Read Other People’s Opinions to Write Your Own



I’ve been reading more nonfiction this year – and not just the research books I bought for my next novel, When Dignity Was a Crime.


That’s the YA, sci-fi, historical fiction story about a modern-day teen who’s transported back in time through the Bermuda Triangle. Since she gets dumped on a slave block in Baltimore in the late 1820s, I’ve been reading books about… wait for it… Baltimore and the U.S. in general in the antebellum era.


At least I’ve been trying to read those and general nonfiction. It’s been a busy year though, so I’ve only barely begun my latest book choice, Susan Cain’s Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.



I could whine a while about how I got the book back in February and am only on page 78. But what’s the point? Whining gets you nowhere worthwhile anyway.


Whining and ignoring the amazing differences we humans offer each other to write better blog posts and business articles: Those are two things we should avoid if at all possible.


For the good of our content at the very least.

This particular post isn’t about whining, so let’s drop that topic altogether. If anything, it’s a continuation of August 22’s Genuine Writer piece, “When You Run Out of Topics to Write About.”


In it, I wrote how, “It’s not that the act [of writing] itself gets tedious. There’s always something new to explore once you have a topic to work with.” It’s just that finding that topic in the first place can be “tedious, obnoxious or downright headache-inducing.”


This then brings me to Cain’s Quiet book that I referenced before, in which she writes on page 3:


Today, introversion and extroversion are two of the most exhaustively researched subjects in personality psychology, arousing the curiosity of hundreds of scientists.
These researchers have made exciting discoveries aided by the latest technology. But they’re part of a long and storied tradition. Poets and philosophers have been thinking about introverts and extroverts since the dawn of recorded time. Both personality types appear in the Bible and in the writings of Greek and Roman physicians… the animal kingdom also boasts “introverts” and “extroverts,” as we’ll see, from fruit flies to pumpkinseed fish to rhesus monkeys. As with other complimentary pairings – masculinity and femininity, East and West, liberal and conservative – humanity would be unrecognizable, and vastly diminished, without both personality types.

It was that last line that really caught my attention, and with really good reason.

I’m genuinely not trying to be preachy here. This isn’t meant to be a kumbaya moment where men and women, the East and West, liberals and conservatives, introverts and extroverts alike all gather together to hold hands and smile at each other in trance-like states.


Speaking as an introvert, that doesn’t sound like fun. I’d much rather just have some time away from people to read my book again.


At the same time… Cain’s seemingly throwaway line is a powerful one. It reminds us how we need checks and balances: people and perspectives to challenge us, thereby:


  • Honing our critical thinking skills

  • Helping us understand exactly what we believe and who we are

  • Giving us a whole lot more to talk about and, in our cases, write about.


Reading other people’s opinions doesn’t mean you have to or are going to agree with them. For instance, I could read repeated praises of the extroverted lifestyle, and I imagine it wouldn’t matter one bit.


I’d still find myself solidly siding with the “give me space” crowd after prolonged interaction with even loved ones.


Yet that doesn’t mean I can’t learn a thing or two from extroverts. Or the East. Or men. Or the other listed category above that I distinctly don’t identify with.


I can learn. I can agree. I can disagree. I can grow. And I can put all that into my writing to keep it worth reading.


That’s why, no matter what categories you fall into, I suggest you do the same.

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