Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Extrovert vs The Introvert Writer... Are shy writers missing out?

In the world of writing, there appear to be two types of authors: Introvert and Extrovert.

Extroverts writers are full of confidence. They speak at book conferences, are pros at social media, and radiate confidence in a manner that has us googling their books in an instant. They command success, and seem to believe in themselves utterly.

Arguably, introvert writers are more emotional. On social media, they share the ups and downs, their insecurities. We get more of a sense of the human behind the words. But in the cutthroat industry that is writing, are the introverts losing out?

These days, publishing is becoming less about writing and more about the authors themselves. We only have to look at the surge of celebrities securing book deals to know that having a ready-made fan base is attractive to potential publishers. I’m not sure about the US, but here in the UK it is common to walk into a bookstore and see the names of household names—TV presenters, models, comedians—plastered across the front of novels. Likewise, local book signings are usually reserved only for those who will pull in the crowds.

It stands to reason therefore, that the author who creates a celebrity-esque image for themselves is going to be more successful than those who do not. And the key to this, like so much in this life, is confidence.

There’s a author I saw speak at a conference once. I was totally in awe of her poise—the ability to sit in front of a room full of strangers and string full and coherent sentences together. Just listening to her convinced me that I needed to read her books. This, I thought to myself at the time, is an author who has something to say. I didn’t read the books as it happened (my bad) but I did check them out on Amazon, etc. To my surprise, she wasn’t as wildly successful as I assumed she’d be. In fact, before the conference, I’d never heard of her. But of course, I know who she is now and I suppose that’s the trick.

Introvert writers (like myself) often lack this fundamental ‘look at me’ quality. Many of us suffer with impostor syndrome, the fear that we’re successful by luck or chance and that any moment our agents/editors/publishers are going to find out we’re useless and get super angry. This week I had a classic insecure writer moment. I got a great review from a popular blog and experienced a single yee-hah thought before it’s negative friend popped into my head—Did someone pay them to write that?!

Recently, I heard the now famous story about Neil Gaiman meeting Neil Armstrong, which made me wonder—if we all feel like impostors, then are extrovert writers merely better actors than the rest of us? And if so, can we learn to act confident too? Since getting published, I try to put myself out there as much as I’m comfortable with. I’m not ready for addressing a massive room of people yet, but there are other smaller steps I try to take so that one day I might be. These might be insignificant to some—book fairs, author meetups—but to me, they are tiny achievements.

I wonder maybe if beneath the bravado and tweets and witty quips, we’re all afraid. Perhaps putting ourselves out there is just a learning curve that some are more adept at than others. I suppose the important thing is to push the boundaries and challenge ourselves until we fit comfortably into our writer shoes.

What do you think? Is the extroverted, confident writer ahead of the game? Or is it the writing that really counts in the end?

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