Tips for the Shy and/or Introverted Writer

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You know who you are. You know that marketing is part of the writing process, but you loathe it. Maybe you even fear it. You’re much more at home being . . . well . . . at home—just you and your laptop. Connecting with other people can sometimes be dreadful and draining.
I’ve been there.
Early in my journalism career—back in the last century—I was covering the 1984 presidential election in New Hampshire. My assignment: ask random strangers on the street who they were going to vote for in the primary. It took me twenty minutes to muster the courage to ask a person that simple question.
Since then, I’ve thought long and hard about why I’d felt that way.
Part of it is that I’m innately shy. I’m also strongly introverted. Yet, along the way (45 years in journalism, five novels, and a post-CNN career as a writing coach), I’ve learned, by necessity, how to connect with others in a way that still allows me to be true to my basic psychological makeup.
Here are some practical tips for getting out of your comfort zone:
  1. Recognize the Fear: Shyness and fear go hand in hand. As writers, perhaps our biggest fears are being rejected, being judged, not being good enough, and failure. The irony, of course, is that ALL of those fears are well founded. We will be rejected and judged; there’s always someone who’s a better writer; not everything we write will be published or win awards. The first step toward conquering fear is to acknowledge it.
  2. Go Forward Anyway: The guys who stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day in 1944 were terrified, but they went forward anyway. That’s the ultimate definition of courage: fear in action. I’m not suggesting that you should somehow magically make your fear disappear; I’m suggesting that you harness your fear. When you go forward despite your fears, the byproduct is confidence—an inner strength that will equip you to face and conquer the next scary thing.
  3. Take the Focus Off Yourself: Being an introvert in a room full of strangers can be daunting. One introvert told me, “It’s exhausting. I feel like I have to be ‘on.’ But telling the same anecdotes over and over is draining.” My suggestion: talk less and ask more. Asking questions swivels the spotlight away from you and onto the other person.
  4. Follow Your Curiosity: Perhaps the biggest takeaway from my time as a journalist is the discovery that people love to talk about themselves. Your questions are an invitation to blossom.
  5. Apply the Payoff: I teach an entire class on interviewing techniques, but this is the bottom line: When you turn the spotlight onto another person, you’ll widen your horizon. The more you follow your curiosity, the more you’ll learn first-hand from and about people of other genders, races, cultures, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The payoff: It will inform the creation of your stories during those times when you’re back in your comfort zone . . . writing.