Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mr. Personality

I have a confession to make: I recently took a Myers-Briggs test. To be more honest, I took several; not just the official one (which you have to pay for) but several other knock-off ones. I became a little obsessive. Why? Because I wanted to find out, once and for all, why I am the way I am--which is a little scatter-brained, especially when it comes to writing.

I've written many things that I've never thought were good enough to publish. But still, I'm glad I wrote them. What I found in writing them, though, is that they were arduous battles of will. I try to outline as best I can, but despite my best efforts, my writing always gets out of hand--like an overgrown nettle bush blocking a perfectly good path--because I allow a million tangential plot lines to weave their way into my writing.

"Oooh! I wonder where this weird mobster with only one eye came from?" I'll ask myself, the character just having popped into the story out of nowhere. "And why does he only have one eye?"

I can't help myself. I have to know where my characters come from. I've tried writing up character bios, but they're always boring. I can only understand a character once they walk onstage and stare me in the eye (no pun intended).

So anyway, back to the Myers-Briggs business. I wanted to find out if writing was really for me. We've all read a million quotes from authors saying how hard writing is for them, and that's fine. But sometimes I'd find myself in the midst of writing wondering if I shouldn't be off fly fishing somewhere. Or parachuting into a canyon. Or ANYTHING other than sitting in a room staring at a computer screen.

The results of the test seemed to confirm my misgivings. As it turns out, I'm split between two personality types; that is, 40% of the time I'm one personality type, 60% of the time I'm another. The 60% personality type is a dreamer, a lover of aesthetic beauty, and a thirster-after of adventure.

But the other 40% of my personality is nerdy writer all the way. So I felt vindicated. Sort of. I could now justify to myself why I often felt so antsy while sitting at the computer, why I so looked out my window and wished I was somewhere surfing.

And I tried to stay away from writing. For a solid month I sketched pictures, watched movies, played Pac-Man: anything to destract myself from writing.

But here's the thing: I couldn't stay away. I went crazy not writing, because it's the way I process information, it's my filter for reality. Even if it is technically the minor part of my personality, it's still crucial to my well-being.

Who cares? you ask. Here's my point: just keep writing. Stop fighting it tooth and nail. Even if you think you suck at it, even if you'd rather be parasailing in Aruba or whatever--if there's a voice telling you to write, then write. Because that voice that's itching at your brain, that gnawing sense of failure, is an indication that you have wisdom to give the rest of us. So share it!


  1. Ok, out with it. What personality type did you come up with?

    Months ago there was a huge discussion on Zoe Winter's blog about this. Turns out that a good majority of the people who visited her blog (writers) are INFJs.

    After reading that, I went out and found that I am a INTJ. Women of this type are said to be socially inept or ice queens. lol!

    Check out this interpretation of the types. I thought it was quite fun.

  2. I'm a crackpot, according to your link. :) ISFP. I don't know who I think I am trying to break into the writing biz; us ISFP's are usually park rangers or interior decorators and stuff. So I'm a pioneer!

  3. My indicator light would be on high right now. I am feeling sooo guilty for not working on my outline more. I like your blog; I feel challenged and energized every time :) lol

    And I took that test a loooong time ago, but I think it said everything I wanted it to...if I remember it correctly. Hmm..

  4. @K.D. Thanks for your kind words! I'm glad you feel energized by my posts. I'm the king of bad outlining habits, so don't feel bad.

    I take the test every once in a while to see if I've changed, but I've always been pretty much the same.

  5. Yay! I like the new site. So happy to see you moved over to WordPress. Among other things, it's so much easier to comment.

  6. Hi Chris,

    I like the new site - very clean looking. What prompted you to switch?


  7. Thanks, Scott! I saw a good deal of people on twitter and elsewhere talking about how flexible Wordpress blogs are, so I figured I'd take the plunge. I also like the fact that you can have a cleaner-looking URL (instead of one cluttered up with "" or "").

  8. Thanks! I agree, Stephany. I get discouraged when you have to sign in to sites in order to comment on people's blogs. Plus I like that you can manipulate the coding easier on one of these self-hosted blogs than you can through other blogging platforms.