Welcome to the third installment of our Introvert Interviews series where we talk to introverts from all walks of life about their experiences and their introversion.
Nicola Joyce is a fitness industry copywriter who has has swum the English Channel and competed as an amateur World Champion natural bodybuilder. And, she’s an introvert.
You’ve swum the English Channel twice as a solo swimmer. What was it like?
Cold, wet and salty! For me, it meant 14 hours 15 minutes, and 14 hours 27 minutes (I’ve swum it twice) of swimming in 15-16*C sea water, with no wetsuit and no rest stops. I started at night both times (around 2am). I had fantastic weather the second time, but quite windy weather and choppy conditions (up to F5 at points) for my first swim. I never really know what to say when people ask “what was it like?” It’s a long, long time swimming by yourself, with a boat alongside or slightly ahead of you. There’s not a lot to see, you can’t hear much (and you have earplugs in), you can’t taste anything (the salt water and cold take care of that) and you lose most of the feeling in your fingers and toes. All you’re left with is the contents of your head, really. You have to like your own company.
You’ve said that Channel swimmers need to “Accept that external influences are bigger than you.” For example, sometimes the weather’s against you, or you get sea sick. Has this outlook affected other parts of your life?
Did I say that? Ooh, that’s quite good isn’t it? I should be a writer… Yes, I do realise there are many things bigger than me in life and that I have to accept that. But that’s not the same as going with the flow, giving up, or not trying. I think it’s very important to have a goal, and a plan, and to work hard. A good plan, well executed, with consistency and persistence will usually get you where you want to be. But it’s ridiculous to think that’s enough. Of course there are things bigger than our own plans, things stronger than us at our strongest, and things which can side-swipe the grandest of goals. Dream big, work hard, but accept that life will happen.
You’ve described Channel swimming as meditative. Is there a meditative quality to bodybuilding as well?
Oh yes, definitely. Not on the day of competition, when we stand on stage and pose in our sparkly bikinis. But in training, lifting heavy weights in the gym, and doing cardio. That’s very meditative, or at least it is for me. I know that some bodybuilders get very fired up for lifting, use external factors like past failures, perceived slights, or people they want to beat. I’ve tried all of that; it doesn’t do it for me. I was even criticised by a past coach for being “too zen-like.” I took it as a compliment 😉 My drive and focus comes from within, and it is kind of meditative. When training gets physically tough, when it’s painful, or when you feel you literally can’t do another rep, some people get noisy and angry. I tend to go inside, settle my mind, and just lock into the process. I actually sometimes picture a stretch of water, and count my way through it. My endurance sport background has taught me that I can narrow my focus intensely and knuckle down.
What do you like most about being a fitness industry copywriter?
I love my job, and am pleased to be celebrating 10 years in business as a freelancer this month. The bottom line is that I love writing, and can’t go a day without it, so of course this job allows me to indulge that passion. But I also love other aspects of actually working as a freelancer and running my own business. I love that every single job I get, and every fee I earn, is down to my hard work both during the writing process and long before. And I am very glad that I specialise in writing about and for the fitness industry. I feel very at home in this industry and it’s going through a very interesting, sometimes challenging, set of changes at the moment. I’m excited to be part of it.
In terms of introversion are there any downsides to being a copywriter?
As a freelancer, I am based at my home office and work here most of the time. I attend client meetings and networking meetings, and sometimes work at client premises. But I’m at home 90% of the time. I also live here, and I live alone. If I didn’t like my own company, and didn’t draw energy from being still and quiet, I wouldn’t find this a comfortable way of working. I never thrived off the energy of an office environment, and don’t miss it at all. I can’t think of any aspect of copywriting which is a downside for an introvert. My job does necessitate interviewing people, but I really enjoy that. I suppose if you were crippled with shyness, or disliked meeting people, that could be a problem. But that’s far from the case with me. I love meeting new people, find it fascinating to talk to them and learn their stories, and enjoy taking on new clients, catching up with existing ones, and having small team meeting with designers, marketeers, etc. Just not all the time!
If you were able to travel back in time, is there any advice you would give to your younger introverted self?
It’s funny, when I read this question, I thought “was I really an introvert when I was younger?” It’s laughable, really. Of course I was. I had imaginary friends, imaginary pets, entire imaginary lives which I lived out inside my head. I wrote short stories (they’re hilarious), and I kept a journal from the age of 7. I spent hours sitting under a tree at the furthest end of our garden. I used to judge the quality of a bathroom by how long I’d be happy living in it, should the need arise (that’s a bit weird really, isn’t it?) As a teen, I had a horse and used to ride off by myself for 3 or 4 hours and thought it was bliss. So, er, yes I suppose I was hardly the most sociable of children! That said, I also enjoyed being part of a youth theatre group, and when my sister arrived in our lives (I was 6) I was overjoyed to have a sibling, and our relationship is one of the most important ones in my life. As for advice: I suppose I would say just be aware that some people will mistake your quietness for sulkiness, your calmness for boredom, and when you’re listening some people will think you’re being supercilious. So maybe try smiling a bit more. On the other hand little girl, you know what, sod them! Oh, and good job on the short stories and journals. Keep writing, but maybe branch out from the pony-themed stories. It’s been done to death.
How do you recharge your batteries?
Walking with my dog, going to the beach (I’m lucky enough to live on the coast), retreating into my little house and creating “alone time”. Even though I’m alone most of the time, there’s a difference between just generally being by myself during the day, and purposefully being alone to recharge. For that, I turn off the TV/radio etc, maybe light some candles, make a cuppa, sit quietly, read or “meditate” (probably not what most people think of as meditating, but it works for me), journal or get creative somehow. Sometimes, none of that quite hits the spot and I actually need to feed off some external energy. So I’ll connect with one of a very small group of people, either in person or on the phone. I find spending time with my 3-year-old nephew can either drain me or totally energise me (emotionally/mentally). Sometimes a change of scene works for me, too, so I’ll take a book or my journal, my dog and some music and head off to the beach, a cafe or to a new walking route.
Where can people find out more about you?
My work website is nicolajoyce.co.uk but I update my blog much more frequently – http://thefitwriter.wordpress.com/. You can read about my training, competing and sport, general thoughts and ramblings, and even the occasional blog post written by my dog (see, all that time as a child talking to my imaginary-pet-friends paid off in the end!)
I’m on Facebook, Instagram @thefitwriter, and I tweet at @thefitwriter. I love social media because it allows me to connect and observe, but on my own terms and in my own time. Perfect for “curious introverts”!