Writing with Personality for Introverts

Writing With Personality

Five Fresh Starts for the Living

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?”

“They should.”

“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?”

“Well, no.”

“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.

Know Thyself -- SocratesWriting 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?

 

7 Tips about the Basic Needs and Stressors of Introverts

Image/karenjordan.netThank you, Jesus—I’m home again!

A few weeks ago, I found myself surrounded by extroverts, enjoying their confidence as they absorbed energy from all who surrounded them at a publishing event for Christian writers.

And all the activity almost sucked the life out of this introvert! I’m still exhausted.

Thankfully, my extrovert travel companion understood the strengths and weaknesses of an introvert, even though I’m sure she tired from dragging me out of my comfort zone.

Ever wondered what makes an introvert tick? I don’t have to look beyond my own mirror to answer that question. So, I hope the following tips help you understand some of the basic needs and stressors of introverts.

1. Personal space energizes introverts. And when we get stressed out, we need to be left alone. Being in crowds drains us, so we often need to find some alone time to recharge our batteries.

2. Extroverts often misunderstand the need for personal space, and introverts tend to be more withdrawn at times. So, they might need to come out of their caves and share their perspective with those who might misinterpret their need for solitude. And sometimes, they might need a little motivation to abandon their comfort zone.

3. Social situations routinely cause grief for introverts, as they struggle with small talk with strangers. They appreciate friends who understand and encourage them in stressful social settings.

4. Networking can frustrate introverts who aren’t prepared for that kind of interaction. Pitching new projects to a publisher at large events can be an overwhelming task for introvert writers. So, practicing their pitches with other writers can boost their confidence.

5. Focus can also challenge introverts since they tend to be distracted in intense environments. They may need to consider taking a few tips about planning schedules and sticking to deadlines from their more organized friends.

6. REST is a basic need for everyone. Facing my own weaknesses proved to be another opportunity to utilize my prayer strategy of REST: Remember, Exalt, Surrender, and Trust, based on Philippians 4:5-7.

. . . The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (NIV). (Phil. 4:5-7 NIV)

7. Prayer. During my worst moments under the stress of over-stimulating social situations and networking challenges, I searched for some personal space, and put this prayer strategy from Lamentations 3:28-29 into practice: “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (The Message).

Remembering and focusing on the presence of God enables me to exalt his Word over my circumstances, surrender my weaknesses and burdens to him, and trust him to guard my heart and my mind with his peace.

Are you an introvert, living in an extrovert’s world? What strategies help you when the energy of others is zapping the strength out of you?

Seven Reasons to Build a Launch Team

Image/WordsthatChangeEverything_quote09When I first considered building a Facebook Launch Team for my Words That Change Everything book launch, I had hoped to enlist a few other writers or bloggers. And after participating in several other launch teams, I had many great ideas from thos experiences.

Although several seasoned writer and blogger friends volunteered to help, some non-writer friends and relatives asked to joined my book launch team.

I received them with open arms. And they have been a tremendous blessing during the book launch process.

You may ask, “Can people with little or no clout online be an asset to my launch team?”BookCover/WordsThatChangeEverything

Yes! You bet! Below I’ve listed seven reasons why I believe my Words That Change Everything Launch Team worked.

  1. Everyone has a tribe. Even my youngest grandson Ben has his tribe of young friends. And although Ben isn’t online yet, when Ben talks, people listen!
  2. Friends and Family. Your friends and family care about your success. And if they volunteer, they will be passionate about supporting your project.
  3. BookCover/RESTNotesGiveaways. Freebies go a long way! For my book launch, I offered RESTNotes: 15-Day Devotional Guide to Words That Change Everything. My tribe embraced this eBook with excitement and gratitude.
  4. Shareable images also proved to be a hit. The marketing team at Leafwood publishing provided awesome shareable images with quotes from my book. And I also made a few images to share with readers, using some of my own photos.
  5. Free books! I also expressed my appreciation to my launch team by sending them a gift of my book, Words That Change Everything.
  6. Facebook posts. My team was thrilled with their signed copy of my book. And many of them posted pictures of my book cover on their social networks, stirring some interest with their online friends.
  7. Prayers. Some of the most valuable resources of my launch team proved to be their prayer support, encouraging words, and honest feedback.

