Writing has always suited my personality. One of my earliest memories is of folding pieces of paper together to make a book. When I was ten I was 30 pages into a novel before I tore it up in disgust because I had no idea what I wanted to say. As a teenager my favorite thing to do when I got home from school was to write plays.
Today I can sit down at my computer and, with only a few breaks in between, get up eight, nine, or ten hours later with little awareness of how much time has passed, feeling excited and utterly rejuvenated. The next morning I can’t wait to get back to my computer. When I was working on the manuscript for Healing the Sacred Divide I ran this marathon three or four days a week for almost three years with only a couple of months off in the summer. For two of those three years, I had zero input about my writing from any living person. It was just me, my Self, and my computer.
Obviously, this way of life is not for everyone. Our friend Howard enthralls all who know him with fascinating stories about his very unusual and interesting life. People are always telling him he should write a book and I think he finds this idea attractive…but not enough to actually do it.
Carl Jung’s theory about personality types helps explain why one person can be very well-suited to writing while another is not. He found that two basic attitudes affect the focus of our attention. Extraverts are primarily oriented toward the outer world of people and objects; introverts toward the inner world of concepts and ideas. Jung saw these attitudes as mutually complementary and believed both were necessary for maintaining a balanced personal and social life.
In an article about the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, Wikipedia cites these major differences between the two types: 1) Extraverts are action oriented, while introverts are thought oriented; 2) Extraverts seek breadth of knowledge and influence, while introverts seek depth of knowledge and influence; 3) Extraverts often prefer more frequent interaction, while introverts prefer more substantial interaction; and 4) Extraverts recharge and get their energy from spending time with people, while introverts recharge and get their energy from spending time alone.
Of course there are lots of extraverted writers and plenty of introverts with no interest whatsoever in writing. Moreover, both types struggle to complete writing projects because of myriad other issues such as education, financial limitations, attention deficits, self-confidence, self-discipline, time constraints related to work and relationships, and other personal preferences. But understanding our basic attitude toward life greatly enhances our chances for success with writing or any endeavor.
I’m a strong introvert and my friend Howard is a strong extravert. I love what Dr. Judith Rich says about her extraversion, “We E’s live outside the cave and struggle to find our way in, while the I’s live inside the cave and struggle to find their way out.” The bottom line? I love my cave and resist leaving it. I enjoy being alone. I like sitting uninterrupted at my computer for hours. I like working in perfect, luxurious, soothing, rich-with-possibility silence: no music, no people, no phones, nothing to distract or interrupt my thoughts. But Howard? Cave-dwelling doesn’t suit his personality. He likes stimulation, activity, conversation. His passion is story-telling, not story-writing.
If you’re not sure what kind of work suits your personality you might ask yourself a few questions. When I was a child, what did I want to do in my spare time? If your answer is “Read” or “Watch TV,” you might find a clue in the subject matter of your favorite books or programs. What was my favorite subject in school? Which did I enjoy more: playing outdoors or indoors? With friends or alone? What would my ideal work scenario look like? Do I work best with noise or quiet? Am I an extravert or an introvert?
Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Ebook versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Diesel Ebooks
Ego and God-Image: Part VI
[T]he most important relationship of childhood, the relation to the mother, will be compensated by the mother archetype as soon as detachment from the childhood
Another fine post Jean … thank you …
… When I was almost five years old and attending my first day at infant school in Dundee, Scotland, a little fellow class mate and I were gathered with our mums waiting to meet the teacher. With my new wee chum, Martin, I walked hand in hand into the class room. The teacher took one look at us, asked our names, and pronounced .. ‘Martin, you like a quiet wee boy who pays attention, you sit at the back’ … then, tuning to me she said … ‘Andrew, you sit at the front where I can reach you … you look like a troublemaker!’ She was unknowingly differentiating the gifts of introverted and extraverted children, instinctively knowing what she would have to cope with in the months ahead.
The same teacher was the first adult other than my wonderful mum, and beautiful wife, to classify me, through my irrational non-sensing behaviours, as an ‘idiot’, a classification and resulting expectation which helped ensure that academia was not for me. Imagine my delight forty years later in my metapausal condition to discover that Jung many years ago had created a sweet spot for me in his typology. He didn’t call folks like me ‘idiots’, his wording was more uplifting – ‘Extraverted and Intuitive’. My wife Sheila was the first person to know my persona had changed overnight. Perhaps some-day Jean you may consider drawing us into Jung’s attitude/function realm … what a gift he brought to the world through his typology/psychology…
What an interesting story, Andi! Thank you for sharing it here. I find myself feeling annoyed at that teacher, though. How awful she must have made you feel. I, too felt “different,” if not like an “idiot.” Being an introverted intuitive I was not a challenge to my teachers; just an enigma to my peers! Yes, Jung’s typology was a magnificent gift to the world; certainly to me. I’d love to write more about it here but I’m afraid my knowledge of it is cursory at present. Perhaps I can find a guest writer who would be willing to share his/her greater knowledge. Interested? 🙂 Blessings, Jeanie
Jeanie, I so appreciate what you’re saying in this post — and it’s timing. Just yesterday I was searching sites about Introversion because days earlier I became fed up with conversations where I end up defending who I am as an INFP. I will no longer defend, I will hold my ground and educate! I believe that we are (potentially) both, and certainly need both, for a balanced life. BTW for those interested the site I found for introvert appreciation and care is: http://www.introvertspring.com. Blessings,
Thanks for that site, Lee. I’ll check it out and I expect others who read this will want to too. We are in a minority, for sure, and I agree that we need to claim our strengths as such instead of being embarrassed by them. Have you read Susan Cain’s wonderful book “Quiet?” It’s about introverts. She’s also done an excellent Ted Talk: here’s the link http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts Blessings.
