xo, The Expressive Introvert: Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Interviews with Women Who Work, Live, & Love On Their Own Terms is an occasional interview feature here to help cultivate that bit of authentic self-expression within you we all want a littlle more of.
Sarah Selecky is a beautiful soul, and her writing prompts really changed how I view writing, period. I remember having a thought similar to this one after the first few I got – “what the heck?” One of them commissioned me to “use syntax and sentence shape to show how the scene is affecting your narrator.” “Oh great, I thought, ’cause I know exactly what that means and how to do it!”
Look, I was an elementary education major in college as well as a business student in my graduate studies, but I had to admit, albeit as embarrassing as it was, that I didn’t quite understand the assignment. Then, in her gentle, yet responsible manner, Sarah explained what she meant in this post by sentence “shape.” She said “sentence shape and form is like molecular chemistry for writers…but all sentences have an energy – you can feel this in your breath and in your body as you read them. Pay attention to where this energy comes from, and how the sentence transmits it.”
With that, I was impressed and have followed Sarah’s work ever since. I have also been lucky enough to direct Introvert Effect clients to Sarah’s work, and encourage them to soak up everything she can teach them about their writing expression. Writing seems to be a dominant expression for introverts – if you’re a writing expressive who struggles with your gift or passion, I highly suggest you connect with Sarah. She can help you turn your relationship with your writing around to be healthy, vibrant, and open.
If you’re an introvert and writing is a dominant form of self-expression for you, please [with emphasis] get Sarah’s daily writing prompts, and start really enhancing your writing and honing the gift. As with anything, we can all always grow in our areas of expression, to better learn how to show up in the world.
Enjoy Sarah’s advice and wisdom to you today and for a long time to come, regarding your writing as an expression, introversion, solitude, and more.
With love & gratefuleness,
Sarah Selecky, Author of This Cake Is For the Party and Creator of Story Is a State of Mind
Sarah Selecky is a dual citizen of Canada and the United States and grew up in Southern Indiana and Northern Ontario. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia, and her writing has appeared in the top Canadian magazines and quarterlies such as The Walrus, The New Quarterly, and The Journey Prize Anthology, among many others.
This Cake Is for the Party is her first book, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book, and longlisted for the Frank O’Connor Short Story Award.
She is also the creator of the groundbreaking online writing program, Story Is a State of Mind.
She divides her time between Toronto and the rest of the world. You can find Sarah at www.sarahselecky.com and on Twitter @sarahselecky.
You can also follow Sarah on Pinterest and Instagram.
T: When did you know for sure, without a doubt, you were an introvert?
S: I think I’ve always known. Maybe my parents used the word? I don’t know if I had an aha moment. I’m an only child, which is part of it, and I always knew that I wanted to be a writer, which is also part of it. I’ve always felt most comfortable on my own, in a quiet place, with my thoughts, my books, and my diary.
T: Usually, every introvert (and extrovert) has qualities of both introversion and extroversion. What is one of your favorite extroverted qualities about yourself?
S: Even though it makes me sick with nerves before and utterly exhausted afterwards, I do like to speak about something I care about when I’m in front of a crowd. Sometimes a crowd is a dinner party, and sometimes it’s a classroom.
T: Can you share a situation or time where you would have done something differently, based on your current knowledge of introversion and yourself (in a job, your life in general, or a relationship)?
S: When my book was released, I filled my calendar with back-to-back readings, book club visits, interviews, lectures, book festivals, teaching appointments and panel presentations. I didn’t schedule any down time for myself, and I was afraid to say no to any of the requests. I was so deeply honoured to be invited to these events, I said yes to everything. I didn’t know how to protect myself from exhaustion during the promotional tour. There are things I could have done that would have helped, like saying yes to a talk OR a workshop in one day – but not both. Or eating dinner quietly, alone, to prepare myself for a reading – instead of going to a loud supper club and having to meet new people before the event. Now I know that it’s important to create a buffer of solitude before and after I have a public appearance. Also I had to learn how to say no sometimes, gracefully and with gratitude, and to not feel guilty about it.
T: Do you have a favorite celebrity who is also an introvert? Why is he/she your favorite?
S: Tough question. Admittedly, my favourite celebrities are writers, and most writers are introverts. Does Rilke count as a celebrity? Okay wait – I love Colin Firth. Only an introvert can smoulder like that. Also, I heard that Seinfeld was an introvert, and I think that’s impressive. Is Ira Glass an introvert? He must be.
T: How has being introverted affected your relationships over time? (Friendships, romantic relationships, etc.)
S: I have a handful of very close, deep friendships – and these, my individual best friends, have rarely even met each other. I’ve never really been part of a crowd or a clique – I like to stay focused when I’m relating, I guess. Over the years, I’ve realized that I’d rather spend a weekend with a single friend than have a getaway with all of them together. I loved watching Sex and the City because those women were always together and it looked like they were having such a great time! But in real life, being in a posse feels lonely to me. I like one-on-one time with my girlfriends. And I keep news about my relationship with my husband very private – because it is private. I mean, we’re not even “married’ on Facebook. I’m fairly open and transparent about my life on social media, but I like to keep our marriage just for us.
T: What wisdom would you give to your younger self – either pre-introvert knowledge or before you really grew into what it meant for you?
S: I would have told her that being alone is like re-fuelling, and that social time uses up that fuel. With that knowledge, you can plan ahead before a party and get fuelled up, so you can have a great time. When I was younger, I’d use up my social fuel without knowing that was what I was doing – and then I’d feel crazy and depleted after a party without knowing why. Did I hate parties? No! It’s not that I hated parties – I just needed a buffer of solitude. I needed to fuel up before and after.
T: What is your favorite (or most-used) form of self-expression?
. I’ve kept a diary as long as I can remember. Writing is my closest friend and my most intimate relationship.
T: What last bit of advice would you give to an introverted woman listening/reading this right now who might be struggling in some area of her business or job, life, or relationship because of either her introversion or her need for validation in her individuality?
S: I’d advise her to listen to that little voice inside that’s asking for solitude. By listening to that call and saying no to some of the things that are crowding her schedule, she will find the white space that she needs, and the world needs her to have that white space. It’s not a selfish thing to take it. It’s the most compassionate thing she can do for herself and for the people around her. It may seem like an unpopular decision at first, but the rewards are so great, everyone will benefit. It’s in her nature to protect her solitude.
So beautiful, Sarah. I’m deeply grateful for your time and for letting us all in on a little bit of your world.
Over to you, the reader. Got any questions or comments for Sarah? Please leave them below…
Happy gorgeous November to you,