In a noisy, fast-paced world, self-expression can be a challenge for introverts. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve waited for an opening in a conversation to share my ideas, then realized that everyone had moved on. These fast-moving conversations usually come complete with overlapping thoughts and interruptions that boggle my introverted mind.
Writing, however, can be a different story. The process of writing gives me time to think, organize, and edit my thoughts before sending them out into the world. It allows me to process emotions, reflect on experiences, and connect with others — all on my own terms. Here are five suggestions for introverts who want to incorporate more writing (and less speaking) into their lives.
As an introvert, I have a small circle of close friends. I can share just about anything with them, but it always takes some internal processing on my part before I’m ready to open up. This is where journaling comes in. Had a terrible day? Write about it. Working through a challenge? List the pros and cons. Need to remind yourself never to do something again? Turn to that journal. Some people reread their journals; I tend to get it all out and move on. Whatever is most comfortable for you, grab a pen and set aside some time to write.
2. Write to a friend
I’m talking about old-fashioned snail mail. You know, written in calligraphy and sealed with wax? Okay, okay, no need to go medieval, but take a look in the bottom of your desk drawer to find an envelope and a stamp. There’s nothing as exciting as getting a letter in the mail, especially an unexpected one from someone you love. I find that the slower pace of writing (as opposed to typing) gives me time to catch up with my own thoughts. Plus, it lets me share ideas that might not find airtime in a face-to-face conversation. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend that writes back, use the space to ask deeper questions, which might give you a peek into his or her mind. A recent favorite of mine — “How do you pass your waiting time?”
3. Send words of encouragement
I grew up in a house where every gift merited a “thank you” letter, usually along the lines of, “Dear [Uncle/Aunt/Grandma], Thank you for the [birthday card and money/the new kite/the woolly hat]. I plan to [buy myself something/try it out next week/wear it all winter]. Love, Erin.” What I’m suggesting here is more like ambushing people with your appreciation when they’re least expecting it.
My introverted self gets flustered giving and getting compliments, so writing them out is the perfect solution. Leave a note on the bathroom mirror for someone you live with. Text a friend. Email the supervisor of someone who gave you great customer service. The more specific, the better. I knew a kindergartner whose dad was an artist, and instead of a written note in his lunchbox every day, this little boy would get a monster drawing from his dad. What a simple way to appreciate those around you, and there’s no talking involved!
4. Record notes and observations
I often find myself being the quietest one in a group, but it’s usually because I’m listening and observing everyone around me. You’d be amazed to hear the kinds of things people say when they think no one else is around. My sister uses a small graph paper notebook, and I keep notes on my phone; both serve the same purpose: recording anything from snippets of overheard conversations to quotes from a podcast to new book titles or songs to look up. And someday, who knows, these inspirations might come together into something great.
5. Write for fun
At times, I relegate creative writing to fourth grade English class, alongside reading aloud and learning to wiggle my ears. But I think there is a strong argument for resuscitating writing for fun. You don’t have to have a particular audience or goal in mind, and you don’t have to show it to anyone, so just do it! I found my father’s old electric typewriter in the attic the other day and brought it out one night when my sister and I were sitting and talking. After we figured out how to align the pages and white-out any mistakes, we drummed up a hilarious story about Phread and Edwurd and their misadventures (hilarious to us, probably ridiculous to anyone else reading). At the end of the night, we had thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and exercised our creativity.
One of my mentors in college was such an influential presence in my life because she took the time to read my writing and respond. We didn’t meet often, but I have pages and pages of work littered with colorful comments and reactions. All this to say that words hold great power, especially, I would add, when we wield a pen with purpose.
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Read this: 7 Reasons Why Introverts Are Good at Writing