Writing Styles: Extroversion and Introversion

Hello SE friends, Gwen with you today, and together we’ll be exploring how extroversion or introversion affects our writing. Let’s begin with a story.

My husband and I are regulars at Panera Bread. With masks on and social distancing practiced, it’s a setting where we relax and chat about the latest crisis of the day. Whenever we go, I’m amazed to see a number of writers tapping away on their laptop – while music plays and people converse six feet away. It’s these writers who prompt my post today.

I’m fascinated by those who can write amid storms of any kind. These Panera colleagues sit with their coffee and breakfast roll, and when their phone rings, they laugh freely and enjoy the brief exchange. After goodbyes, they’re back to writing – unfazed. And when someone walks by, they often look up and say hello, and may even chat a bit before they return to tapping.

I marvel at these unknown writers, because they do what I cannot do.

I need silence when I write. I need to focus on the story that tugs at me. If a phone call disrupts my train of thought, when I return to writing, I must reread what I written and start over again. The same is true if my husband stops by to tell me about the woodpecker outside. I enjoy the excitement, but before I start writing again, I must reread what I’ve written and start again. This pattern is an integral part my day. Starts and restarts. But somehow the writers in Panera aren’t affected in the same way.

In the 1920s, psychiatrist Dr. Carl Jung identified how each of us faces into the world through a particular lens. He created a scale that measured opposite ways of seeing, or perceiving, or experiencing. The first of these scales is a measurement of Extroversion and Introversion. I suspect that at least some of the Panera writers are extroverts, as they seem to enjoy all the signs and sounds of life around them. They are energized by people and untroubled by interruptions.

Like many writers, I’m an introvert. My thoughts travel from head to heart to tummy and back again, and if I lose sight of that busy route, I retrace my steps. It isn’t that I’m unaware of the chirps outside my window, but I’m more focused on finding just the right word to capture some hidden truth.

The difference between extroverts and introverts is that the first is energized by social interaction, and the latter is refreshed by the interior world. My fantasy writing place is tucked away, far from phones or other distractions, a place where I can see the horizon and otherwise enjoy silence. How about you?

If you are unsure whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, you can go to this site and take a short test. I’ve found Dr. Jung’s typology scale both intriguing and freeing. We all have aspects of both types, but knowing the lens through which we dominantly perceive reality can help us structure our writing experience.

There’s no right or wrong, no good or bad, we’re born extroverted or introverted.

Below is a chart I created that attempts to identify some of the characteristics common to introverted and extroverted writers. I’d love to hear if you can relate to any of these points.

  EXTROVERTS INTROVERTS
Writing environment that provides:
Outside stimulation: writing in a public areas, music, frequent social breaks.Silence: a place to concentrate, to listen to the voice within, to keep on track.  
Processes information by:
Talking through ideas and brainstorming possibilities, social activities.Taking time to think through feedback and consider alternatives.
A learning style that:
Seeks a general understanding and then moves on.Relies on research and digs deep.
A communication style that:
Talks more than listens. Seeks out others when stressed. Prefers doing things with groups.Listens more than speaks. Manages stress by withdrawing. Prefers doing things alone.
Approaches marketing:
As a challenge and adventure.As a dreaded but necessary process.

It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today. With my next visit, we’ll dive into Jung’s Sensing and Intuitive scale, as it relates to writers. Till then, I hope you have a great week!

82 thoughts on “Writing Styles: Extroversion and Introversion

  1. Pingback: #ReblogAlert – This Week on #StoryEmpire | The Write Stuff

    • You made me laugh, Robbie. Some folks straddle both and do exactly as you do. They’re called ambivert or omnivert. “If an ambivert is somewhere between an introvert and an extrovert, an omnivert can be both introvert and extrovert — an introvert at some times and an extrovert at others. … But they also need alone time to recharge (typically after being an extrovert).” 💗

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  2. This is a fascinating topic, Gwen. I’m a strange blend of introvert and extrovert. I enjoy socializing with people, or I should say, I was trained to socialize with people. I went to Bible college in Hong Kong to prepare for the church ministry, but I was a shy person. When I took the voice lesson, I remember distinctively what she said about reaching out to people. I learned to carry on the conversation and inquire how people were doing. Yet when I was not working, I liked to be alone. I could be in a restaurant or coffee shop surrounded by people but preferred not talking to people.
    This seems to be a habit. I love meeting with groups of people but only several times a week before the pandemic. The rest of the time I preferred to be at home, spending time in my garden. When I study or write, I used to have soft music on. I told a professor once that I needed the music to fill in the gaps when my mind was blank from writing. He teased that sometimes the music filled in too much gap.

