A couple of people have asked me about becoming a writer when you’re a shy introvert.
Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
So I totally had Alanis Morissette on repeat in my brain when I was thinking about writing this post. 😀
Because it’s SO ironic that the same personality trait that makes it virtually effortless for some of us to become writers also makes it incredibly difficult for us to actually take action to make it happen.
If you are a shy introvert, you possess certain qualities that give you excellent potential as a writer. You have the gift of introspection, the ability to retreat to your mind, to ponder for endless stretches of time. You can sit in one spot for hours without losing your focus – reading, researching, creating.
But then again… If you are a shy introvert, you are also private and reserved. The thought of “putting yourself out there” and giving random people access to your innermost thoughts can be absolutely terrifying.
One solution to this dilemma is just writing for yourself and making a living doing something else.
But if writing draws you to the point that you can’t imagine doing anything else all day every day, you have no choice but to overcome your natural resistance.
For me personally, this resistance was pretty darn powerful. It kept me stalling until way into my thirties. Until “now or never” slapped me in the face. Until I just couldn’t ignore the draw anymore and had to figure out how to overcome whatever was holding me back.
So – from one shy introvert writer to another – let me share with you how I did that. Let me share with you how to overcome the resistance and how to get started as a writer even if it scares the shit out of you.
Shy Introvert Writer: How To Get Started
1. Allow Yourself To Be A Beginner
This advice is actually not specific to introverts, but it’s so important I had to include it.
Remember that having talent simply means that it’s easier for you to learn the necessary skills than it is for someone whose talents lie in a different area. So even if you have talent as a writer, you might still face some bumps in the beginning.
Sometimes it takes a while to find your voice. Sometimes it takes a while to find the genre and style that feel most comfortable to you. Sometimes words just don’t flow easily even if you’ve been at it for a long time.
It doesn’t matter what new endeavor you start, you need to let yourself be a beginner. Granted, it’s hard to do that when you’re surrounded by others who are way ahead of you. But try not to compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
2. Slowly Expand Your Comfort Zone
If you ever hear yourself start a sentence with “but I could never…,” know that you’re probably just talking about something that’s out of your comfort zone in that particular moment. In that particular moment, you can’t imagine taking the action, because it’s so far out of your comfort zone.
But here’s what I want you to know. Comfort zones can be expanded, and when you do it slowly and incrementally, it’s not that painful.
To give you an example, here’s how my writing and blogging related activities have evolved over the years:
- Writing technical reports in my private sector job. This got me used to people reading my writing and giving me feedback, albeit on a small-scale and in a very non-personal setting.
- Writing a blog about renovating our fixer-upper. This was still a pretty neutral topic, but it got me used to sharing my writing with a larger audience.
- Writing THIS blog, which includes posts on some highly personal topics. Solutions To All Your Problems has acclimated me to sharing my unfiltered thoughts and opinions and sharing them with an even larger audience.
- Right now, I’m working on an e-book about conquering anxiety, which will become available in January. This process will get me comfortable with asking people to pay for my advice. Currently, I give it away for free and just make money from ads.
- Next year, I’m going to create two video courses about self discovery and creating your best life. That process will get me comfortable sharing advice verbally in addition to writing. (Way out of my comfort zone! ;))
I have said “but I could never” about every single one of these five steps. But I actually could. Because at each stage, I only focused on the very next step in front of me. And once I had tackled that one, the next one suddenly seemed more doable.
So here’s my advice: At any one moment, focus on the very next step in front of you. That’s the only step you have to take today. Once you are comfortable with that one, you can start inching toward the next one.
3. Write For One Person
Did you catch above that I mentioned getting used to a larger audience?
You would think the more people read your writing the better, right? You would think a writer would be over the moon by a growing audience?
And yes, every time my page views go up, I do celebrate. But only after I totally freak out. 😀
OMG, all these people know what I’m thinking!
OMG, it’s like they are all looking at me!
I have a very simple cure for these freak-outs. I just try not to think about ALL the people very much.
Introverts do better one-on-one, right? So I picture myself writing for one person. I literally picture one person who is having the problem du jour and that’s who I write to.
This little visualization exercise not only helps me feel less exposed, but it also reminds me that I have a very specific message that is not meant for everyone. Which in turn helps me with the next obstacle…
4. Have A Process For Dealing With Feedback
When you send your writing out into the world, feedback is inevitable. Now, since you are a shy introvert writer, I’m just going to go out on a limb here and assume that you are also fairly sensitive. 😉
This means that any even slightly negative feedback you receive is going to AFFECT you. And I don’t think I have to explain why I wrote that in block letters. You know what I mean.
The best defense for this inevitability is preparation. You need to have a process. You need to have a process that automatically kicks in when negative feedback arrives. I have detailed my process here and you are welcome to borrow it. 🙂
5. Decide If The Discomfort Is Worth It To You
With all that being said… Following your passion as a shy introvert writer is always going to mean contending with your private nature and some degree of discomfort.
What you are reading right now is article #111 on this website. So I have a few of them under my belt. And yet, I’ll probably have my husband click the Publish button for me, so I don’t have to talk myself into doing it.
That way I can put all of my effort toward talking myself out of NPA. NPA is short for New Post Anxiety, a term I invented to describe the freak-out I always experience after publishing a new post.
OMG, what if it’s shit?
OMG, what are ALL those people going to think?
The severity of NPA is directly related to how much of myself I have revealed. Like, for this post, which is not that personal, I’ll talk myself out of it in about 5 minutes. For posts describing my depression, it’s more like 5 hours.
But NPA always does go away. I’m always able to process it and talk myself out of it.
Because I know I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing.
And any discomfort I experience along the way is totally worth it.