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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Extroverted Writer

If I ever see the stereotypical description of a writer, perhaps prototypically the screenwriter, it usually describes a solitudinous character. Hell, John Scott Lewinski even has a book of secrets for screenwriters entitled Alone in a Room! This may in fact be the most enduring image of the screenwriter: some dude holed up in a room by himself, hammering away at a keyboard (forgive that not-for-the-faint-of-heart link), lights probably dimmed, music likely off.

Who is that guy?! I know it sure as hell ain't me! Okay, I'm being a bit sharp about this. Of course I know that that's the stereotype for a good reason. It is largely true. I know from reading the other blogs in the scribosphere that many of you out there fit that description pretty accurately. And that's cool.

But anyone who has ever met me (or probably even just seen me across a room) knows that I'm about the farthest you can get from introverted. And while I know this can only help me with the business side of screenwriting, down the road, in pitch meetings and such, I wonder if it is more a liability to me as a writer now.

Where an introverted writer sits holed up in his room, typing away, I keep feeling myself pulled out to people and things outside. The introverted writer goes out as well, but by keeping to his or herself somewhat more, they can view the other people from a distance, observing their interactions. I meanwhile dive right in and chat it up, rarely finding that time to sit back and just watch.

And to be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to change it, even if I could. I enjoy interacting with people, even if its at the expense of truly observing them.

But I wonder if (or more correctly how) my writing would differ if I were less of an extrovert. Perhaps I'd be more focused on writing more serious or substantive screenplays, rather than comedic or escapist fare. I wonder if I'd more easily find the ring of truth in my characters' words and actions.

Maybe I just need to find ways to have moments of observation carved into my week. I've often thought of going somewhere where there are many people and just sitting and observing people, listening to their conversation snippets, and taking notes (though I've rarely, if ever, actually done it).

I know I can't be the only extroverted writer out here. You others chime in and let me know how you deal with it, if at all. And do any of you introverts think you'd have it better if you were extroverted? Is this just a "grass is greener" scenario?

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11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm definitely not an extrovert but I wouldn't describe myself as an introvert either.

The writer-type you describe, an introvert who is usually holed up somewhere but a keen observer of other people (the seldom he socializes) is a romantic sterotype. Or a myth. I don't think that Alexander Dumas was an introvert. Or Hemingway. Or Shakespeare. If you'd make a list of famous writers of the past 1000 years, say, I'm dead certain introverts are in a minority.

I'm a very good observer and it has served me well (in my opinion) but basically I think other things are much more important for a writer. Namely, having a certain degree of intelligence and being a very imaginative person.

Overall I'd say that imagination is what really matters most for a writer (but imagination needs to be tempered by intelligence).

In short, I think you should swiftly abandon all plans to become more of an introvert.

Anna

2:26 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Not sure how we'd know which writers were introverts and extroverts, but believe me, I never planned to become one. maybe that wasn't clear. I just think there is something to be said for forcing moments of introversion into our schedules, especially for those among us who are as strongly extroverted as I am. :-)

2:35 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

And by the way, Anna, if you are (as I may be correct in surmising) my reader from Iceland, welcome! And thanks for checking in from so far away! That's one of the awesome things about the internet.

And if I'm mistaken, thanks for reading anyway!

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks ( and yes, I'm from Iceland).

Good question: How can you tell whether a writer is an introvert or an extrovert? I think you can tell, just from his or her writing, but that's just my opinion.

But my point was this: If you're a blatant extrovert (and you describe yourself as being a blatant extrovert) I can't see what you'd gain by forcing yourself into some sort of introvert mode. A perverse thing to do, in my opinion. There's nothing inherently positive about introvert.

Anna

3:16 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Not saying inherently positive. Just another experience and perspective, and I believe (for me at least) the possibility to be more observant for a given moment. But thanks for your thoughts as well!

3:26 AM  
Blogger writergurl said...

I walk a fine line between the extrovert and the introvert. I even have a Myers-Brigg test (somewhere) to prove it. There's no need to make a judgment and say that something is "positive" or "negative" about a personality trait. It is what it is... some people ARE more introverted. An undenieable fact about writing is that yu MUST have your butt planted in the chair, writing. Which would (naturally) preclude going out and socialzing with all your friends every night of the week. If you did that you wouldn't be writing as you'd in actuality be partying. I think you can find a balance there though. If yur natural inclination is to go out, you may have to force yourself to stay home and write once in a while, conversely, if your natural inclination is to shy away from people, you may have to force yourself to mix and mingle. People interact with each other in such unique ways that you MUST, as a writer, be available to the ways someone, besides you, would say something or react to a situtation. Sure, you can use your imagination, but NO ONE'S imagination is so great that they can completely close themselves off from other people.