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  3. Hi Gwen–Thanks for sharing the article on introversion and extroversion. I’m a blend of both introversion and extroversion. Although I need a quiet place to write, sometimes with music, I need the stimulation of traveling, meeting readers at events, and talking to my husband about plot ideas to inspire ideas. I thought I would get more written during the Covid-19 shutdown, but I found myself less energetic to do so because of the isolation. This is consistent with a Meyers-Briggs assessment that I did several years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing as you have, Linnea. I think many writers experienced that same letdown during our collective isolation. We definitely need each other and stimulation in some form or another. How fun that you can talk with your husband about plot ideas! All the best…😊

      Liked by 1 person

    • Somehow you manage beautifully, Jacquie. You’re one of the most prolific and talented writers I know. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your insights. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Quite an interesting topic! I find myself on both sides of the ledger for these characteristics. I absolutely do my best reading and writing in a quiet environment. I’m a bit envious of those who can manage to tune everything else out because I can’t concentrate (especially in reading comprehension) when I’m in any noisy environment. My classroom was often an active place, with sometimes four or five activities going on at the same time. That usually meant more noise—I called it productive nose with students engaged in active learning. In the middle of all of the semi-chaos, I’d look up and see a child seemingly unfazed, reading contentedly, able to tune it all out. While it is a skill I wish I had, I don’t think it’s related to being introverted or extroverted. I’m more extroverted than introverted, but I could never do that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing this, Pete. I’ve wondered if it were a skill, and you’ve resurfaced that question for me. Whether it is or not, I just know I don’t have that ability. I can do lots of things in the midst of chaos or noise but writing isn’t one of them. Thank you again for the insight and clarity! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I fall between these two sides, as a writer who both cherishes alone time, and who finds the general chatter of a coffee shop to be the right background sound to falling into a deeper state of focus – but I won’t notice when people I know walk by me unless they tap me on the shoulder or sit in front of me. I sink so deep into my concentration that I literally lose track of all the noise except as a background.

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    • Thank you for sharing this, Tyrean. I wish I could do the same. Several of the Story Empire writers mentioned that they love the coffee house setting for writing, and like you, they tune out the chatter. Whatever works best… Have a great day! 😊

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  6. Hi,
    I am not quite sure of what I am because I also go on stage and on stage i have to reach out to my audience. I know about Carl Jung and I have read some of his books, especially his book about the theory on synchronization. Overall, I write best when I am alone. I do go to a special cafe and Ivan write there because I like to sit alone.
    Thank you for sharing. I must give this more thought when I have time.
    All the best.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Pat. I always appreciate your Shalom Aleichem. 😊 I’m definitely an introvert, but I can go on stage and speak to crowds, which is what I had to do when I was working. Thinking of your book, Turn the Light On, there’s tender interiority. Quite beautiful.

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    • Thank you for sharing, Michele. My sister is an extrovert, and like you, noise and distractions don’t bother her at all. We laugh about this very topic. 😊

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  7. Excellent post, Gwen. I took the test, and it’s dead-on. While I write, I wear headphones with the volume on high. The music becomes white noise but it also acts as a self-hypnosis technique. Once I slide on the headphones, my mind snaps into work-mode.

    My results:
    INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally “doers” as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn. INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.”

    Thanks for another eye-opening post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for sharing your results and writing process, Sue. It’s amazing how you can shift into work mode once the headphones are on. I haven’t come up with an easy solution for me, except silence or soft ambient music. I love this exchange. 💗

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love people, but I recharge my batteries when I’m alone. I need that alone time, and that’s how I write, too. HIdden somewhere, away from whatever’s going on around me. I can take distractions in my stride–I’ve had too many kids in and out of our house–but I write once they leave my space.

