I’ve always considered myself an introvert, and I suspect the majority of writers would characterize themselves the same way. How else could we spend countless solitary hours at the computer, spinning tales from our imaginations? Yet sending our creations out into the marketplace in hopes of finding an audience requires a radical change of roles. Now and then, like it or not, we have to don the masks of extroverts.
Tonight (sic – see note below) I’m psyching myself up to be a raconteur. The Friends of the Albany Public Library have chosen me as Author of the Year for my suspense novel Eldercide, and tomorrow they’ll be honoring me at a luncheon, after which I’ll give a half-hour talk followed by a Q&A and hopefully some book sales. Speaking in public isn’t a problem for me; it’s a skill I’ve cultivated over the years. In my former lifetime as an art therapist, I taught and gave workshops, and for many years I’ve been a member of the Mental Health Players, an improvisatory theater troupe that performs before and interacts with a wide variety of audiences.
I enjoy fielding questions about my writing and tossing off zingy one-liners that make the audience laugh. But I positively loath what follows: sitting behind a table and a pile of my books, smiling, chatting, and hoping my dazzling (or sometimes pedestrian) performance will translate into sales. Even when I succeed in selling books, I generally come home from these events utterly drained, and spend the next few hours vegging out in my trusty old recliner, slugging down wine and watching TV with my two cats on my lap.
The aforementioned dysfunctional behavior is a dead giveaway. We introverts may put on a good show, even genuinely enjoy socializing and selling up to a point, but putting ourselves out in the world saps our energy. True extroverts, on the other hand, thrive on social interaction. It replenishes and energizes them, while what energizes me is creating in isolation, whether it’s writing, painting, or playing the piano.
Our personalities are endlessly complex, of course, and most of us have the ability to shift from one role to another as the occasion demands. The spectrum between introvert and extrovert is only one of many. One way of exploring your temperament more deeply is to take a test based on the Myers Briggs Personality Test, which in turn is derived from Jungian theories. Several are available free on line. I took one several years ago, but I wasn’t sure I remembered the results correctly, so I took it again today, answering 60 yes/no questions at a rapid clip, trying not to overthink my responses. I came out exactly the same: I’m an INFP. Those initials stand for introvert, intuitive, feeling and perceiving.
According to educational psychologist David Keirsey’s widely used Temperament Sorter, I’m an “idealist healer.” My type “can seem shy, even distant around others. . . Because of their deep-seated reserve, however, they can work quite happily alone. . . They have a natural interest in scholarly activities and demonstrate, like the other Idealists, a remarkable facility with language. They have a gift for interpreting stories, as well as for creating them, and thus often write in lyric, poetic fashion.”
Wow, I like that! It’s even better than astrology, and it has some genuine scientific validity behind it. Maybe I’ll enlarge the description and paste it above my computer.
What type are you? Why not take the test and find out! Here’s the link: www.humanmetrics.com. To learn more about the four temperaments and the 16 personality types, go to http://keirsey.com. After you have your results, it would be great if you post them here as a comment, and let us know if you think the results are accurate.
Note: This post originally appeared on Jane Kennedy Sutton’s blog, Jane’s Ride, on November 16th as part of my blog book tour. She describes her blog as a “journey through the ups and downs, ins and outs and loop the loops of the writing, publishing and marketing world. Go check her out – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
By the way, my honorary luncheon went very well. I had my game on, sold more books than ever before, enjoyed myself thoroughly and came away energized. The fact that my husband handled the sales table helped enormously, of course.
I’ve received almost two dozen responses from writers who took the Jung Typology Test, and so far, every single one has scored as an introvert. Are there any extrovert exceptions out there? I’m still collecting responses, so why not take the test and post your results in a comment here if you haven’t already done so. The experience is easy and fun, and I guarantee you’ll learn a lot about yourself. Once again, the link is www.humanmetrics.com. I’d love to hear from you! After I get a few more responses, I’ll write a post about the results.