I just spent the weekend at the Cleveland Author event, not participating in the signing, but meeting up with some writer friends and attending as a reader. It was fun. Awesomely fun and awesomely exhausting. We got to know some incredibly talented authors that we fan-girled over and had an absolute blast swapping stories. But one thing that came up in numerous conversations in our hotel room (which was housing three writers, besides myself, including the incredibly talented Jade Eby and Whitney Barbetti) was the fact that we were all introverts. I’ve heard this from every single writer I’ve gotten to know. I’ve seen it in Facebook posts by authors I admire but haven’t yet had the chance to meet.
Now, me? I consider myself an extroverted introvert (it’s a thing, trust me). I have no problem talking to new people, and I don’t get social anxiety if I’m tossed into a new situation. But I’m refreshed by silence and solitude. Honestly, if I’m around people for too long, I get twitchy. And mean. I start to withdraw. After a day or two of no time by myself, I want to lock myself in the bathroom for a break. On a day-to-day basis, when my kids nap, I don’t talk on the phone. I don’t even answer the phone when someone calls me. I turn off every electronic device in our entire house and bask in the still, wonderful silence.
So, this made me think…are there any writers who consider themselves true extroverts? I know I’ve never met one. Doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, of course, but I’ve never heard of a writer who would prefer constant people and socializing over a quiet room, and their laptop to get their stories written.
Have you ever done any research about introverts and extroverts? It’s fascinating to me. Carl Jung is the psychiatrist who made this particular personality theory famous, and when I first read some articles about it, the biggest light bulb in the history of light bulbs went off over my head. No joke, people, my foundation shook a little. I. Am. An. Introvert. I was in my mid-twenties when I realized it, and anybody who knew me would probably have laughed, had I shared this little tidbit with them.
Karla? An introvert? *snorts* When faced with no plans, no people around, and nothing to do, extroverts get bored. What can I go do? Who can I see? Where can I go now? And on the other end of the spectrum, when faced with the same situation, introverts feel rejuvenated. When I have nothing to do, no plans? I rejoice, people. Rejoice. I’m as excited about that as I am for a new episode of Outlander. And the biggest misconception about being an introvert is that people think that means that you’re painfully shy.
Umm no. I’m not shy. At all. I can talk to anyone about anything. I can work in groups just fine, and I enjoy being social, especially with my core group of trusted people. So yeah, socializing is good. To a point. I can usually feel it approaching, my breaking point, it’s when my eyes itch to just sit and read the book I was forced to put down to go be social, or bust out my computer because I have a chapter that I reeeeeeeeeeally want to finish, or just sit in a dark, quiet room and not have anybody talk to me for a very long time. No really, I just want everyone to stop talking to me. My family knows to not be offended if I disappear for a few hours while we’re on vacation.
What I really want to do is have a study commissioned about professional writers. I would bet money that a very large percentage of writers would consider themselves introverts when it comes down to it. Even on the nights that I struggle with my word count, that blinking cursor taunting me with all the things I’m not able to write, I would rarely give that up to go party. I relish sitting down in my darkened living room after everyone in my house is asleep, slipping my headphones over my ears, and letting my fingers stretch across the keyboard. I can channel all the things I’ve felt and experienced into a 300+ page book. One of my favorite authors, Kristan Higgins, told me that being around people gives her inspiration, but then she happily scuttles back to her cave to write. Yup. So me.
I’m not like my characters, not fully. Casey? The heroine in my debut novel, By Your Side, is not an introvert. And I love that about her. She thrives on being around people and loves to just go, go, go. Casey is not me—I wish I was as organized as she is and could maintain that kind of positive energy 24/7. Alas. I can’t. (Just ask my husband when he gives me a vacation itinerary. Ummm, no. I love you, honey, but no.)
But this is what is so fun about being a writer. I get to make up all these people that I would love to be for a little while. One of the defining traits of an introvert is the natural ability to self-reflect, to label, and to sort through their emotional state. Basically, we spend a lot of time in our heads. We break down what we think and why we think it. And doesn’t that kind of fit perfectly with a writer?
We make stuff up. For fun. We dive into the brain of a fictional person and try to make them as real and relatable and sympathetic as possible. I’m not a thirty-year-old ex-Army Ranger with deceased parents and no siblings like my hero, Jake. But I so easily slipped into his head, breaking down how he’d feel about a whirlwind like Casey sweeping into his life and busting down all of his walls.
And my guess is that most writers feel a bit like me. It’s fascinating to figure out what makes our characters tick, especially if they’re the complete opposite personality type as we are. And the best part of all of it? Nobody has to be around us while we do it.
About Karla Sorensen
I’m a wife and a mother. I’m a writer who wants to make people smile when they read my words. I own a dog that sheds roughly eighteen pounds of hair every day. I am obsessed with Outlander (both the books and the show). I’m almost exclusively a romance reader, which means I will never truly be a literary snob. I think that if I could meet one historical figure, it would probably be Jane Austen. I majored in Public Relations and worked in health care marketing before I had my babies. And I hate twitter. I do it, but I hate it.