    Liked by 3 people

    • LOL. Yep, no surprise. I remember your story about writing on an airplane and being inspired by conversations and then giving the poem to the stewardess. Think where that story could lead, if she still has it. You might even have a movie. I envy your freedom. I can’t write during hurricanes, but I seem to be able to internalize them.😁

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  9. What a fascinating post, Gwen, and such an insightful look into the human psyche. I took the test and I am an INFP – 22% Introvert, 19% Intuitive, 41% Feeling, and 9% Perceiving. I would say that’s pretty accurate. I have always lived life from my heart. I have a hard time tuning out people around me in a public place because I am a natural-born people watcher. I am intrigued by peoples’ behaviors in public. I could never get deeply involved in my writing in a public place like Panera Bread or Starbucks. However, I did write a majority of my first book in a huge library in Denver. It had an incredible wide-open view of the mountains and whenever I needed to figure out what to write next, I’d gaze out at the beautiful scenery (and it was quiet). Thank you so much for sharing this post. Truly fascinating stuff!

    Liked by 3 people

    • We’re very similar in terms of typology, Jan. When I’m around unknown others I tend to feel their struggles, so I’m always distracted. I have to write in silence, otherwise, my mind would dart in all directions and want to reach out to these strangers. 💗 Nature offers profound relief and stimulation. Thank you for sharing so beautifully.

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  10. As is often the case, I find myself stuck in the middle again. 😀 I’m an ENFJ according to the test (yes, I went straight over to take it), slightly more extraverted than introverted, but very much in the mid-range. I think it depends on what I’m doing and where. Some situations bring out the extravert in me, and others send me creeping off to the sidelines. 😀

    But one thing I know for SURE. I’m a total introvert when it comes to writing. Leave. Me. Alone. Please. I want total silence. No tv, no ringing phones, no one talking to me or even around me. I need to be IN the scene I’m writing, standing quietly behind my characters, observing just what they’re up to, or what’s about to happen to them.

    I also have learned that when I’m in a situation where I feel comfortable, I can stand in front of groups and chat all day long about things I love, and I like it best when the audience is engaged, too: asking questions, laughing at the appropriate places, sharing an observation they’ve made, and now and then, even taking notes. (I have one or two “regulars” who do that a lot.) While I’m comfortable standing up front with my slides and information, I’m happiest when the group is thoroughly involved.

    Very interesting post, Gwen, and glad to be reminded that where Extroversion and Introversion are concerned, it’s not always an Either/Or situation. There’s loads of middle ground. (Where I am! 😀 )

    Liked by 5 people

    • Wonderful description, Marcia!! Thank you. Yep, we are all a bit of both, and some of us stand right in the middle. I love how you write, standing behind your characters. Beautiful. 💗

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, Gwen. I really enjoyed your post AND the test. And where writing is concerned, I simply do NOT want to be reminded of where my physical body is, when my heart and soul needs to be right there with my characters. 🙂

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  11. I’m weird. At home, I need quiet, ambient noise, or background music with no words. My family distracts me. (Probably because part of my brain is always tuned in to what they’re doing.) But I can write at Panera with no problem, and pre-pandemic, I used to go to cafes for a change in scenery just to break out of a rut. But I know I’m an introvert. I’ve taken the tests before and I’m definitely an INFJ.

