re reading all the time, anyway, right? Take notes. Recommend books. (I’ve chosen not to trash books or give negative reviews unless the person is so far above me that they wouldn’t notice. Hey, I don’t relish argument. I’m an introvert.)
  • Interview authors. New or mid-list authors are eager to do reviews for small blog sites. Ask them if they’d be willing to answer your questions. (It’s especially nice if you can say you read their book. But it’s not necessary.)
  • When you Do go to a con, give detailed summaries of the best panels. People feel like they got a bit ‘o the con without even going!
  • Find 3-4 writer’s blogs and read a blog a day. Steal ideas about what to write about. If you are repeating anything you read there, give credit!
  • Diary your writing experience. What are loving about your current project? What are you struggling with? (Warning: do not on any account tell what the plot is or much about the concept. Keep it general. This principal has to do with not “giving away your fire.”) This will likely draw advice in the comment section. Don’t worry if such comments aren’t helpful. You’re only doing it for blog content: because others may find your experience interesting.

All right, fellow introverts, that’s enough for today. Check back here for the continuing saga of the introverted writer in: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing, #2!

18 Responses

  1. Lisa Forgan says:

    This is a great topic. I love how you mention about networking can be difficult. Fortunately, there a places like LinkedIn, Plaxo, and other social media sites to help put some sort of networking for those who can’t stand being around crowds. But, it still isn’t the same as the real thing.

    I was once told that introverts have hard time being around crowds where they have to interact because of “thinking on the spot”, as it can be mentally draining. This is why general speeches/lectures aren’t a problem for introverts. They have time to prepare, feel comfortable about not focusing on a direct individual, and they also “know” what they want to say. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Once discovering your introvert strengths, you can reach beyond and become successful in many ways.

    Anyway, this topic is wonderful. It is great to know that someone can reach into a difficult subject and express knowledge on how to use it for writing.

  2. Trecia says:

    Loved the blog! Saved me a $125 session 😉 There were many useful pointers. Practicing does help a lot (from my experience). Thanks, Kay!

  3. Kay says:

    I believe “thinking on the spot” is difficult for some people because they would tend to give more complex answers, and yet they know that something pithy (and even superficial) is what social situations call for. A speech, on the other hand, is so much easier, because it gives the introvert a chance to provide the nuance that they crave. It may sound like I’m saying that extroverts aren’t deep, but all I mean is that introverts have trouble accepting reality: when people ask “how are you?” they really don’t want the truth, especially not at a cocktail party.

  4. Erika says:

    This is so informative! As an introvert, it’s often difficult to explain why “I am the way I am” or why certain situations cause anxiety.

    Did you read the article, “Caring For Your Introvert”? I have to admit, yours, as it relates to writing, is the one I favor, but the articles does make some good points. 🙂

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/03/caring-for-your-introvert/2696/

    I’m bookmarking yours and keeping an eye out for the next! 🙂

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erika. Erika said: Kay Kenyon: An Introvert's Guide to Writing #1 – http://bit.ly/cFyuAc […]

  6. Kay says:

    Thanks for this wonderful link! My favorite line “I’m an introvert. I like you and you are a wonderful. Now please shush.”

  7. Erika says:

    That’s a great line. 😉

  8. Pam says:

    Great topic Kay! I enjoy conversing with others, just not constantly like some other people I know. It is always edifying to be reminded that this is not antisocial behavior. Great topic.

  9. Kay says:

    Yesterday someone said in conversation “He doesn’t seem like an introvert.” I responded, “What are introverts like, though?” The answer was: well, quiet, withdrawn . . . This is a response typical of extroverts who tend to see the world in their own terms. In your post the label you reject is “antisocial.” That got me to thinking, maybe we should say we’re not antisocial, we’re moderate social!

  10. A.Kennedy says:

    This really helped me. I’m a major introvert and I’ve been having a lot of trouble because of it ever since coming to college. ‘I’m not diseased’! You give me hope!

  11. Paul says:

    Great Blog post. I always tell people I’m shy but actually I’m just a little introverted. I know when I finally try networking I do okay but it’s a struggle. Blogging has made that easier and means I get to choose to be visible when I like. The only things I need to remember is to blog consistently or people will forget you and blog about the stuff you like!

  12. Kay says:

    Well, I went to your blog, and thought what a cool guy you are. (Now, if you are an introvert, I’d probably like you anyway, but just sayin’!) It really is true that blogging lets you choose when to be visible and this is crucially important for introverts. When we have the energy for “social” we’re just fine at it, perhaps superb. The internet lets us choose our time. I’ll be back. Thanks.

  13. […] site in the way of fantastic, relevant, and consistent blog posts. Especially popular is her “Introvert’s Guide to Writing” series. The work paid off. Last week Writer’s Digest gave Kay Kenyon’s site the […]

  14. […] installment #1, I explained a few things about us introverts. How we are not shy, not ashamed, and not clueless […]

  15. […] tad more inner directed than people for whom a room full of people holding cocktails is nirvana.  Part 1. Part […]

  16. Mike Carrow says:

    That is me. I have always been a bit confused about my preference for limited exposure and complete comfort in giving a prepared talk or even performing some of my poetry. I would write more in my comment but I want to think about it.

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