My husband is an engineer and, especially in the past eighteen months, whenever I’ve found myself in conversation with another woman there are certain statements I may make which illuminate the personality types attached to his profession. You must be married to an Engineer! she’ll say, her smile one that understands. It has been my experience that there is a lot of truth to this. Though I am yet to understand how all of the personality tests and enneagram guides work, I do comprehend one hundred percent that if I type “gifts for engineers” in my Amazon search engine, hundreds of things my husband would LOVE fill my screen.
It seems like writers aren’t quite so lucky. There is no one-size-fits-all list of characteristics, within our group. Maybe this is because engineering is so precise and unimaginative, where as in the writer’s world imagination breeds life…
I, by nature, am an ambivert. (introverted extrovert) By this I mean that I am a lover of quiet, alone time. I thrive on my routines and the peaceful security of knowing what comes next and where things are. I gladly accept the idea that when one puts on headphones it means to back away and leave them alone. By this rule, I can honestly say there is a huge portion of my life where I would live in headphones! (The big, fluffy/comfortable ones that sound technicians wear. And there would always be music playing, this could never be a fake out for some privacy. Music gives life…) I often need to really talk myself into making an appearance around other homosapians, and when I do, I need to come home and recharge mindlessly from the drain the outing caused.
BUT… (but, but, but, but, but…) I LOVE to host things. If I had my way, most weeks would include dinner parties, book clubs, girlfriends over for cups of tea or mugs of coffee, movie nights complete with popcorn and bowls of ice cream, craft nights, brunches, board game playing and endless glasses of wine… I feel the most like myself when there are people I love under my roof. I also love to travel, and when I travel I want to be out to see and do all of the things. When it is a dinner party (which I am not hosting) or a girl’s night out and those in attendance happen to be people I adore- everyone better buckle in for a long evening because I will come alive with laughter, conversation, spontaneity and be up for almost anything if it means the party won’t stop.
The upside is that I get to live the best parts of each side of this spectrum, the downside is that sometimes the worst parts war each other. (Also, an added downside is that I’m not so easy to gift to lazily, which is also an upside so the complexity continues.) Sometimes people just don’t get it and they want to lump me into their perception of a writer, but those perceptions are always wrong. I’m yet to meet a lazy writer, a rich writer, an eccentrically sensitive writer or a reclusive and resentful writer. Perhaps those people just aren’t on my dinner party invite lists, but I think more realistically these are caricatures of an idea that the unimaginative simply misunderstood.
As a writer it seems as though my introvert times often lead to me feeling a bit uninspired creatively. It is a catch-22 really, because when I hit a solid writing stride I cave myself in, getting lost in the project. The other side of things will likely find me laughing, blooming from the social engagement and so motivated/inspired to record the brilliant stream of things flowing through my mind, but the circumstances won’t allow spontaneous caving, writer’s cramps and reclusiveness. (This could perhaps give us a line of insight into the fictional idea of the reclusive and resentful writer of lore…) Neither side of this spectrum aids me as a writer, consistently. Both help, both hinder, it simply depends on a plethora of other moment by moment circumstances.
Within the writing community I have found many who fit either side, and they generally (not always, mind you) expect that same practice of others. Over the years I have made a few writer friends, but this was made possible by online forums and not in person writing tribes. I love the idea, but I have never found one that looked and felt the way these groups are pitched to writers. Within them there was more competition where there should have been support. Perhaps it is true in any industry, that the general frame of mind is that of scarcity thinking, but within the art community that can be even more damaging. We are not operating within the guidelines of a profession, the art we create is a deeply connected part of us. It can get complicated… (which is showing me how a person of our craft could possibly be deemed the eccentrically sensitive writer.) I’ve known writers so extroverted in nature that they must constantly be surrounded by people, and likewise those who need to be alone with absolutely no desire for human interaction. I cannot understand either extreme, and likewise they cannot understand me and my little pieces of their strides. Those of us caught in the middle might be the most lonely…
The times when I have worked on fiction projects, I have found that my characters tend to balance that fine line, like me. Sometimes they might be just to one side, more than the other, but still somewhere in that balancing range. I hesitate to say that out loud because it could come across as narcissistic, but honestly I would guess it is a reflection of my ability to understand and relate to those characters born within my brain. When I have read over fiction pieces I’ve written, I do not feel that I’m reading a hundred variations of the same person, so at least there’s that. Even so, fiction simply isn’t my favorite genre to pen. I’ve done it, and I will continue to, I am sure. There is something about my core which constantly pushes me in other directions, even when they may be uncomfortable or new, and I am growing into a writer who chooses to listen. (And the writer who, when I am in a social setting or shower, prays with everything I can muster to remember the brilliant thoughts raining down on me. This works roughly 8% of the time, but I’m pretending it used to be 7% so this is great progress, don’t you agree?)
Writing might be the easy part. The editing can sometimes feel like shredding pieces of our flesh, and it is exhausting. The marketing myself, as a writer, might be the most difficult though. I am learning more about the hows and whys of the whole process. I find myself really fighting my introverted urges to hide from the world while attempting to take my extroverted enthusiasm to share myself with everyone, down several notches. Truth be told, it is an exhausting roller coaster that makes me both grateful and eager to wake up in the morning while simultaneously longing to hit snooze and fall back asleep. This pretty much points to my deeply committed relationship with coffee, which might be one of the few things which connects writers across the intra/extraverted spectrum. (well, along with stylish notebooks, great pens and love of obscure bookstores…)
*This blog was written as part of a collaboration with:
Name: Lori Briggs
Name: Alika Guan