Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The Results Are In!

I had an incredible response to the survey. 82 of you took part altogether, so thank you, awesome blog readers! I also had LOADS of entries into the giveaway – woo-hoo! – so I’ll announce the winners of that first. Drum roll please…

The winners (picked using are Peggy Eddleman and Louisa Reid! Congratulations, Peggy and Louisa! I’ll be in touch shortly to find out which prize you’d like.

And now, the survey results!

Question 1:
Writing: 72
Music: 2
Visual Arts/Design: 6
Performing Arts: 2

Question 2:

I love solitude and am happiest and most productive when I’m on my own: 31 (28 writers, 2 visual artists, 1 performing artist)
I like a balance - some solitude, some company: 49 (42 writers, 1 musician, 5 visual artists, 1 performing artist)
I prefer to be round other people most of the time - being on my own drives me crazy! 1 (1 writer)
No answer given: 1

Question 3:   
I spent a lot of time alone; I didn’t feel as if I fitted in at-all: 32 (28 writers, 3 visual artists, 1 performing artist)
I spent some time alone, but had a few close friends who ‘got’ me: 46 (41 writers, 1 musician, 3 visual artists, 1 performing artist)
I had a large group of friends, and didn’t spend much time on my own: 4 (3 writers, 1 visual artist)

Question 4:

Yes: 75 (68 writers, 6 visual artists, 1 performing artist)
No: 7 (4 writers, 1 musician, 1 visual artist, 1 performing artist)

Finally, here are some of the responses I had to the last question: If yes, what effect do you feel they’ve had on your work?

I'm so used to living in my own head and supplying my own "playmates" (characters) that it has become a habit.  I find them much more interesting than most "everyday" people I meet although I take lots of individual pieces from everyone I meet (a gesture, an facial expression or phrase, a way of walking or physical features).
If I had had other children to play with (none) as a child, I might not have developed this habit.  Also difficult for me to choose in 1st question as I also worked in the performing arts - same outcome - I am a good mimic because I got to watch a lot without being involved.

It's natural for me to spend hours with my head in a book - forgetting the outside world on occasion (doesn't go down well with hubby lol) - and thus natural to spend time with my head in *my* book. Used to being with my own thoughts....which of course lead to dialogue, plot, etc. I still have only a few very close friends, one of whom is my co-author. Sharing such a strong connection means we can work together without falling out (much :p).

I write (amongst other topics) about bullying, and the social anxiety that it caused. I'm glad it's no longer a secret and that I've had only supportive comments on my blog.

I often write about people with unresolved pasts or are damaged in some way. I was bullied a lot at school and had no friends, so I created my own little world where books let me escape to. I still live in it from time to time and I'd love to help others create their private escapes too.

Ann Patey:
I honestly don't know what affect being lonely had on my writing but I've felt the odd one out, the outsider for most of my life. That changed overnight when I joined a writers class in my 40s and suddenly felt I'd found kindred spirits.

I feel it's had an influence on my areas of interest without me even being aware of it! I wrote my dissertation on the role of the 'outsider' in Tim Burton's films, everything I have ever written (now that I stop and look back at it!) starts with a character who is for isolated or different in some way. The funny thing is it’s only recently I have noticed this! I think maybe it's because it's the only way I know how to feel, and therefore cannot write from a different perspective? I think if I tried to write about a girl who was the life and soul of the party she would be nothing more than a flat stereotype.
I may have just unearthed a large flaw in my ability as a writer!!!

Definitely had a tough childhood with racism, bullying, etc. I really do think that feeling of being an outsider has influenced my writing because as a kid, books became my best friend. It was an escape from everything, and we all know how reading is the foundation to being a writer!!

Looking back, it's easy to remember the painful parts of growing up -- the heartbreaks and rejections, the loneliness, disappointments, and failures all became formative in so many ways. In hindsight, I'm able to use them as a barometer, a measuring stick for who I am now and how I became this person. I can see my own arc, and I think that helps me to understand both the emotional significance of those early formative experiences (both positive and negative), as well as how those kinds of cumulative moments contribute to the person my character might later become.

