You’ve taken at least one, if not several, personality tests in your life, likely of varying veracity.
From the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (INFJ), to the Buzzfeed “Which Harry Potter Character Are You?” (Hermione), we humans love it when tests can tell us who we are.
We’re self-definition and self-improvement addicts.
So, it’s no big surprise that these days the labels of introvert and extrovert have influenced our understanding of ourselves and others.
For those who have somehow missed this trend, have a quick and dirty definition of the two personality types:
Introverts: gain energy from being alone or in less stimulating environments. Prefer listening, reading, and thinking to talking and interacting. Stereotype: socially awkward shy nerd.
Extroverts: gain energy from environments with high levels of stimulation and interpersonal interaction. Prefer dialogue, noise, and having others around. Stereotype: pushy car salesperson / cheesy grin politician.
While psychologists and sociologists alike would be quick to remind us that introversion and extroversion lie on a spectrum (meaning that no one person is 100 percent one or the other –– a complete introvert or extrovert could not function in society), we like to pounce on these descriptions to explain or justify our own strengths or deficiencies.
“Being an extrovert makes public speaking a breeze for me.”
“My introvertedness can’t handle how loud my officemates talk.”
“As an extrovert, I’ll go crazy if I’m alone too long. I need people!”
“I’m a better writer because I’m an introvert.”
Are these things really true? Or are we simply using our quick-hit labels as crutches or support for things that aren’t actually related?
While there are nuances, shades, exceptions, and blends when it comes to the “typical” introvert or extrovert, based on general differences between the two groups, we can see how personality type might greatly enhance a person’s inclination for a particular career, skill, or hobby –– like writing.
Naturally, we might examine how introversion relates to one’s propensity to write, finding that the solitary and often lonely pursuit would spell torturous work for a people person.
Do more introverts flock to writing because it fits their personality? Is the claim that writers tend to be introverts just a sheer numbers game?
It’s fuzzy stuff, especially when you consider that many introverts develop extroverted characteristics to increase chances of success in the world.
Take me, for example.
While I personally identify as an introvert, I have also spent years cultivating extroverted qualities to buoy areas of my life that don’t come as naturally to me: confrontation, public speaking, mingling at parties, etc.
Along the way, I realized that, to some degree, I had to adapt to an extrovert-applauding world, even though my introversion actually helped me get better at other professional skills I cared about –– writing being one of them.
I can’t deny that Susan Cain, venerable introvert heroine, and her championing of quiet people’s importance in society in her book Quiet, has helped boost my pride in my own introversion and the skills that come with it.
But in the end, it isn’t and shouldn’t be a game of which one is better. What may come naturally for an introvert might take an extrovert a little longer to figure out, and vice versa.
However, objectively examining the general habits and qualities of introverts does indeed shine light on ways that quieter folks manage to become excellent, or in some cases, renowned writers.
Fortunately, no matter where you fall on the extroversion scale, know that these qualities are not exclusive to introverts, but may just require extroverts to do some personal development.
So, what are these magical habits and skills that make introverts great writers?
Beginning with the obvious –– environment.
While the common tendency to paint introverts as socially incompetent, hermit-y shut-ins is troublesome, there is a kernel of truth to it: introverts do like to be alone.
What’s more, they can happily do so for long stretches of time. Intermittent bursts of social interaction and activity are generally followed by periods of solitude.
Fits very nicely into the lone writer imagery, right?
All this alone time is not wasted, though. Introvert writers use it to get stuff done. In this case, work on their craft.
To become great, writers have to write a lot. A lot.
And unless you are one of those superhuman introverts who can actually work while other people are around and –– god forbid –– talking, writers often require solitude to crank out their prose in peace.
Since introverts already tend towards working alone, it naturally follows that their word counts have a direct correlation with their alone time.
This might be the hardest habit for extroverts to adapt to since they are so fueled by human interaction. But it is not impossible.
Practicing mindfulness meditation could help super-extroverts find peace and stillness within themselves, making it easier to dive into longer stretches of time up in one’s head rather than interacting with others.
Plus, extroverts don’t have it entirely wrong –– mixing in some stimulation and interaction to your workflow can help spark creativity, as long as you don’t let it derail you entirely (lookin’ at you, YouTube).
Balance is key.
Another attribute ascribed to introverts everywhere is that of being great listeners, perhaps more so than their extroverted counterparts.
This quality shows how generalized statements about both groups certainly can’t (and shouldn’t) apply to everyone –– plenty of extroverted listeners and distracted introverts exist.
However, this overall tendency does indirectly support introverts’ writing.
As avid listeners, introverts soak in a great deal of information from their conversations with others. While their interactions may be fewer than those of extroverts, introverts tend to fully engage in the moment and thoughtfully process another person’s words –– especially since they prefer one-on-one interactions to large group settings.
All of this sensory input provides great fodder for writers.
Having collected scads of meaningful thoughts through their conversations (which also tend to deviate away from casual small talk and head more towards deeper topics), introverts can sit down to write with both fascinating information and a desire to internally process what their external environment has dealt them.
