Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Perks of Being an Introvert (Part 2)

6 Reasons Why Awkward Makes for Awesome Writing

Silly me -- I thought I could fit a topic I'm wildly passionate about in one post. At any rate, reader, I wish to continue last week's discussion on introversion and writing, and include here reasons 4-6 why being an introvert benefits the writer's lifestyle:

4. Love of Solitude

Current research now shows that there's a scientific reason why introverts prefer quiet time alone -- and guess what, it's not shyness. Similar to our vulnerability to overstimulation, introvert's energy levels are easily drained by social interaction -- even if they're enjoying themselves. Plenty of introverts are friendly and sociable at parties, but all require some hardcore downtime afterwards to "recharge." Introverts' inclination toward contemplative activities and their ability to work better independently than in groups also result in a lot of "alone hours." The idea of spending a significant amount of time by oneself may sound lonely or miserable, but most introverts are very comfortable with solitude. Even if we love being with people, we thrive on those moments of solitude that allow us to explore our inner worlds in ways that a socially active environment cannot afford. It allows us to time to process and reflect on our day-to-day lives, and we gain pleasure by knowing we haven't let it pass by us in a blur.

As a writer, contentment in solitude is a quality I can never take for granted. Writing -- the truly exceptional, dedicated kind -- calls for many solitary hours spent at the writing desk, away from human contact and distraction. For someone like me, that is perfectly okay. My creative and intellectual properties function much better when I'm alone and don't feel pressured by anyone. This preference, combined with my ADD-esque symptoms, means that I often spend as many as 15 hours a day in a room by myself to write. That may sound insane (and maybe it is, a little), but to me it's not daunting at all, if it gets the job done. Most days, that time alone actually makes me feel more energized, more alive, than I could ever feel around other people.

5. Highly Sensitive

The easiest way to put this is: things affect me more. Dr. Elaine Aron, PhD, has done some amazing research on the trait of high sensitivity, which she found is common among introverts (and many extroverts). Essentially, a highly sensitive person (HSP) is someone who literally feels and thinks deeper than her peers; she is extraordinarily susceptible to her environment, making her more likely to be impacted by an event than a less-sensitive person. (That loud noise, for example? Way more annoying to HSPs.) HSPs are also known for their strong empathy -- probably because they can actually feel what another person is feeling due to their excellent intuitive skills.

As a writer, being an HSP makes it easy for me to find inspiration. Even a small occurrence impacts me on a deep emotional level. I'm prone to find profound meaning in everyday struggles, especially as I tap into others' feelings. I'm more likely to notice someone frowning and wonder what's wrong, or to be moved (sometimes to tears) by sad news and when witnessing an act of cruelty (even if it's a fictional one on TV). Furthermore, my writing has the potential to evoke a stronger emotional response simply because it's more authentically emotional (chances are, I feel what my characters are feeling).

6. Introspective

Want to hear something incredible? I am never bored. Literally, never. That's because, as psychologist Jerry Miller at the University of Michigan says, "There is nothing more exciting [to introverts] than ideas." As an introvert, I am comfortable in my own mind. My thoughts and imagination are my greatest source of entertainment, because I take enormous pleasure in quietly taking in the world and analyzing it to death. Simply thinking, for me, is one of the highest forms of bliss that life can offer. Though I used to hate myself for being so "stuck in my own head" all the time, I now treasure my introspection as a gift. Writing, after all, is an endless search for the significance of things -- finding metaphors in daily events, exploring the reasons for pain, desperately seeking the meaning of human life. My introspection means that such quiet searching is innate; I am constantly imagining, reflecting, and coming up with meanings. I am content to meditate on the strange mystery of existence until the end of my days.
Accepting myself as an introvert is by far one of the best decisions I ever made. We are each born with unique qualities, gifts, and quirks that make us who we are, and that make us suited for tasks that only we can fulfill in ways only we can offer. Becoming the best version of oneself is not about forcing upon yourself extrinsic characteristics in order to fit in. It's about realizing that there is a small corner in the world with a void in it, and that it's oddly the perfect size and shape for you.
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I hope you enjoyed this series. I would love to hear your thoughts, particularly from fellow writers. Introverts, do any of the above qualities play a role in your writing career? Are there others that I failed to mention? Extroverts, what qualities of your nature do you find yourself employing in your writing? Do you feel challenged by some of the more introverted aspects of writing (e.g., solitude), or are these habits easy to adopt for a pursuit you love? Please let me know in the comments below! Also, I encourage everyone to check out Susan Cain's book Quiet, which explains how introversion "works" in the most beautiful, spot-on way I've ever seen.

Grace and peace to you.

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