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Nancy Okerlund
Volume 2, Issue 14, 08/14/08

Write On!

I think I'm a happier introvert since I started writing this newsletter. I'm a little surprised to say that, especially since I don't find it easy. But I think it's true.

I've never had an aspiration to be a writer. I do have an English degree. I think I got it out of my love for the written word. Maybe it was the closest I could get to majoring in reading :-) (Reading has always been one of my basic necessities.)

But all those papers an English major has to write were like punishment. No matter what the topic, it felt like "the everything and the nothing" - there was everything to say, which was too much. Or there was nothing, which was not enough. Halfway inbetween was not fun.

Journal writing is much the same for me. I've done it off and on for decades but it's another version of all or nothing. The part of me that likes to be thorough can go on forever. But that's a hopeless cause - and my hand gets tired. Often I write nothing in my journal for long stretches at a time.

Writing letters is better. Once I get going on a letter there's still the urge to say "everything", but it's more pleasurable than the journal (and no comparison to writing an English paper!) I think it's the relationship I have with the person I'm writing to that makes the difference - it gives me focus.

But here's what I'm noticing about being a happier introvert. In the past several years, since I've made it my business to find out what makes us introverts tick, I've developed a lot of respect for our challenging brains.

They give us a run for our money! They thrive on complexity.

Compliments of the way we use the parasympathetic nervous system, introvert bodies are designed to let our busy brains focus and concentrate deeply for long periods, which makes them feel alert and happy.

Our bodies know how to shut out stimulation, because we have so much going on in the front of our brains, where complex thinking happens.

We walk around observing, wondering, making comparisons, thinking, feeling, contemplating, mulling things over. Our brains are very busy and they like it that way.

And we like words. But the way the introvert brain works means that we tend to choose our words carefully. And it takes time for us to translate the complexity we experience into language.

In the practical everyday world of communicating, writing is a good tool for introverts. Writing a note - or even a letter! - or sending an email allows our characteristic thoughtfulness to come out in a way that may feel easier than speaking. More time to choose the right words.

I don't presume to really understand what's going on in my brain. But I'm starting to suspect it likes this writing work I give it. Twice a month, in order to produce this newsletter, my busy brain and I sit down to see what we can come up with.

It's not easy work. It's more of that busyness - mulling, remembering, wondering, contemplating.

But there's something about the challenge of finding a focus, and then some clarity - enough clarity from within that inner complexity to transform into some words - that my brain appreciates.

I can tell because for a day or so after the newsletter is done, it's as if my busy brain and I get to sleep in, and when we get up there's nothing to do but lie in our hammocks. If only it would last :-).

End of food for thought - on to some practical ideas:

A Practical Idea for Introverts

If you notice a sense of dread about something you want or need to communicate, check to see if you could do it in writing. If you can, go ahead - and feel fine about it.

A Practical Idea for Extroverts

Don't be afraid to ask questions of the introverts in your life. We're busy trying to manage our brain activity :-) - sometimes a question is welcome relief!

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