'Not fitting in' isn't a recognised medical or psychological condition, but it can cause immense pain and discomfort in a society that wants you to conform. Having said that it has given me insight and empathy which I can draw from for a whole variety of characters. I worry my extrovert characters might not be as 'real' as I'd like them, but from my introverted position I have observed a great deal and can read people pretty well! I can understand my introvert and 'problem' characters much more and they are the ones that are most prominent in my writing! Maybe being an introvert has increased my imagination and ability to tell a story because of the time given to dreaming and imagining?

I write YA, so a lot of what I write about is drawn from my teen years.  I find myself writing about events that happened in my life (especially the small details in my writing).

Sarah Benwell:
I think spending a lot of time (more as a younger kid than as a teen) on the outside and uncomfortable around people taught me to observe keenly, and to empathise with people in difficult situations. And, instead of forcing myself into situations I was unhappy in, I daydreamed, and read, and wrote, and started to learn my craft.

I grew up on a farm with 3 siblings.  My older brother did his own thing, so it was me and the younger two, making up our own games.  I read a lot.  A LOT.  I spent most of my time in my imagination--which is generally not a plus for teen popularity.  But I guess you could call it training for being an author :)

Rebecca Christiansen:
Nostalgia fuels my writing in a lot of ways. I often write characters who are haunted by the places of their past -- not just events or people, but houses, rooms, things they loved. The absence of those things we come to love has been so hard on me in my life, so my characters often end up like this as well.

Angela Young:
I believe my childhood experiences made me a more empathetic person, capable of writing with compassion.  I am an introvert, but like people around me sometimes.  I don't want to join in all the time, I just like to listen.  This quiet listening has garnered me quite the education and given me insight into a lot of things, such as patterns and why people do things or even pretend things.  Childhood experience, and adult understanding of it, drive what I write and often how.

I think I'm drawn to writing characters how are outwardly confident and comfortable but struggle to be happy with themselves.

Amanda Hosch:
I come from a long line of introverted grammar geeks. Seriously, I found letters from my grandmother to my mother with newspaper clips that had been corrected in red ink! At home, it was fine that I made up stories all the time ("can't eat the brown M&M, the orange one would miss her too much on her sea voyage") and had a book permanently glued to my hands. At school, I was that kid reading in the corner of the yard at recess, waiting for the bell to ring. Now, I truly appreciate the odd tangents my mind takes. So, I let it go, and my protagonist has a wild ride in front of her.

I think my outsider feelings have meant that I feel trapped at the age I found most difficult - around 15 - and I feel comfortable writing about characters who are at that age. I'm constantly writing about female friendships going wrong, because mine always seemed to. I don't think I ever looked like an obvious outsider and I was never teased or bullied so sometimes I feel like a fraud - like perhaps I wasn't unusual enough to give myself outsider status. Nevertheless, I did feel that way and frequently still do.

I am very interested in psychology... more interested in WHY characters do what they do than in simply constructing a rollicking good plot (though of course I try to do that too!).

My characters are often shut out from the group, isolated in some way, or loners. It isn't as if my entire childhood was like that, but I had a few acutely painful experiences in my formative years that I draw on frequently in my work. And I spent a lot of time in my head and in my books, making up places that were, in some ways, better than reality. I always liked being alone, but I needed a mix, too--some time with close friends to balance it out. My more extroverted friends just didn't understand WHY someone would want to spend a lot of time alone in her room with her imaginary pals.

I definitely think my childhood reading influenced my work - I loved (and still love) the pen and ink drawings in books like The Worst Witch, The Famous Five and Ballet Shoes, and nowadays I'm producing line drawings of my own. In terms of my social experiences, I was bullied a lot in my teenage years, but instead of changing to fit in I ended up deciding it was better to be alone than to turn myself into something I despised. I think this feeling of independence has carried over into my work nowadays - I love looking at lots of different styles of illustration, but I always remind myself to stay true to my own style and not be overly influenced by the latest trends.

So there you have it. Obviously, us creative types aren't always introverts, but it would seem that, from these results, being a writer, artist, musician or even a performer and being introverted (to various degrees) do often go hand in hand… and can be essential to our work. 