Do you have a book launch coming up? I hope you’ll consider building a launch team on Facebook. It worked for me!

What strategies have worked for you in your book launches?

Surviving the Valley

You hear a lot on the writing journey that it’s filled with highs and lows—probably more so in publishing because it’s rapidly changing and I personally wouldn’t consider any part of the industry stable or predictable.

valley-of-fire-1390258_1920The problem is the valley is hard. What exactly do you do? Do you give up writing? How do you readjust to keep your writing career moving forward when seemingly no one wants the words you’re putting on the page?

My writing valley (really—the deep dark hole of despair) started after my first trilogy was published. I worked really hard marketing those books, had great reviews, and two out of three of the books were each nominated for multiple awards. I was even told by my publisher that I was (at one point) their second-bestselling fiction author.

I thought there was no way my next proposal wouldn’t be picked up—by somebody. Well, it wasn’t and to be honest it put me in a psychological funk. I was pretty convinced that my envisioned bestselling author status dreams were rapidly crumbling in front of my eyes.

I’ve come through my first major valley (I’m sure one of many to come) and I thought I’d share what I did to survive it without throwing my writing career in the trash and lighting it on fire.

  1. Grieve. It’s okay to be sad about it. The writing life is unpredictable—even that’s a pretty generous understatement. Your writing life didn’t go as planned and it’s hard to readjust dreams sometime—but do readjust.
  2. Help other authors. Help them promote their books. Read books for endorsement. Review novels. Keep your name in the reader’s mind by having your name on their books.
  3. Stay active on social media. Even if you’re not publishing, keep engaging with your readers and other authors.
  4. Keep writing and learning the writing craft. Above all else—don’t stop writing. Journal. Blog. Write a new book proposal. Use this time to brush up on the areas of your writing that aren’t strong. Read those numerous writing craft books that have been piling up beside your bed (come on, I know you have them!) Learn those pesky computer things you’ve been putting off. Scrivner. Newsletter distribution sites. Take an on-line writing course. Even James Patterson has one now that’s very reasonably priced.
  5. Write outside your genre. During my valley, an editor from Guideposts reached out to me and asked me to audition for a cozy mystery series they were putting together. Hmm. Cozy mystery? I write thrillers. Straight up thrillers. I honestly didn’t think I could write gentle enough for a cozy mystery, but what else was I really doing? So I tried it. My first submission, well, you could probably predict the feedback I received. Too dark. The heroine’s not cheery enough. By the way, this surprised no one that knew me. But I resubmitted—and they loved it! And then the series didn’t move forward. I auditioned for a different Guideposts series and washed out again. Maybe cozy mystery wasn’t for me, but it did prove I could write something other than thrillers and I built bridges to editors at Guideposts even if they didn’t take me on for those projects.
  6. Fractured MemoryListen to God’s nudgings. Looking back with perfect vision, I felt that God used the Guideposts experience to get me to write outside my comfort zone. During this process, I started thinking about a contest called Blurb to Book that Love Inspired was hosting. Never did I imagine I would write for them. I didn’t think I was a good fit, but I found myself obsessing about this contest to the point where I couldn’t sleep. So I entered, and I ended up winning a contract for Fractured Memory, my novel releasing this month from Love Inspired Suspense. Suddenly, I was clawing my way out of that dark writing well.
  7. Go indie. In this writing age, there is literally no reason to not have content out for readers. Don’t quit your day job and scrap and save every penny you can to hire a good editor, proofreader, and book cover designer. I do say this with some caution—be sure you put out a good book! Don’t sabotage yourself into another pit.

Overall, take the valley as a place that can provide rest, rejuvenation, and growth. Perhaps you will need to go back to a paying job or postpone the plans that you had of quitting or reducing your hours. Just know that the valley is survivable and it doesn’t have to mean the demise of your writing career.