As for the "romantic stereotype"...
I am sitting at my desk as the night claims Atlanta, a small pool of lamplight falls on my fingers and the keyboard, my beloved dog drowses at my feet, and there's nary a sound throughout my condo. Expected nowhere and expecting no one, my sole plan for this Friday night is to write.

Tomorrow... I gotta a pool party to go too!

Where I will mingle, all the while listening and observing people as they interact. It's one of my favorite things to do, and coincidentally the very thing I blogged about last night!

4:05 AM  
Blogger The Awful Writer said...

I'm a sort of an introvert hybrid. I like going out and being amoung people, but when I'm there I usually just sit quietly and soak up the energy of the place rather than get involved in the activities. If I was less inhibited maybe I would join in more.

P.S. Love that 'hammering at keyboard' animation.

6:57 AM  
Anonymous Norm said...

I’m not gonna lie. Sometimes, I am that guy in that room alone and, as Goldman says, in my pit. But when I go out, I find I have the most time to sit and reflect when I’m out somewhere I don’t really want to be.

I used to work in this restaurant. A theme place, where the waitstaff had to pretend to be a storybook character or a superhero or a celebrity or something whilst doin’ the job. Even if you were a lousy waiter, if you had a good sense of humor, and little dignity, you could pull in the tips (I was the Crocodile Hunter, in case anyone’s curious, and OH, the lack of dignity at work). Clearly no one that could work that job could be too introverted, but I was the most intro, by far.

All the other employees craved attention. NEEDED it. And they all went out every night after the place closed to do something. Anything. These were party people.

I generally just went home and wrote.

But occasionally, so as not to alienate my coworkers too much, I would join them. And the places they took me were never places I would have chosen on my own. Seedy redneck bars. Tacky kareoke (if that’s spelled wrong, forgive me) joints. Some guy’s house, just off the highway, in the middle of nowhere that smelled funny. All kinds of places that just weren’t for me. I mean, if they ever wanted to stop by a Starbucks and shoot the shit about old 80’s cartoons, I would be soooo there. But that wasn’t their style.

So I found myself, once a month or so, someplace where I wasn’t exactly the normal clientele. And my presence would be enough to for them to say, “Okay, Norm’s a fun guy. He came out.” Participation was no longer required after that, and I would just examine these people and listen and watch, and it was very helpful to be somewhere I didn’t really fit to allow myself to do that.

So, long story short, to help yourself be more of an observer, try doing something you don’t want to do. If you like the redneck dive bars, hit up a Starbucks and watch the geeks at work. If you’re not the active type, hit the gym or volleyball court on the beach. If you prefer fine Beverly Hills restaurants, dine at the Norm’s diner (no relation) up in Van Nuys.

Hope that helps.

-Norm

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are exceptions to every rule of course, but...

The more outgoing the writer's personality, the more likely their script sucks.

The more confident the writer is in his or her script, the more it sucks. If someone tells me their script is great, I know that it is probably far from it and don't want to read it. But if someone looks down at the ground while they tell me their script is just okay, I definitely want to read it.

1:34 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Anonymous (the last) --

I'll agree that when someone brags about how great their script is, it usually sucks. But that is not the same thing as being outgoing. That's the same as being a braggart. I think there are plenty of outgoing people who are also modest, and I don't even think they're necessarily in the minority. (I hope I'm one of them, but I guess saying that isn't really being very modest, now is it? ;-)

8:02 AM  
Blogger TN_Dreamer said...

From Myers-Briggs, I'm 5 & 5. Like Jim, I like to go out with friends & then just sit & watch. Unless the chatting is about something I find passionate, I don't really feel the need to chime in.

I do think it's helpful in my writing to be an observer, & I think every time you read another's blog on this crazy scribosphere, you are being an observer. Unlike going out with friends, commenting on blogs forces you to listen to what they have to say first &, anytime you get it wrong, the original poster has no problem with putting you straight. I wouldn't be surprised if more of your work lately has reflected that.

4:10 PM  

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