Being an introvert isn’t the embarrassing secret it once was—Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking did loads to unravel the ‘mystery’ surrounding introverts and demonstrate that the introvert’s way of going about things is something contemporary society is in dire need of. As such, it comes as no surprise that many a book on introversion and how to be an introvert in a world celebrating the extravert have reached the market in the past few years. Being a fan of her work, Joanna Penn’s Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and other Introverts immediately comes to mind.
Jamie Arpin-Ricci’s The Introvert Writer: Being Your Creative Best By Being Your Truest Self is such a book. Focusing not on the introvert in general but on the introvert writer in particular, Arpin-Ricci tries to provide a view as broad as possible on what being an introvert writer entails. He doesn’t just focus on the introvert writer’s strengths, he also points out the pitfalls of being both an introvert and a writer and how we can overcome these while staying true to ourselves. And with success.
The changing face of publishing
One of the first things Arpin-Ricci acknowledges is that the market as it is today demands writers, especially the self-published ones, to get out there and promote their books by becoming a public figure. We might not like it—and Arpin-Ricci doesn’t argue we need to—but it is what it is. If we want to have a successful writing career (and no one says you have to, so throw caution to the wind if you’re good where you are), we need to get out of our offices and engage with the world. But, and that’s one of the reasons I consider this little book a gem, we can and must do it on our own terms.
The (un)healthy introvert
In the first chapter, Arpin-Ricci differentiates between the ‘healthy’ and the ‘unhealthy’ introvert. The so-called unhealthy introvert sees their introversion as an obstacle they couldn’t possibly overcome, turning themselves into powerless victims of a world that’s clearly not for them. The ‘healthy’ introvert, however, doesn’t use their introversion as an excuse not to venture out of their comfort zone. Instead, they consider their strengths and weaknesses to figure out the best way for them to go about something.
Take public speaking, for example. For quite a few writers, public speaking has helped their business. For most introverts, public speaking is miles out of their comfort zones. The ‘unhealthy’ introverts might tell themselves they couldn’t possibly do this, because public speaking is not for introverts. The ‘healthy’ introverts will see that the ability to speak in public might help their careers, and that they, as introverts, need to reflect on whether they could do public speaking on their own terms. We might not be able to appear in public as often as other public speakers, or speak for the same amount of people, or as long, but that doesn’t mean public speaking is by definition not something we might use to build our careers. We just need to find our own way around it.
And how do we find our way around it? By taking stock of the particular abilities that we have as introverts (establishing strong online relationships, our love for in-depth research, et cetera) and using these in ways that can benefit our careers. Once we understand the potential of introversion, and the book will surely help you do that, we can use it as a stepping stone to slowly but surely venture out of our comfort zones, taking one baby step at a time. The same goes for our weaknesses. Knowing our weaknesses is one thing; understanding what they are keeping us from is another, and one that might give us the tools to gradually develop behaviours that are more beneficial to our writing and our careers.
Finding that sweet spot
Balance and compromising are two other important topics that The Introvert Writer: Being Your Creative Best By Being Your Truest Self keeps coming back to. Whether Arpin-Ricci is talking about the importance of creating room to write (mentally and physically) or the importance of self-care for introvert writers, he acknowledges that the reality of our situation doesn’t always live up to what we prefer and/or need. It could be the lack of a proper office, the inability to fund a writing retreat, or the reality of having a family—each situation calls for a willingness to compromise and balance our ideal situation with the one we’re actually living in at the moment. That that isn’t a bad thing per se is a sentiment I don’t often come across, and I appreciated the pragmatism Arpin-Ricci bestows upon his readers. While setting strict boundaries when it comes to your writing practice is something we all need to do, you can’t always get what you want, and a solid compromise could very well do more for you than an all or nothing approach ever could.
To top things off, Arpin-Ricci provides a good lists of sources at the end of the book, including Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, which was a serious game changer for me. Plus, if I haven’t convinced you yet that this is a book you need to read, it’s less than a dollar, so go grab your copy here!
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(The Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage if you buy through these links.)