I’ve studied, trained on, and spoken to audiences about human personality for over a quarter of a century now. But one of my favorite ways to use my education is to help my writing friends.
Recently, one of my author pals described her struggle. “I can’t seem to find my motivation. This summer has flown by with my visiting children and grandchildren. By the time they leave, I’m exhausted and don’t feel like doing anything creative.
“Having a recently retired husband under foot isn’t helping either. I’ve tried moving to several different rooms, but the noise of the TV or his honey-do repairs, not to mention his unrequested input or endless questions, disrupt my thoughts. When I write, I need quiet time to reflect, organized space to prepare, and a break from other people. I also need my family to take what I do seriously — most of them don’t think writing is real work.”
My friend is definitely an introvert. And what she was voicing was permission to work according to her intrinsic, soul-deep needs.
I replied, “It’s okay for you to feel this way. Have you told your family how you feel?”
“Not really,” she said with a sigh. “I don’t want to offend them.”
“I understand, but do you realize they may not grasp what they are doing to you?”
“We often assume other people know what our needs are, but the truth is, unless we tell them, few even think about it. One thing you might consider is coming up with an assertive, yet respectful way to let the people in your life know what’s bothering you. For instance, you could say, ‘I think my writing might have caused some confusion. I know most people don’t realize I’m working, especially since I do it from home, even I forget sometimes. But this is part of my job. I hope you understand if I put a few guidelines in place, to hold me accountable, so my work gets done and I meet my deadlines. It might mean I’m not available as much as you are used to.'”
“I could probably do that,” my friend replied.
I chuckled as I remembered when I first created my Writer’s Cave guidelines with my own family and friends. I had imagined all kinds of reactions, but once I shared my plan, they took it in stride and quickly adapted. It freed me from much writing angst.
I commiserated with my friend. “Dealing with your husband is a different matter — since he does live in your home too.”
Her soft laughter had a tinge of nervousness to it.
“Have you tried scheduling yourself in a closed room for a period of time and asked your husband if he could keep the volume down? Have you requested he wait to do repairs or ask questions until your allotted time ends?”
“Silencing ear muffs are another great alternative. I’ve got a set you can borrow.”
Her laughter had a relaxed ring this time. “I’ll have to check into those.”
“If neither of those options work, or if it offends your family, then maybe you could find a quiet coffee shop, restaurant, or other location away from home to help you concentrate. One with few people, since company drains your creative juices.
You can honestly tell your family and friends, ‘I won’t be available from this time to this time, I have a writing appointment.’ They don’t need to know the details, or that your appointment is with yourself.”
“I like that last option. Thanks.”
My introverted friend needed emotional support more than anything. She needed permission to be herself, someone drained of creative energy after an extended period of time with other people, even those she loves deeply. She knew what was necessary, but was afraid to act, she needed a third-party voice to set her free.
It must have worked. The last I heard, she was making good progress.
Writing with Personality is helpful for introverts, and their counterparts, extroverts. (I’ll share some insights about the latter next time.) But wherever you fall on the personality spectrum, as Socrates reminds, know yourself, and allow you to be and do as needed — otherwise, you will struggle to get your writing done. Another great writer and natural introvert, Karen Jordan, shared her insider’s perspective recently — it’s a great read, especially if you don’t want to feel alone.
Are you drained or energized by extended periods of time spent with other people?