So You Want to Write? How Introverts Can Cultivate a Writing Practice

a typewriter representing an introvert cultivating a writing practice

One of the reasons that I began writing is that it fits so well with my introverted personality and my need to withdraw from the world to recharge. I love to sit by myself creating other worlds on paper, playing with words, and exploring my characters and their dilemmas.

And as Introvert, Dear founder Jenn Granneman writes, being an introvert and wanting to write can actually be a match made in heaven. Because among other things, being a writer means living a life with long periods of solitude and requires that you like spending time with yourself and your imagination — sounds perfect for us “quiet ones,” right?

Of course, for introverts, writing can just be a nice hobby to turn to every now and again — and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to keep it that way. But if you dream of really making something out of it, like finishing that first draft and eventually publishing a book or selling a play (or whatever it might be), you need to cultivate a good writing practice.

Below, I’ll share five things that worked for me as I went from writing occasionally — when I felt inspired and had the time — to establishing the writing practice that allowed me to finish my first novel, Agatha.

How to Cultivate a Writing Practice

 1. Don’t sit around waiting for that one big idea.

As Stephen King explains in his excellent book, On Writing, inspiration often finds us while we’re working:

“Don’t wait for the muse. Your job is to make sure the muse knows where you are going to be every day from nine ‘til noon. Or seven ‘til three. If he does know, I assure you that sooner or later he’ll start showing up.”

As I was studying psychology, and later when I got my first job, I almost stopped writing. Partly because I didn’t think I had the time, but mainly because I had no clue what to write about. I had not yet gotten that big, genius epiphany of an idea and thought that if I just waited, someday it would come to me. Perhaps I even thought that if it didn’t, it probably meant that I wasn’t supposed to be a writer in the first place.

Perhaps you’re thinking along those lines too? Well, we couldn’t be more wrong. Creativity is not just a quality that a person has or doesn’t have, and inspiration is not just something that strikes you out of the blue. It’s something that can be nurtured and grow stronger if we just give it the time and energy that it deserves.

So, my advice to all aspiring introverted writers is: Stop waiting for that big “aha moment” when you’ll suddenly know exactly which story to write. Just begin writing.

Here are a few suggestions on how to start:

  • Keep a diary – This is a great way of practicing your writing skills while cementing the habit of writing every day. And who knows, perhaps some of the things that you reflect on in the diary will turn out to be the beginning of your next song, poem, or novel.
  • Morning pages – A practice of free creative writing every morning as explained by Julia Cameron here
  • Simply begin writing a story without knowing where it’s going – That is how I wrote my debut novel; I just started writing with no clue whatsoever about what was going to happen or to whom. As I wrote, I got to know my characters and their environment, and along the way, the plot developed around them.

The trick is, of course, that you better your writing skills while doing something that you love and all the while training yourself to put in the work that it takes to become a writer. So that when you sit there, and the ideas start coming, or something that you’re writing begins to take shape and feel important, you’ve already created the habit that will carry you through.

2. Don’t wait till you get the time — make it.

Another classic mistake is thinking that you don’t have enough time to write. Perhaps you are already balancing a job, friends, a family, hobbies, and all of the other engagements that life entails, and when you are finally done with the day, you just want to relax. At that point, it can feel a lot easier to read a book than to attempt writing one, trust me, I know!

So you wait. Plan for a getaway, dream of the perfect writing retreat, hope for a weekend of freedom where it can just be you and your words. But in my experience, these oases of time very rarely present themselves, and even if they do, they come along so seldom that it’s just not enough to base a writing career on.

The answer: Make time. Today. Even ten minutes a day is a fine start, and when you begin honoring those small chunks of time, you will feel your creativity and overall engagement in your writing rise along with your confidence that this is actually doable. And I have been surprised many times by how much I can get down on paper in just ten or twenty minutes when I really focus.

Here are a few ideas on how to make time:

  • Set the alarm 10-15 minutes earlier each morning and write as the first thing you do each day.
  • Use your transportation time to write. If you are in a car, consider dictating.
  • Skip the Netflix subscription or just use some of the time that you spend binge watching on writing instead.

3. Schedule your writing time and keep it sacred.

This is one of the things that I am still struggling with. I use the calendar on my phone to book my writing time, and there it is, everything is set. But then something happens. A friend calls, someone wants to have coffee, and sometimes I even catch myself overruling my plan and doing something else instead of writing, simply because then and there that other thing seems more important.

But anyway, here is why this is still a good tip, even if I can’t quite follow through myself!

  • When you schedule something, you indirectly tell yourself that it’s important to you.
  • Scheduling your writing increases the chance that you will actually keep the time free to do just that: write.
  • When the writing time is booked, it’s much easier to say no when someone asks you to do something else. Just check your calendar, and there it is — you have a previous engagement with yourself and your imagination.
  • When you schedule your writing time and show up at your desk, doing the work again and again, you build stamina and belief in yourself, and you help reinforce the writing habit that is going to one day allow you to stand there with the finished work in your hands.

4. Use your introvert superpowers to create complex characters.

Although we introverts have a lot in common, we are as diverse as any other group of people, so not all of these points will apply to you. But for a lot of us, it’s true that what we might lack in areas such as small talk, socializing for hours on end, or speaking publicly we make up for in other ways. To me (and my guess is to my fellow introverts reading this), being an introvert means that I observe others more than I talk. I look, I listen, and I reflect. And I’m convinced that these skills can inspire some really interesting writing — for instance, when they are applied to creating believable, multifaceted characters.

So use your introvert superpowers! Listen to how people talk and go home and write compelling dialogue. Look at how people move and use their hands, how their eyes shift when they look at the person they love. And write it all down.

Another introvert superpower is the ability to really dive deep into something and stay there. To immerse ourselves in the universe that we’re creating, taking the time to get to know our story and reflecting on the message that we want to send out is a vital skill for any successful writer.

5. Let others know that you’re writing…

… and you’ll have the perfect excuse to take some time to yourself every day. You might already have this one covered, for example, as you say no to some of your more outgoing friends — in that case, good for you!

But even so, I find that it can be nice to have something concrete to say instead of just, “I need my alone time.” So, I often say something like, “I would love to see you on Saturday, but today I’m working on my novel.” That is just cool. And also a really good way to kill two birds with one stone: taking the time out from socializing that I need and doing something truly worthwhile and fulfilling with my time instead.

So, there you go. The first few steps on the way to a writing practice that will hopefully help you reach the goals that you are aiming for, whatever they might be. Laying this more basic foundation is perhaps not as thrilling as plotting your novel or signing the book contract, but it is arguably the most important.

Because without these steps, the rest might never follow.

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