Tell me, how have you survived low points in your writing career?

 

 

Don’t ride . . . DRIVE the train!

trainAbout fifteen years ago, while taking a graduate course in Spirituality and Leadership, I had a professor who presented me with one of the most motivational sayings I’ve ever encountered: “Don’t just ride the train, be the engineer!”

Okay, maybe not the most theological statement I heard in the course of my graduate program, but it lit up my brain in ways I’d rarely experienced since finishing my undergrad degree decades earlier. Knowing myself to be an introvert and nonconfrontational, I’d always preferred to have someone else take the lead in projects at work; the only role in which I felt confident enough to be in charge was as a mother to my children. (Looking back, I can only say that ignorance was truly bliss, but that’s another post or two or a thousand.)

But the moment my professor uttered that directive, I had an epiphany that any writing career I wanted to pursue was going to demand that I drive the train, and not just ride along on whatever might come my way. As a result, I began to view writing as a vehicle I would steer, and, when necessary, refuel with energy and hard work. I also accepted that no one else cared as much as I did whether that train finally arrived; not even the support of spouse, family and friends (as important as that is!) would bring that train into the station if I didn’t commit myself to being the engineer.

I share this story with you because every writer needs to know that writing requires you to make that train your own: if you want to be successfully published, you have to learn the business, and these days, that means EVERY aspect of the business: writing craft, understanding your audience, marketing, platform building, travel requirements, publishing trends. Gone are the days when your publisher says, “Thanks for writing this swell book. We’ll take it from here.” Even your agent – if you’re fortunate enough to land an agent – can’t hold your hand through every stage of book development, because she or he is swamped just trying to navigate a path to publishers through all the layers of the industry – layers which can shoot down a book proposal for reasons of marketing or audience or numbers of your social followers, which may have nothing to do with the actual value of the book you’re creating.

You have to take ownership of your career. You have to drive the train to where you want it to go.

And that may be the biggest plus of being the engineer – you can CHOOSE where you want your career to go. It will take hard work and learning from the experience itself, but if you find you’re being called to write romance instead of devotionals, or humor instead of profiles, or politics instead of fiction, you can steer that train of your writing career onto different tracks, and see where it takes you. Maybe it will only be a short detour and you’ll end up at your original destination. That’s great! Then again, it may be a whole new journey on the writing rails.

Are you ready to drive the train?

The 15-Minute Writer: Tips for Creatives Who Parent

 

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Photo source: https://unsplash.com/giuvicente

I began writing before God blessed me with children, and in the last eighteen years, I’ve birthed two boys and eight books. Being an author has been a grand adventure. It’s also kept me sane.

Seriously.

After having my oldest, who was a very high-needs baby, I suffered severe depression and stopped writing. One day, my counselor asked me, “Why aren’t you doing something that makes you light up whenever you talk about it?” Her question helped me realize God had called me to writing not only as a ministry to others, but also for my own growth and happiness.

Combining parenthood with a creative passion can be challenging, but I believe it’s worth the effort. If you’re a parent who longs to create, here are a few tips from the trenches:

Make the most of your kids’ sleep times.  When Jordan and Jackson were small, I used nap times to write instead of clean. Hiring a once-a-month housekeeper was well worth the expense…even when I didn’t get paid for writing. If you work full-time, dedicate a few moments after bedtime (or before your children wake up) to your art. A Netflix binge won’t feel as good as creating something–I promise.

Apply your creativity to time management. Once my sons were old enough, I enrolled them in Mother’s Day Out (two days a week) and dedicated those twelve hours a week to my art. On days we were together, I did household chores and errands with them in tow. I’ve also written by hiring a temporary sitter or working when my husband was at home. When my husband and I both worked full-time, we made one Saturday a month “guy time.” The boys enjoyed days with Dad while I worked on upcoming deadlines.

Work away from home. If you can swing it, try to write at a coffee shop or restaurant with free wifi. Another helpful habit is to participate, at least once a year, in a writing conference or retreat. For me, the expense of travel has paid off in contacts, clarity, and opportunities. (It also helps my family realize all that I do, and they appreciate me more when I get back. Talk about a win-win!)