So far from being made to feel it's a bad thing, we should embrace our love of solitude, our need for quiet, and not feel as if we have to make excuses for it. It doesn't mean we're antisocial. It doesn't mean we're weird. It's just how we are. Without introverts, there would surely be fewer books, fewer films and plays and shows, less art, less music… and who wants to live in a world like that? Not me, that's for sure.

Thank you again to everyone who took part - these posts have been so much fun, and it's been fascinating to read everyone else's take on what it's like to feel as if you're 'outside looking in'. I need a lie down after all this number crunching, but I’ll see you again on Friday, when I have a very special post with a very special guest! Can't wait!


  1. Interesting results - is it what you expected to see?

    1. Thanks, Dan! Pretty much. The one thing that surprised me was that neither of the performing artists fell into the more outgoing category. Just goes to show you can't make assumptions!

  2. I am not surprised by the results.

  3. I'm a little surprised writers can be that outgoing! It's a good sign though, every profession needs balance.

    1. Definitely, Christine. Having a balance is healthy, even if your profession is largely solitary.

  4. I've enjoyed reading all the pieces on childhood experience. It reminded me of Beatrix Potter and her childhood - lonely up in her playroom with only a rabbit or the odd dead-thing-in-a-jar for company.

    Also very much appreciating your pie charts!

    1. Ha! Glad you liked them. They took some doing, I can tell you - I am not good at that sort of thing at-all! :)

  5. Interesting post, Emma. I missed the survey or I would have gotten involved (I've been in Bristol/Cornwall you see). I didn't find the results that surprising either. I thought there might be even more introverts maybe.

    Maybe everyone feels like a bit of an outsider, or a certain detachment from things, even those who look as though they are entirely ensconsed in the conventional way of life. Maybe some people just don't worry about it/notice it or accept it as how life is.

    1. No worries, Chelsey - hope you had a good time. Yes, you could be right. I guess as writers/artists etc we probably *do* notice our introvert tendencies more, maybe because if you work in these professions, you tend to be very self-aware (and aware of the world around you)? Who knows. It's something you could go on debating forever!

  6. Interesting results, Emma. I'm not really surprised as in my writing group, we all seem to share similar issues.
    Were you surprised by the results?

  7. Emma, you had a great turn out for the survey! I'm not all that surprised by the results either.

  8. Replies
    1. Thanks, Julia. Really glad you enjoyed it. :)

  9. Great post, Emma. I think a follow-up question might be: did you spend time alone because you preferred to, or because you felt you had no other choice? I wonder how many of us now define ourselves or our personality by the way our interactions with others shaped our childhood experience. Are we really introverts/extroverts by nature, or were we just made to feel one way or the other by circumstance? The psychology major in me reflects back on the true definitions introvert and extrovert that are often misunderstood or misinterpreted. It's not about being shy or outgoing, but rather a question of where we draw our energy -- from time spent alone or time with others. For instance, a very outgoing person can be an introvert by definition, if they actually draw their energy from time spent alone. And vice versa, some folks who spend a great deal of time alone actually *need* to be with others for a while to refill their emotional wells because they are extroverts by nature. Given a different definition, I wonder how the results might change?

    1. Thank you, Elle. I've been reading up on the true definitions of introverts and extroverts myself (strictly from a layman's point of view) and you're right; shyness and introversion are definitely NOT the same thing, although they're often mistakenly lumped together. I wouldn't say I'm a particularly shy or quiet person (most of the time!), but I'm definitely an introvert.

      There's SO many different angles you could approach this topic from, and from which it can be explored. I'll definitely be revisiting it at some point!

  10. I did a post about my reaction to the article you posted about why the world needs introverts. It definitely gave me a new perspective on the whole shyness/introverted issue.

    1. Thank you for the mention on your blog, Steph - great post!

  11. Fascinating results! I love this survey. You had some fabulous questions. And I'm so happy I won! Thank you!!

    1. Thank you, Peggy! Glad you liked it, and I'm happy you won too!

  12. Great survey Emma - fascinating results!

  13. Loved reading your results Emma. I spent so long as a teen trying to fit in that it took 'til my early thirties to 'get' who I really was. It's great to find so many 'like-minded' people here! My experiences have been pivotal in helping my own children to accept who they are so much earlier than I did too! We are all different and I love that!

    1. Thank you, Lisa. You're right – we are all different – and I love it too!