Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Peeking Outside the Writer's Cave -- The Writer's Introverted/Extroverted Life

I've started reading Nancy Ancowitz's book SELF PROMOTION FOR INTROVERTS, and it's got me thinking about the interesting double-life that writers live.

For the purposes of this blog post, I will go with a simple definition of introverts and extroverts, noting that of course we are all complex and share various characteristics of each set. But introverts mainly recharge by being alone, and extroverts mainly recharge by being with others.

Leaving the Writer's Cave can be Intimidating.

(Photo by T. Timlen)

Writing a novel can be a very solitary activity. You might prefer to write in lively cafes, read your work out loud to your writer's groups for input, or have long discussions with your friends and family to work out tangles in your plots, but at the end of it all, it is YOU putting down each word. You must separate yourself, with only yourself and your characters for company, and travel those difficult roads, endure their suffering and celebrate their success, and all of these things, even if shared later, you must first do alone.

A novel is a very personal letter written to others, and it puts the writer in a sort of isolation. I guess that's why we refer to it as the Writing Cave or the Editing Cave--there's nothing we can do but go in, fluff the pillows, and write. Alone.

But when we leave the Writing Cave, the vivid brightness outside can be blinding. We blink, and blink, trying to let our eyes adjust. Suddenly there are readers to talk to, bloggers to discuss with, interviews, giveaways, special dates and excerpts and reveals!

As an introvert myself, I enjoy the quiet time spent with my characters. But I also love social media like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest because it allows me to enjoy fellowship and share my interests with other lovely creative people. But still with a bit of a safe distance. (And that is more to do with being shy than an introvert--they are NOT the same thing!) I'm interacting with others while being alone--the way it feels when I'm reading or writing.

But sometimes, I must talk about my own work. I must--*gasp*--promote INK, or ask people to read it. And I'm not sure if it's because I'm an introvert, or because I'm shy, but while I can easily chat about My Little Pony or cupcakes, promoting INK is putting myself out there, drawing attention to myself in an extroverted way, and it can be intimidating!

As writers, we must live like introverts. And as promoters of our books, we must live like extroverts. And one of those feelings may be uncomfortable for us!

The best thing I've found is that if you're honest, and kind, both experiences can be wonderful! Finally leaving the Writing Cave and talking to others about your work allows you to make connections with others, to not feel alone in the world but to find kindred spirits.

And while reading your work aloud to others might (or might not) intimidate you, the one-on-one conversations books will bring into your life will always stay with you.

Which type do you identify as? And how does it affect your writing/reading life?

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