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Photo source: https://unsplash.com/impatrickt

Say “no” to distractions. Every artist who makes time for their passion has to say “no” to social events, book club meetings, and various distractions (such as Facebook posts about organizing closets). On the days I set aside to write–first proposals and queries, now articles and books–I worked. Even if I set self-imposed deadlines, I tried (and still try) to meet them if at all possible. Take yourself seriously, or no one else will.

Be patient with yourself and your goals. I found this very difficult at first, because I began writing before my kids were born, and I’m a very goal-oriented person. However, I found contentment when I surrendered my dreams and accepted that the kids needed me now, while the writing could often wait. Try to picture your artistic pursuits as a marathon, rather than a sprint.

Pay it forward. God gave me a supportive spouse who’s also creative, so he understands my calling. I don’t take that for granted, and I try to let him have space to pursue his own passions. I also have a heart full of gratitude for the precious relatives, friends, and colleagues who’ve encouraged me along the way.

Today, I hope I’ve given you a bit of that same encouragement.

Your turn: if you’ve combined parenthood with a passion, share your tips in the comments. (Hurry, before the kids wake up!)

When You Know Who You Are, You Know What to Write

public domain; pixabay.com

public domain; pixabay.com

As writers and communicators, we’ve probably all heard the saying, “Communicate with the listener in mind.” I keep this statement on my desk to be reminded often that I need to be intentional in my writing – intentional to focus on clearly articulating the topic at hand with you – the reader – in mind. When I prepare a live presentation, the same practice applies. Like John Maxwell said in his book by the same title, “Everyone communicates, but few connect.”

If we only write or talk to have something to say, it does little good to anyone. And in a day when seemingly everyone has a platform of some kind, it matters even more that our words count.

Beware getting lost in the practice of communicating with your listeners/readers in mind, though.

In the private practice (counseling, coaching and consulting) my husband and I have, and in my teaching and writing, one of the main focuses of all I do is to affirm and re-affirm to clients, audience members, and readers that everything we do reflects what we believe about our identity. Like Joyce Meyer has often said, “Your DO is not Your WHO.” In other words, you aren’t what you do – either in daily behavior nor in vocation – for better or worse. That reality is hard to remember sometimes, isn’t it?

I have a couple of heroes in my life about whom, over the years, I’ve thought or even said aloud, “I wish I could write like him/her,” or “I wish I could be as funny/articulate/bold/etc as ________________ is.” While learning from others and even emulating others we admire can be a really positive experience in personal growth, we need to be careful that we avoid trying to become another person in our attempts to find success.

No one will bring to the world what you’ve been placed here to offer.

Discovering my identity and then practicing the position of my identity is key to experiencing success (i.e. “the abundant life” Jesus spoke of in John 10:10).

“Your DO is not Your WHO.” – Joyce Meyer

In my book, Why Can’t We Just Get Along?, the main point throughout is that “When you know who you are, you know what to do.” Since this is true in everyday life and relationships, we can trust that it is also true in our vocation. For the purpose of this blog, I’m speaking specifically to writers. If we never discover,  or if we fail to remember who we are, we will lose our unique voices in our writing as we attempt to ‘communicate with the listener(s) in mind’. The pull to be who others want us to be, even well-meaning friends and colleagues, will be too strong to avoid. We may (no guarantees here!) become extremely popular or even write a bestseller, but if it isn’t our voice the readers hear, is it really worth it?

This is a question only you can answer for yourself. For me, it just isn’t worth it.

Readers connect with different writers for as many reasons as there are writers and readers! I love it when I can “hear” the sound of different writers’ voices. Your readers love it when they can hear you distinct voice as well. So, as you’re working diligently on having solid content to share, avoid the pull to share it in someone else’s voice.

“My voice is never much louder than a ripple, but even small voices sound loud when you talk about things that matter.”
Natalie Lloyd, The Key to Extraordinary