Are Writers Introverts?

In the February 6, 2012 issue of Time magazine, there is an article on “The Upside of Being an Introvert (and why extroverts are overrated)”.  This caught my eye because I used to think I am an extrovert, while my wife says I’m an introvert.  More on this later. 

The article was accompanied by a quiz consisting of twenty questions which one can take to answer the question, “Are you an Innie or an Outie?”  Here are the questions:

  1. I prefer one-on-one conversations to group activities (yes or no)
  2. I often prefer to express myself in writing (yes or no)
  3. I enjoy solitude (yes or no)
  4. I seem to care less than my peers about wealth, fame and status (yes or no)
  5. I dislike small talk, but I enjoy talking in depth about topics that matter to me (yes or no)
  6. People tell me that I’m a good listener (yes or no)
  7. I’m not a big risk taker (yes or no)
  8. I enjoy work that allows me to dive in with few interruptions (yes or no)
  9. I like to celebrate birthdays on a small scale with only one or two close friends or family members (yes or no)
  10. People describe me as soft spoken or mellow (yes or no)
  11. I prefer not to show my work or discuss it with others until it is finished (yes or no)
  12. I dislike conflict (yes or no)
  13. I do my best work alone (yes or no)
  14. I tend to think before I speak (yes or no)
  15. I feel drained after being out and about, even if I’ve enjoyed myself (yes or no)
  16. I often let calls go to voice mail (yes or no)
  17. If I had to choose, I’d prefer a weekend with absolutely nothing to do to one with too many things scheduled (yes or no)
  18. I don’t enjoy multitasking (yes or no)
  19. I concentrate easily (yes or no)
  20. In classrooms, I prefer lectures to seminars (yes or no)

It seems to me that seven of these questions would get a “Yes” answer from most writers (numbers 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 18 & 19).  This means that of the remaining thirteen questions, one would only have to “Yes” to four of them to be more of an introvert than an extrovert.  This suggests to me that most writers are introverts.  In my case, I answer “Yes” to seven other questions.  The footnote on the quiz says that “There are no fixed scores, since both introversion and extroversion fall along a continuum, with many people – known as ambiverts – falling somewhere in between.”  Based on my score, I would say that I’m 70% introvert and 30% extrovert.

So why did I previously think I am an extrovert?  Well, when I first took the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (mentioned in a previous post), I tested as an E (for extrovert) rather than as an I (for Introvert).  The MBTI has a scale of responses, and I was an E, but not strongly an E.  The Time magazine article makes the point that it is an extrovert’s world, and people are socialised towards extroversion.  This was certainly my case.  As a child, I enjoyed my own company, and had a few good friends.  At university, in the Navy (particularly as an officer),as a sales engineer and as a manager, I learned to adopt the behaviour of an extrovert.  That’s what the MBTI found.  But during my lifetime, I’ve never  liked conflict (though I’ve learned to deal with it), and I’ve never enjoyed being the focal point in a large social situation.  So, at this point in my life, I’m happy to go back to ‘my roots’, write novels and be an introvert.  By the way, the Time magazine article points out some of the advantages of being an introvert.

The article also points out that Winston Churchill – a well-known extrovert – won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his memoirs.  (There are exceptions to every rule!)

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