As an introvert, you may find that writing comes easily to you. Probably you would rather scribble in your journal than pass the time of day with strangers at a bar. So you may assume that writing for publication is a cakewalk, given your preferences. Because I have worked with hundreds of people over the years who were hoping to get published, I can point out five aspects of the process that can trip you up. As an introvert, you’ll need to pay attention closely to avoid these five challenges.
Challenge #1. Understanding the “Reader Comes First” principle.
If you started writing because of an irresistible inner drive, sooner or later you come face to face with the problem that what you believe you said isn’t what others understand while reading your work. Ooh, this is very painful. To get published, you must mature beyond sheer self-expression and make your peace with the fact that published writing communicates. If the reader doesn’t understand what you wrote as you meant it, you have to revise and edit. Seek out expert feedback, and value it as you master the craft of writing.
Challenge #2. Getting feedback in public.
While learning to improve your writing, you might be tempted to sign up for a writing class, workshop, or conference. As an introvert, however, you may be vulnerable to feeling devastated when your work is torn apart in front of a group. So choose a learning environment where you can know that the atmosphere is supportive rather than cruel and destructive. Even better, arrange for one-on-one feedback with a mentor or coach.
After you are published, you may have an inordinately hard time brushing off negative reviews. They can really, really bother you. But dreaming up brilliantly cutting replies to critical comments saps your energy and doesn’t help your reputation. Getting into a public Twitter war of insults is even worse. Simply let go of the nastiness, knowing you can’t please everyone.
Challenge #3. Reaching out to editors or agents.
Somehow the longest distance in the process of getting published is the space between a submission that is ready to go and the mailbox or the “send” button. Ask a friend to take care of that step for you if you keep procrastinating on it.
And because you undoubtedly feel more comfortable writing a letter or email than making a call, rely on written communication when you can.
Challenge #4. Pitching to agents.
Some writing conferences create a mixer-type setting that gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself to leading literary agents. Since you are less aggressive than extroverts in elbowing your way to the front of a crowd or breaking into an ongoing conversation, this puts you at a huge disadvantage.
Instead, seek out conferences that pre-arrange short one-on-one pitch meetings between aspiring writers and agents. Then practice, practice, practice a concise introduction to your book!
Challenge #5. Stepping into the spotlight.
Introverts enjoy holding back and sharing their lives mainly with those who matter most to them. To promote your writing, however, you need to get comfortable with media coverage, interviews, approaching well-known people for blurbs, and various kinds of performances.
Take promotion one step at a time and discover which activities you most enjoy (or dislike the least). Remember that the goal is attention to your work. Resolve not to be an Emily Dickinson, cherished now but reclusive and obscure during her lifetime. Become respected and read while you’re around to take pleasure in the acclaim!
In the next lesson, we consider engineering publicity for yourself so that people know what you’re up to and what you have to offer them.