A welcome post indeed. Thank you. 🙂 You always present these topics with such a balance of intellect and insight! I am a strong introvert (close friends and family would say “hermit”) who has always had to push myself to survive in the extraverted world that’s become the norm. And, while I have loved writing since my dad gifted me with a diary when I was in third grade, as a child I was either reading or out in nature pretending to be various wild or domestic animals, making few close friends and even those could be exhausting for me (mom tells the story that I would go into my closet and shut the door when I felt it was time for my little girlfriend to head home…that was my non-confrontational way of resolving the situation). I appreciate that you also mention Cain’s book; I found it fabulous and wrote about it at http://kitsnk9s.blogspot.com/2013/01/reassuring.html One of the many things I valued tremendously when I was studying Ayurveda is what a visiting Indian teacher said: he said that while we cannot change our basic nature (and shouldn’t try because it is a gift of our uniqueness), we can create greater harmony within *all* of our qualities, that balance is not about being 50/50 but about bringing each of our qualities into its highest form within our individual blend. I’m not paraphrasing him very well, but I understood the essence of his teaching on a deeply profound level and it healed my heart and soul in so many ways. Blessings to you, Jeanie, and much gratitude to you for all your writing and sharing of journey and wisdom!
Thank you, Jeanie. Yes, you seem born to write and you are prolific.
In fourth grade, my story about a girl and her horse with a crayon illustration was featured on the front page of the Mexico Ledger, hometown newspaper of Mexico, Missouri. Small towns knew how to support the kids in the 1950s. I still have the article and remember the thrill. I had an article accepted by The Healing Muse yesterday. I was in fourth grade again. I love the introverted time at my computer more than I did when I was younger. My extroversion comes in the desire to publish.
And my body suffers if I don’t take her walking, so out we go.
You too are a natural writer, my friend. I’m so glad you returned to it at this stage of your life. Your writing is a gift to the world. I can’t wait for your book to come out! And congratulations on your new article in the Healing Muse. Do let me know when it comes out.
Thank you, Darla. Your story of hiding in the closet made me laugh and reminds me of a story of my own. One evening after we moved into a new neighborhood (I was five) a little girl knocked on our door and asked me to come out and play. I wasn’t interested in leaving the house to play with a stranger and said no…so she bit me on the arm! She never came around again! My introverted nature may have saved me from befriending a budding sociopath!! 🙂
I agree with what your teacher said about balance. Better to try to fully be what you are than what you are not.
Feeling about 50/50 on these two types. Not sure what (if anything) that means. However, I remain open to learning.
Thank you for the informative post Jeanie!
My pleasure, Richard.
An interesting fact is that the first time I took the Myers-Briggs I came out just slightly on the Extraverted side, sort of a 55-45 mix! I see now that this is because I answered the questions the way I wanted to see myself; not the way I really was. In those days I was good at ignoring my inner discomfort and still didn’t realize that how I really felt deep, deep down where I didn’t want to look was important. Talk about unconscious!
But that first experience with the MBTI got me to taking my inner life more seriously, and the next time I took it—maybe 10 years later—I was again about a 55-45 mix but this time on the introverted side, and my scores have said the same ever since. By then I was far more self-accepting, and had realized that much of the turmoil I had experienced in Jr. High and High School and College, as well as in my marriage to an extraverted husband, was due to the conflict between my conforming, people-pleasing ego and the introverted shadow I wanted to disown. I had feared that my need to withdraw somehow signified that something was wrong with me and I was simply not strong enough to face that. Fortunately, the Myers-Briggs taught me that far from making me feel worse, facing the truth about who I really am makes me feel infinitely better!
So anyway, my point is that I’m actually about 45-55 on three of the four continuums. The only exception is the Sensing/Intuitive continuum in which I’m around 10 percent Sensing (possibly less) and 90+ Intuitive. This is probably the true source of most of the inner discomfort I’ve experienced throughout my life, for I was markedly different in that regard from everyone I knew, and still am.
I’m glad this post was informative for you!