While many extroverts also practice good listening, some extroverts may find it difficult not to dominate conversations (especially if an introvert is goading them on by nodding and asking questions), or they may interrupt others because of their excitement to speak.
Regardless, everyone should try to foster more active listening skills to become both better writers and more empathetic people.
In keeping with the tendency to work alone, introverts also have a knack for getting hooked on things that they will deep dive into when left to themselves.
Think Alice in Wonderland kind of fascination.
Whether it’s a book series, video game challenge, fitness practice, or other hobby or pastime, introverts have no issues getting lost in an interest.
You can expect that introverts will dedicate their free time to learning everything they can about their passions until they understand them completely. From there, they construct fantastic worlds of imaginary creation, all inside their mind.
As a writer, this tendency towards deep, sustained exploration and imagination gives introverts the depth of knowledge necessary to confidently and creatively write about a topic or craft a story.
For an introvert, creating something from nothing is an everyday endeavor.
Nevertheless, one drawback of introverts’ immersive interest is that it may be too narrowly focused on what they can discover alone, rather than fully embracing the incorporation of other individuals into the process.
Extroverts, who might get burned out and tired from long stretches of learning or creation sans interaction, would do well to incorporate methods like the Pomodoro Technique, so as to balance periods of focus with social interaction and refreshment.
The final quality supporting introvert writers is their tendency to reflect, and reflect deeply.
You know those scenes in movies where the character is pensively staring out a window while it’s raining? That’s what introverts do all day!
Just kidding. But introverts do love to reflect, and tend to do so one-on-one through casual movement, exercise, or in a journal.
By processing thoughts, feelings, and emotions (often through writing), introverts bring a touching depth to their prose.
While extroverts tend to process and reflect with others, introverts build a relationship with the written word as a tool for reflection and may use that skill to their advantage when it comes to crafting a masterpiece.
Extroverts might practice this skill by chatting online with others or writing letters (that perhaps don’t get sent) when reflecting. Going through the process of writing thoughts and feelings rather than speaking them out loud can help natural talkers develop and sharpen their reflective skills with the written word.
One of the reasons why I hesitate to write pieces like this that very explicitly show the advantages of one personality type over another is that, if you have the other personality type, you can kind of feel like chopped liver.
And I don’t want anyone to ever feel like liver.
So, before we go, I want to give a shoutout to a few of the ways that extroverts do indeed have qualities that enhance their own writing endeavors.
Fear not, chatty friends.
As extroverts tend to be bigger social butterflies than their introverted counterparts, they have the added advantage of being exposed to more people with diverse ideas and mindsets.
Because of this social audacity, extroverts may also find themselves in strange or unique situations that introverts may have avoided. While introverts actively imagine, extroverts can draw on the life experiences that their social tendencies have led them to.
Going out on a limb socially or experientially tends to be a creativity booster no matter your personality type, period.
Since extroverts can work and thrive in many environments, even if they are loud and crowded like cafés and airports, they can often get their writing groove on in more places.
They don’t need the quiet solitude that introverts often crave, so they can practice their craft on the fly.
A world written about by introverts has a distinct flavor, differing from that of extroverts. Like appreciating the varying perspectives of individual people, writers and readers alike should consider the lens through which extroverts see the world.
Extrovert writers can offer a refreshing perspective on the world from their vantage point amongst the crowd.
For as long as the craft of writing is a solitary and introspective pursuit, it will probably be largely populated by introverted folks.
Thanks to their nature and habits, the marriage of introverts and writing often leads to happy ever afters.
Working in solitude –- an introvert’s paradise –– is often a must for great writers. Given the long hours of thinking, writing, thinking, and writing, without much human contact, extroverts would likely go crazy.
Introverts’ tendencies to listen closely also provide fodder and footing for their authorial pursuits, as they cull meaningful information from their thoughtful and deep conversations with close friends.
When intrigued by a concept or idea, introverts have no problem immersing themselves in it for hours, days, weeks, or even years at a time. Such dedication is required to write books or to simply dedicate one’s life and career to the art of writing.
Finally, introverts spend a lot of time in deep reflection, ruminating upon possibilities, and ultimately leveraging these thoughts into beautiful prose or poetry.
But while introverts might seem to have the upper hand in writing, their extroverted friends have strengths of their own, with greater exposure to diverse people and experiences, wider flexibility in work environments, and differing attitudes about the world.
There are as many types of writers as there are people.
So, to answer the question of whether introverts make better writers, the evidence points to “maybe.” In reality, introverts’ qualities might just make them more natural writers, requiring that extroverts acquire some new habits.
In the end, we can thank the innately introverted qualities that have brought us great writing from the quills, pens, and keyboards of those who just like to be quiet.
Photo credit: stockasso
Gina Edwards is an unapologetically snarky blogger with a love of parentheses (but who isn't?) and beer with funny names. She's currently be-bopping around Santiago, Chile on her bike, teaching her native language to fancy people. Her skills include making hilarious puns, no-bake cookies, and mountains out of molehills.