    Fascinating post. Looking forward to the next one.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Staci. I think the ability to tune out background conversations is an incredible skill. I can do it but it requires immense concentration – and another cup of coffee! With the next post, I’ll focus on writers who are intuitive, or conversely, sensing. Though I’m quite familiar with Myers-Briggs typologies, this is the first time I’ve considered the impact of typology on writers. By the way, we are very similar in terms of type. 😊

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  12. Gwen, I love delving into information like this. I’ve long been fascinated by personality types.
    I am a staunch introvert, but surprisingly–despite needing quiet when I write at home (or only having soft instrumental music in the background)–I’m one of those people who can write at Panera’s. Before the pandemic, it was part of my regular Friday morning routine. Something about the atmosphere stimulates me. The same, however, can also be said about writing at the library.
    Loved your post and I’m looking forward to the next in the series!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Mae. Personality types are fascinating for me as well. For sure, Panera’s is a treasure trove for ideas. There are definitely introverted writers like you who frequent the setting, usually sitting in a quiet spot. When I visit, I’m with my husband and then I’m more in the observing mode. I hadn’t thought of a library for a while, but you are so right! 😊

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  13. I consider myself a social introvert. When in a group, I can interact and socialize, but I’m most at home by myself or with just a couple of people. I cannot write with distractions, which is why I get very little writing done. Lol! Great post today, Gwen. 🙂

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    • Thank you, Yvette, I marvel at how much you write even with your busy life. Like you, I’m comfortable in groups, but I’m at home when I’m alone or with just a few. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m definitely an introvert. Because of my day job, I’ve had to become more extroverted, but I prefer to spend my writing time alone and in a quiet setting. As much as music inspires me to write, I need silence when writing.

    I use to frequent a local coffee shop with my laptop, but it was more to observe. I never got much writing done.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Joan. Music inspires me as well, but like you, I need silence to write. Coffee shops are great settings for ideas and watching social interactions, almost a world of its own. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Very interesting. After reading this I discovered I am both and it depends on where I am in my life. If I am amidst chaos, I become the introverted writer finding time between the chaos to get away and be in silence with my thoughts. If things are going well and my brain is not too overwhelmed, I can be perfectly at home writing while my life spins around me. But ultimately, when the ideas hit, I break out my phone no matter where I am and type feverishly to get the idea somewhere before they escape me. The day into night job, plus child, plus photography on the side with a dose of classes makes it hard to find the quiet for now. If I can break out and become published, then let’s see if this changes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a great description of using both extroversion and introversion! Thank you, Erin. 😊 I’ve just visited your website (beautiful!) and gone to Voices of Change (powerful!), you are a busy woman, and you’re managing it incredibly well. I’m so pleased to meet you here.

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      • Thank you for such kind words. It doesn’t feel like it, but I have no choice…life moves on with or without you so may as well throw in things that feed your soul while we muddle through! Have a great day and happy to have met you as well❤

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Pingback: Writing Styles: Extroversion and Introversion | Story Empire | Welcome to Harmony Kent Online

  17. I hadn’t thought about this before, Gwen, I’ve always managed to shut out my surroundings, unless someone talks directly to me. I’ve realised now, that I then completely lose the thread of my writing, and have to leave it for a while until I’m back in the right frame of mind. Looking forward to following this discussion. Thanks

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    • Thank you for sharing, Judith. I’ve always been amazed by people, like Mozart. who need distractions to write or compose, but now I understand. Each vantage point has its richness and moving forward, I hope to explain that richness even more. 🙂

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  18. This is a fantastic post, Gwen! I definitely can check off each box under the introvert. I remember the first Facebook party I attended…I was left exhausted by the interaction. As someone who is easily distracted, I can’t imagine writing in a public setting. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you for sharing, Jill. I so relate. I used to work in a very extroverted setting. When I’d go home from my busy day, I’d collapse and need time to collect myself, while some of my colleagues were out partying. Solitude is a lifesaver for those of us who are introverts. 😊

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  19. Great post. I’m definitely in the introvert author category. At least I need noise I can control like music from my laptop. Full silence makes me think someone is going to check on me at any moment like when I was a teenager. I wonder if those who write in public are more likely to be pantsers too.

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  20. Pingback: Writing Styles: Extroversion and Introversion | Legends of Windemere

  21. What a wonderful and insightful post, Gwen. I never thought about writers who can write in the noise and not be distracted. It makes sense they are extroverted. I already knew I was introvert, but read through the list with fascination. I love writing anywhere peaceful and get so lost in it I can lose track of time. I think I took this test in a psychology class years ago, but am curious to redo it! I look forward to your next post 🙂

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