Deadlines, Lifelines and the Test of Personality

“Still Life: Snow on Luminarias”


It’s snowing!!!

Okay, I know a lot of you out there have had way more than enough of the stuff, or have been drowning in rain, but we’ve had an unseasonably mild and dry winter so far. I’m a Colorado girl from way back and I like a little snow with my Christmas. We might even get heavy snow.

We’re snow-globe socked-in and I’m chortling with glee.

Perhaps I should break out into a little mash-up of snow songs. Don’t worry – I’ll lip synch.

I hit a personal best on the treadmill this morning: 1.45 miles in 20 minutes. Yeah, all the athletic people just snickered. I know it’s not much. But going that fast pushed my heart rate up over 170, which is pretty high. I’ll have to stay at this level for a while to try to condition it down. I’d like to get up to 2 miles in 20 minutes, which is the military conditioning threshold. We’ll see. As I’ve likely mentioned before, running is not my forte.

But I’ve been working hard at it, gradually improving, shedding body fat by incremental percentages. When I realized I would cross this barrier while running this morning, something odd popped into my head. Something about the thought that it’s taken me a couple of years to get my conditioning at least this good made me remember a conversation with a friend about writing.

She had done what a surprising number of people do: decided to write a book, sell it and become a successful author. She’d quit her job and given herself one year to succeed.

This also falls under the “after all, it’s only genre-writing, it’s not like it’s hard” umbrella.

When she had not sold in the year – indeed, when she hadn’t really completed a full manuscript, instead constantly revisiting the first three chapters in response to critique – she asked me how long I’d given myself.

The question surprised me. It had never occurred to me to impose a deadline on my work that way. In some ways, it would be like me saying that if I can’t run 2 miles in 20 minutes by next December, I’ll quit running. I suppose at some point in the future I’ll be too decrepit to make that goal. Though that image is kind of amusing to contemplate.

“Just help me out of this wheelchair and onto the treadmill – I’ll be fine!”

For those who know me, this is actually a plausible scenario.

At any rate, unlike ballerinas and football players, writers have no natural retirement age. If we keep our minds sharp, we can keep writing on our deathbeds. Many have.

My friend was shocked when I said that I gave myself as long as it takes. But then, she and I have very different ways of looking at the world.

The subject of personality has been making the rounds of our online community lately. Patrick Alan summed it up yesterday on his blog. It’s fun to look at our astrological influences or the slightly more scientific personality assessment of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®), which is interestingly built on Jungian theory.

I come out as an INTJ, which is apparently a small group. It means I’m an Introvert, Intuitive, Thinker, Judger. The other ends of these are extrovert, sensing, feeling and perceiving. It’s apparently unusual for a person who prefers intuition to rely on thinking instead of feeling. And it’s odd for an introvert to use judgment instead of perception, because it focuses on outer instead of inner.

That’s me: an odd duck.

But it’s useful to me to look at the summation for INTJ:

For INTJs the dominant force in their lives is their attention to the inner world of possibilities, symbols, abstractions, images, and thoughts. Insight in conjunction with logical analysis is the essence of their approach to the world; they think systemically. Ideas are the substance of life for INTJs and they have a driving need to understand, to know, and to demonstrate competence in their areas of interest. INTJs inherently trust their insights, and with their task-orientation will work intensely to make their visions into realities.

In some ways, it was a revelation to me to read this. “A driving need to understand, to know, and to demonstrate competence in their areas of interest” is where I live. Why do I want to succeed as a novelist when I’ve arguably already succeeded as a writer, particularly as an essayist? Because I have a driving need to demonstrate competence in my area of interest. For me, the rider on this is that it really doesn’t matter to me how long it takes.

I don’t know that I’d call running on the treadmill an area of interest, but this undoubtedly plays in there, too. My vision of me, sleek as a gazelle running, if not like the wind, then like a brisk breeze.

Remember I’ve got that rich inner world going here.

Apparently most of us writers tend to be introverts, which is why we’re happy sitting alone, writing, in the first place. Patrick Alan says he’s an ENFP, which makes me wonder how he does it. I notice that, though we’re opposites in three of four categories, we’re both intuitives. I suspect most writers are.

So, do you know your MBTI? And has it helped you understand anything about the way you work?

9 Replies to “Deadlines, Lifelines and the Test of Personality”

  1. I'm an introvert, too, but I can never remember the rest of them.

    It's never occurred to me to put a time limit on success, either. I expect I'll keep plugging away at my writing until something comes of it, if it ever does. If it doesn't…well, at least it's keeping me entertained.

  2. Cheers to INTJs!

    Admittedly, depending on which time I've taken the test, the F or the P will sneak in there. I'm good with the fluidity of the last two. I liken it to the switch of the left brain to the right. The editor versus the writer.

    But, the Intuitive Introvert never changes. I know this surprises you. ~cough~

  3. Linda, I think that's the thing, keeping yourself entertained. The writing has to be about more than getting published.

    Shocking, KAK. Really.

  4. I like having a clear goal in mind and I'll work toards that goal with single-minded purpose. I've been like that all my life and I don't see it changing much the older I get. I don't set a deadline, mind you. Just a goal and that seems to be enough for me.

  5. Great blog, Jeffe! (And I didn't know you were from Santa Fe–I love it there so much.)

    I'm an INFP. The F/T is borderline, though, so sometimes I'm more INTP. And not extremely introverted, either. But I was really really far on the P end of the spectrum. When I showed my hyper-J boss my results, she almost had a heart attack. I'm surprised she didn't demote me immediately as a lost cause. 😉

    Much of my working life–especially as a freelance writer–has been a battle to establish order amid chaos, to find a structure/routine that doesn't feel like a prison I have to break out of after three days.

  6. Thanks Jeri! I'm all glowy having such a fab author stop by and say nice things! Santa Fe is a wonderful place. Come visit!

    I tend to be borderline F/T and I/E. Very funny about your ultra P! But that's a very interesting insight into yourself, knowing that's a natural part of you.

  7. Having thought on this, I would tend to agree that most authors are introverts, but it does not necessarily follow that being such is a prerequisite to success at anything. A fair number of well-known authors are as extrovert as it is humanly possible to get, and they suffer no ill-effects from their status as differing from the norm.

    There's always the books of Hunter S. Thompson to look to – inspiration for all extrovert writers.

  8. Hmm… so are you accounting for the heavy drug use there or not?

    Just sayin…

    Considering that he lived as a hermit for the next half of his life…

    Though I totally agree in principle!

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