Alone for hours at a time and often oblivious to the outside world, authors are solitary souls working with pen or computer in a quiet room, an isolated bungalow, or even an attic loft.
When you see images of the lonely writer perpetuated in photos, television, and movies, do you ever wonder if authors write because they want to be alone?
If you ask them, they often say they feel perfectly fine creating stories in the isolation of their own minds. Why are they comfortable working alone when many people need others around to get anything accomplished?
So, are writers introverts? Do introverts choose to become writers so they can work by themselves? Or is this all a myth?
What are You?
Here is a quick test. Which of these statements best describes you?
- I work better in an environment with people around me. I am outgoing and get energy from others. (Extrovert/Extravert)
- I work better in peace and quiet. I need to be alone to get anything done. (Introvert)
- It all depends on the situation. (Ambivert)
What is Your Answer?
Now that you have decided what you are, do you really think it’s that simple? Of course it isn’t, and recent studies and science explain why.
According to most research, no one is purely extrovert, or introvert, or ambivert. We are all a bit of each. However, everyone has one tendency that is predominant in his or her personality. And, as it turns out, that single component does affect us, our activities, and our creativity. Once we understand this about ourselves and about people in general, we should also be able to portray our characters more accurately.
Myths About Introverts
A cultural bias against introverts has existed for a long time. Even today, they are perceived as more reserved, quiet, shy or insecure, afraid of social situations, and highly intelligent—even nerdy,—and of course, they like to work alone.
The Truth About Introverts
As far back as the 1960’s it was assumed in many sources that introverts were a minority, perhaps only 10-20% of American population. However, according to a random sample study done in 1998, people who are predominantly introverts make up about 51% of the American population while 49% are primarily extroverts. Recent reports suggest that the number of introverts may still be increasing.
Introverts are not necessarily shy, as both introverts and extroverts can be shy. Mistaking introversion for shyness or social awkwardness is a common error made by people outside of psychology circles. Shy people avoid social situations primarily out of fear of negative judgment, whereas introverts just prefer quiet, minimally stimulating environments.
The Science of Introversion
So what causes someone to be an introvert if they aren’t shy? The answer is the dopamine reward system in our brain. The difference between introverts and extroverts lies in how their brains are wired and how the person gets rewarded and recharged.
There is more gray matter and more blood flow to the frontal lobe of the introvert’s brain, the area involved in abstract thinking, decision-making, and problem solving.
Introverts are re-energized by their internal mental lives and by their solitary quiet time. Social situations consume their energy. After any social activity, introverts need alone-time to recoup.
The first clue to children who are introverts is that they often love to read. Early on, they discover that reading is a socially acceptable way to get their much-needed solitary, recharging time. Parents and teachers should not force them to constantly be involved in social activities, but allow them time where they have the opportunity to think, dream, and digest what they have learned, or just recharge. They don’t give quick answers because they need time to think about the question first.
On the other hand, the extrovert’s brain has more blood flow to temporal lobes, the posterior thalamus and the anterior cingulate gyrus. Those parts of the brain are involved with actions, emotions, social attention, risk-taking, and the senses. An extrovert is re-energized by being around exciting people and by stimulating activities and environments. They often act and make decisions easily and quickly. Quiet time zaps their energy and they need stimulation to recharge.
Then, there is the third category, not often included in studies or statistics—ambiverts. By definition, ambiverts move easily across the spectrum of possible situations. They have a tendency to be comfortable in social groups, but also, equally comfortable working alone, and seem to recharge either way.
To sum it up, the difference between individuals is based on the environments they thrive in. Extroverts get their energy from the outside world and introverts gain theirs from within.
So, if you want to be a writer and actively pursue the writer’s life, knowing whether you are an introvert, extrovert or ambivert is important.
Is There a Correlation Between Creativity and Introversion?
Studies on creativity show that anywhere from 10 to 25% of the general population is considered creative or engaged in creative pursuits. Both introverts and extroverts can be creative. Some studies break it down more, suggesting 60% or more of introverts are involved in creative pursuits, while only 20% of extroverts are. ‘Happiness’ seems to increase creativity for both groups.
Charles Dickens at Writing Desk
Creative people need time alone to work on their projects, whatever they might be—writing a novel or poem, painting a picture, or doing scientific research. This seems to be right in the introvert’s wheelhouse.
How Does Being an Introvert Affect the Writing Life?
While the basic challenges facing all authors are similar, how introvert writers handle them is unique to them.
When writing, introverts enjoy research, gathering and analyzing information, and get satisfaction from their efforts. Because they store the information in their long-term memories, it takes longer for introverts to access the information when they need it. They need to think about things before they can write.
If you’re both an introvert and a writer, you’re lucky for a number of reasons:
- You can focus and think deeply about any subject you choose.
- Thinking about your project recharges you.
- You like research and its challenges.
- You are content when you need to work alone.
- You can concentrate for long periods of time.
- You are self-motivated and persistent.
So, an introvert writer can spend long hours alone writing. Walking and thinking is a perfect exercise for introverted writers. In fact, after a party or social outing, returning home to read or write will recharge them.
But, there are disadvantages:
- You don’t like to be pushed or rushed.
- You hate deadlines.
- You procrastinate because you never think you have all the information you need.
- You never believe that your current draft is the final one.
- You are not easily motivated to market your work.
- And, finally, by spending too much time alone, you can lose contact with the outside world.
Whether you are an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, once you know your personality type and understand how to best recharge yourself, you can become a more productive writer.
Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? Do you have any thoughts about introverts and the writers’ life?
Kathryn Sant is a retired obstetrician who has witnessed the births of thousands of future readers. She has published a middle-grade novel, Desert Chase (Scholastic), and under the pseudonym BBH McChiller she is a co-author of the fun, spooky Monster Moon mystery series. Curse at Zala Manor is Book 1, Secret of Haunted Bog is Book 2, and Legend of Monster Island is Book 3. She is currently working on two middle-grade boys’ adventure novels and the next Monster Moon book.
Her interest in adventure, research, and genealogy has led to a love of world travel, exotic adventures, and museums of all kinds. But she also enjoys quiet evenings reading with her dogs at her side.