An introvert’s guide to writing – Part 7

It’s time for introverted writers to get their booster shot.

You know, that little shot of self-esteem that is so needed in our incessantly chatty, bloviating world of self-promotion and self-invention.

It’s a world in which introverts find themselves a distinct–and mistrusted–minority. But before we stake out our claim to respect, let’s define, once again, what an introvert is. There’s a lot of confusion about this topic.

Introvert stereotypes

This section is for introverts. I would love for extroverts to read this and understand–perhaps even change their attitudes toward us, but they won’t. Extroverts can’t fathom why introverts are as they are, and why they are content being as they are. But let’s us, at least, be clear about who we aren’t.

  • Shy. You may be both shy and an introvert, but that’s like saying you may be an introvert and a redhead. Shyness and introversion are not related, but they present in a similar fashion, so are often confused. Introverts like to talk and meet people. It’s just that they don’t like to talk a lot and meet too many people at once.
  • Lousy at parties. At a party, introverts are often the most interesting people. They’re willing to talk about something rather than just schmooze. It’s just that they’re done after about 35 minutes. After that, they quickly become bored. If they have a particularly stimulating conversation about something they care about, they become energized and may then have the emotional fuel to chit chat another say, 15 minutes. During these bursts of sociability, introverts can be energetic and charming. But then they’re ready to go home.
  • Afraid of public speaking. Many introverts love the limelight. They are engaging public speakers (I am, as an example, available for lucrative keynote gigs!) It is wonderful to not have to fight extroverts for the floor. We love to control the microphone. For about 35 minutes. Then we’re bored hearing ourselves speak (something introverts wish extroverts felt.)
  • Misanthropic. Of course we like people. It’s just that a small dose will do. This dose can indeed be stronger and longer if the conversation is actually about something rather than pointlessly batting the social ball back and forth. I have been known to huddle with a new acquaintance at a party for about an hour delving into a fascinating topic. And no, it doesn’t have to be about me.

Who introverts really are

Introverts are often intensely creative people who think deeply about things. They are fascinated by other people who have something interesting to say.  But schmoozing is excruciating for us, it’s true.

We find social situations draining, and after a respectable amount of socializing, would rather spend our energies on the things we’ve been thinking about. We are really into you for about a half hour. Why isn’t that enough?

We aren’t afraid of parties, but we do dread them because we’re going to get all the value out of them in the first hour, and then be bored to death. This is not because we grow tired of people in and of themselves, but because we are tired of expending energy to engage with them.

Introverts are capable of admiring the way extroverts engage in witty conversation. (This is a one-way street. Extroverts are incapable of admiring introverts.) It’s as though extroverts have minds that are faster than introverts. How do they know what to say about the latest celebrity clip on YouTube? That came up 30 seconds ago, and I still don’t know what to say. You all have moved on.

If you see a person at a party leaning against a wall with a wry smile on their face and watching people, chances are this is an introvert. If he is supremely self-confidant, he is content to observe people’s behavior. He doesn’t feel left out because he pities the social songbirds, and is intending to write about them when he gets home. I once saw a famously introverted writer at a very crowded party, and he was doing exactly that: smiling that tiny, enigmatic smile and watching people. I have since tried to replicate his stance without looking like a complete ass. Let me know how I’m doing next time you catch me leaning against a wall.

Now that I’m finished with my rant on how we introverts are misunderstood, let’s move on to how we can now fit in beyond our wildest dreams.

The internet and introverts

As the dog says in the New Yorker cartoon, on the internet no one knows you’re a dog.

In this fabulous cyberworld we can finally be our introvert selves, and thrive. When you really think about it, the internet is perfect for folks like us. We can pick the exact moment when we feel like interacting with people by blogging, FaceBooking or tweeting. We can spend our 35 minutes connecting with other people and then go read Remembrance of Things Past (or whatever highly introverted activity brings us back to normalcy after high socialability.)

Instead of book signings, we can get “face time” with potential readers on YouTube and Livewriters; instead of a book tour (shudder), we can do a blog tour. We can dip into FaceBook and Twitter conversations, and take 15 minutes to think of something to say, with no one the wiser.

On our websites we can actually pick our topics! We may have nothing to say about the latest contestant on American Idol, but we can talk about the latest Man-Booker prize winner, the fate of the Eurozone, or the hole in the ozone. Whatever interests you, you get to talk about. I love the internet.

If you, as an introvert, aren’t totally jazzed by social media and the internet you are tragically missing the boat. The boat is not a leaden craft that demands we bend to the oars. No! It is a sleek ocean liner of incredible flexibility and beauty. And we have a posh stateroom. Why us?

Because the internet, while ideally suited to introverts, does not exert a siren song, lulling us into hours of wasted internet time. No, indeed. We can easily limit the time we spend in this fantastic playground. Why? Because we’re done in 35 minutes. We have had our hit of connecting and chatting. And now we’re back writing again.


Unlike extroverts who constantly complain about what a time suck the internet is, we (you and I, fellow introvert) are not going to get sucked in to the great schmooze in the sky. Because our hair-trigger boredom reflex will save us every time.

So. I hope you introverts out there are feeling a rush of pride, relief and delicious revenge. The world is making room for us at last.

Not that we have to get all defensive or anything.


Previous INTROVERT posts:

Part one: What is an introvert and why you should blog

Part two: Surviving conventions

Part three: The doldrums

Part four: Building relationships

Part five: How to be sociable in a bar

Part six: Networking as an introvert

8 Responses

  1. Daniel says:

    Finally, someone who understands the that my dislike of social environments is not shyness.

  2. Kay says:

    Yeah, that one is annoying; as is the proposal that we don’t like people!

  3. Leitchy says:

    The “35-minute rule” is a beauty. I hadn’t noticed it before, but it’s spot on for me.

    I once took a laptop to a party and opened up my online game of choice. I sat in the one spot all night and played. Eventually, every other party-goer (even the pretty girls) came over to see what I was doing, and that opened up conversational opportunities. After 15-20 mins, they would get bored and drift off or go get another drink and start talking to someone else, and the next person would arrive and sit down beside me.

    Everyone else thought I was a boring old fart for sitting in the one spot playing online games…but I got to talk with lots of people about lots of subjects. The game was just a prop, really.

  4. Kay says:

    Wow, it really worked, huh? I have to hand it to you, it is creative!

  5. Generalist says:

    When dealing with introverts/extroverts and crowds, I’ve heard of an analogy that works well. Think of a fire and how it needs fuel and oxygen. A crowd, to an extrovert, is fuel and makes them burn brighter and longer. The more fuel you add, the better. On the flip side, a crowd, to an introvert, is oxygen. The more oxygen you add, the faster you burn the fuel. When the fuel is burned up, the introvert is exhausted.

  6. Kay says:

    I love this. Exactly right. Thanks for sharing.

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