Saturday, July 26, 2014

Query Question: Should an introvert try for a writing career?

Greetings oh cartilage-finned QOTKU,

I happen to know a young lady who is immensely talented at writing. However, she is also VERY introverted. And by introverted, I mean that she has a minor disability (which is possibly worse to her mind than it really is, but still) which makes it unusually stressful for her to meet new people, speak in public, and sometimes even travel. I can relate to her on a smaller scale – at least I no longer vomit in anticipation of social gatherings; age and the necessity of holding an actual job go a long way toward lessening that kind of thing. Plus, you just learn to fake it. However, it’s one thing to overcome a bad case of shyness and another thing to have a real problem that is sometimes recognized and understood by the general public, and sometimes not.

This woman asked my advice on whether or not she’s wise under these conditions pursue a career at writing. On the one hand I wanted to say HOLY COW, YES (she’s so talented!). On the other hand I wanted to say, DO YOU LIKE GIN? Seriously though, here’s the thing: I’ve been told that promoting your work – regardless of genre – is of vital import. I know that many (most?) writers are introverts, and I imagine that giving readings/doing book signings/ attending release parties is probably difficult for a lot of us. But for my friend, this is the stuff of nightmares.

I know that if anyone can be trusted to deliver the straight poop on this (or any) subject, it’s you. What is your advice to someone who would have a hard time with the social aspect of the writing biz?

Pursue a career in writing? Please, hold my tiara while I gasp for air. I'd sooner advise her to pursue a career in taxi-dancing.

"A career" implies that this is how she will earn her daily bread. That's not something most writers can do. Most writers need a full time day job and a spouse to make ends meet.


If you were to ask me if this woman, lovely and talented as she is, should write with the goal of being published, I give that my rousing support.

Writing is how many people express themselves creatively, how they learn to think clearly and communicate well.  It's one of the most satisfying things in the world to know you've said something with pith and vinegar.

To connect with readers, to have readers write to say they find value, or solace, or entertainment in your words, well...I've never done heroin but I'm thinking that feeling of euphoria might come close.

Of course she should write.  All that other stuff is just an excuse not to sit down, stare at the wall, and commence with "it was a dark and stormy night."

And if her writing requires her to have a public presence, well, we'll solve that problem when we get there.  You won't achieve anything in this life if the only thing you can see are reasons you shouldn't try something.


Lance said...

She should write like there's a shark circling her writing desk, and the only way to survive is to feed it pages -- every day! She shouldn't care what anyone thinks about the idea that she writes. She should only care about what the shark thinks about what she writes.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If we do not push ourselves to expand upon our gifts we might as well stand in the return line.
Use your talent sweetie, it will sooth your soul and may save us all.

Susan Bonifant said...

One of my heroes this year is M.L. Stedman, not only for publishing Light Between Oceans when she "wasn't thirty", but for refusing to be pulled into the spotlight following its enormous success. The NYT says her bio might as well read:

“M. L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia and now lives in London. ‘The Light Between Oceans’ is her first novel. Go away.”

So it can be done, be done well, and you can still wind up being discussed in the NYT while you're home in your jammies in front of the computer.

Mister Furkles said...

There are many careers in writing that are day jobs. Fortunately, for this young lady, there are not enough people who write well.

What you do after five o'clock is what you decide to do. The question is: does she want to write fiction in the evening and on weekends?

And if she does not use her strongest talent to earn a living, what will she do to pay bills?

Colin Smith said...

It sounds like this writer's debilitating shyness hasn't stopped her from writing, which is the most important thing. There's nothing on earth that will sell a book if there's no book to sell, so being able to write, write well, and actually complete a novel is fundamental. If she wants to be published, the next step is either to find an agent, or to self-pub. The latter would probably require a lot more promotional work than she would feel comfortable with, so the agent route sounds the best option. Also, having an agent who understands her situation means having a person who can be her representative--her public face, if you will. And her agent can then help her manage the promotional side of the biz without causing her undue stress and anxiety. That's the agent's job after all, isn't it?

So, encourage your friend to write, and if her work is really that good, to pursue getting it published.

All the best to her and her writing endeavors!

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

Two words: Emily Dickinson.

Another word and trwo initials: J.D. Salinger.

Tell her to get writing.

bass said...

To the person who sent this question:
PLEASE, do not use the word introverted like this. The debilitating shyness that you describe is NOT introversion. It sounds like some sort of social anxiety, but I'm no expert so I can't say for sure. Acting like introverted means the same thing as debilitatingly shy does a disservice to introverts.

NotaWarriorPrincess said...

Janet, I am ALWAYS one to schmooze and flatter, but this answer is so very excellent, from holding your tiara to "dark and stormy night." Exquisite.

Christina Seine said...

Thank you, thank you oh great sharkish one, and also to everyone who's commented. I was hoping for something that would inspire my friend (and heck, all of us) and that's what I got - better than I'd hoped.

This is such a wonderful group. Again, many thanks! =)

Elissa M said...

"You won't achieve anything in this life if the only thing you can see are reasons you shouldn't try something."

Really, Ms. Reid, you should publish a book of your awesomely amazing one-liners. Fortune cookies have nothing on you.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

At Killer Nashville last year I met a woman at a roundtable who read her pages in a soft choked voice that sounded painful.

After the session I saw that she had a little dog wearing a service vest. I introduced myself and conversation turned to dogs.

She is accompanied everywhere by her PTSD service dog. He is her canine shield against the world. I thought she was awesome.

I'm struggling with a depressive/anxiety episode right now. Just keep writing and let it pull her to the other side.

There was a post here a few months ago from a woman who had been severely disfigured in an accident and was similarly worried. Oh yeah, she was worried because her awesome agent was negotiating a deal with a publisher for her book and the publisher was already talking appearances.

So yeah, write.


Beka Olson said...

Rooting for the friend and rooting for Terri. Been there many times and I'll be back.

Jeannie Miernik said...

What a great answer to this common question--using a perfect blend of honest realism and inspiring encouragement. I guess the same technique for giving an effective manuscript critique works for giving writing career advice!

Janet Ursel said...

Most promotion is done online now anyway.

Laina said...

Can I just say that maybe "I mean that she has a minor disability (which is possibly worse to her mind than it really is, but still)" isn't the best thing to say?

You don't KNOW what someone's situation is. Even if they tell you tons and tons about it, you still will not be the one living in their mind or their body. You don't know how bad they "really" are. And that kind of thinking can put SO much pressure on a person and it's not really right