My breed of extrovert.

[Emily Dickinson — the ultimate hermit]

I love studying personalities.

I minored in psychology and think they are completely fascinating. Which is why I take a Myers-Briggs test every 1-2 years, even though Eric makes fun of me. Other than a single little blip of being more judging than perceiving one year, I’m a solid, time-tested ENFP.  I’m proud of my NF — NFs are a category labeled as “visionary.”

But it’s that little E that troubles me.

Writers are supposed to be recluses, of a sort. They rush home after 3 hours of activity to jot every piece down in beautiful prose, or capture it all concisely in a perfect poem.  They keep a notepad with them, whether real or imagined, observing their surroundings and making deep connections.

They don’t, like I do, fill silences with too many jokes, talk far too often and much, get home tired with little energy left for reflection.  They don’t crave interaction. They can’t talk for hours, if allowed, unless they’re talking about plot twists in their latest novels. And yet, that’s not the whole me, either. For an extrovert, I’ve always felt reflective and introspective, despite thriving on good conversation and the occasional soiree. I over-think, overanalyze, drive myself crazy and journal it all to death.

In the last three years, I’ve written so many cover letters and variations of cover letters that I’ve lost count — probably fifty, at least.  In that time, I struggled to come up with phrases to described me.  At some point I began to worry about labeling myself as an extrovert and similar terms, because it didn’t tell the whole story — how I left the WSU party to move to a new state where I knew no one; that I have no interest in superficial friendships; that I despise ever being seen as inauthentic or shallow.

At one point I  settled on this phrase: introspective extrovert. Months later, pondering its meaning and implications, I did what any 21st century young lady would do. I Googled it.

The third result was a personality website forum discussing ENFP’s.

After I tripped out for a minute, I got to researching — could this aspect of personality be shared? Do like-minded people exist? To the point that they struggle to pin themselves down and assign labels? I must say, for as much as I am skeptical and critical of online relationships, there is much to be said for the community that results immediately from discovering that you’re not alone.

After further Googling, I came across this, from The Writer Bee:

“One thing I’ve learned is that, unlike most extroverted types, my specific combination needs some alone time. This was a relief to discover this after recognizing my desire to sometimes say “no” to going out with people which I thought was supposedly contrary to how extroverts in general behaved.”

Bingo.

I realize that this post has been entirely self-centered. But I’m writing these findings in hopes of exploring more of what it means to have personality affect art — specifically, how an extrovert (even an introspective one!) interacts with self, solitude, and creation.  Writing can be a lonely and isolated occupation.  What must I, as an extroverted person, do to avoid burnout when I sit at a computer alone in my house all day? How can I thrive? How can we?

Have you had similar thoughts?

If you haven’t ever taken the test, I encourage you to  take it and report back here. You don’t need to pay for extensive reports — there’s plenty of free information online.

How does your personality inform your artistic process?

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  • http://www.viealatable.com kris {life at the table}

    although i haven’t recently taken it, i have pretty consistently been a ISFJ over the years. i always find it interesting that of all the possible combinations of personalities, i tend to surround myself with similars…my sister is an enfp, as was my best friend in nashville, and now you. and my mom and i are the same. i think the only difference between me and wil is I/E.

    • brynna

      That’s so interesting. And I do the same — I’m not sure of exact personality types, but I’d be shocked if Eric and my friend Lydia are too different. Many of my close friends and most guys I’ve been interested in have tended to be introverted, for whatever reason. I can think of only a handful of exceptions.

  • Eva

    Well I finally did it. I’m an INFJ. I’ll have to see what Tim is. I’m looking forward to your upcoming posts.

    • brynna

      I’m glad you did it! Eric hasn’t taken the test recently, but he’s pretty sure he remembers being an INFJ. :)

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  • david

    cool post! i like the mb test. in fact i like jung’s stuff in general even though he gets a little out there sometimes (e.g., the collective unconscious).

    i’ve gotten intp results the last couple times i’ve taken the test. seems pretty accurate to me. i like how the test bases i vs e on what refreshes a person most rather than how the person acts on the outside around others (i.e. more of a behavioral definition).

    interesting dilemma you raise about the outgoing yet introspective writer. i think of blogging as more of an extroverted type of writing since it often takes on a conversational tone and often starts online conversations as well.

    i liked reading the post. : )

    • brynna

      Ha. The collective unconscious is very weird. I’m glad you liked the post. :) And I agree – lots of misconceptions surrounding I/E. I think part of my frustration is that as an extrovert I’m often much too focused on my audience even for writing I’d like to just do for myself. It’s sometimes hard to switch into “writing for writing’s sake” mode when I know ultimately what I write will be a conversation or a message.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=767924743 Deb Miller

    Hi Brynna! Apologies for only just now getting back to you… I’m afraid when you commented on my ENFP post on thewriterbee blog, I had just relocated across the country and was in the throes of trying to get settled in a new city/apartment/job/life. :) Feel free to drop me a line if you’d like to connect more on this topic – I’ve actually been trying to figure out my 5-year plan (now that I think I have a true vision of where I want to end up!) Hope to hear from you.