Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
For over twenty years I worked in the field of higher education, much of that time spent working as a career counselor. One of the ways I helped students discover their major and career choice was by administering a personality inventory called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It’s based on the theories of Carl Jung, famed psychologist who believed, in short, that there were temperaments or “types” of personalities. The idea for students, of course, was if they could identify their personality preferences and learn to apply it to evaluating job functions, the fit might be better for both parties.
As I’ve ventured into the world of writing, I’m brought back to this inventory and have reflected on how it might relate to my writing style. Although in consideration of space, this is a very short and non-scientific look at the application, it provides an interesting angle on our writing personality.
Extrovert (E)—Have an external focus and energy source. They like to talk their ideas out loud and will process as they do. They are stimulated by their external environment—for example, music may energize them and writer’s groups are wonderful for processing.
Introvert (I)—Have an internal focus and energy source. They can get lost inside their own heads with little need to verbally process. They tend to like quiet and find external stimulation distracting. While not always loners, their need for socialization is more limited than their extroverted counterparts.
Sensing (S)—Into the details: the who, what, where, when and whys of things. They often enjoy precision and research and are exacting in their attention to details.
Intuitive (N)—Into the big picture. They love brainstorming and ideas. They are dreamers, but have a more difficult time and find it more tedious to get down to the “brass tacks” of an idea.
Feeling (F)—Make decisions through their heart. The first question they often ask is how do I feel about my choices? How will it influence others? Is it a kind/merciful decision? They lead with their hearts and may process decisions based on emotions.
Thinking (T)—Make decisions through their heads (even though they are aware of feelings) and ask questions like, does it make sense? What are the consequences? Is it just? Decisions, and even relationships, may be filtered through their sense of logic first.
Judging (J)—Enjoy a planned, organized lifestyle. High amounts of loose ends and unplanned interruptions will disrupt a judger’s sense of calm. They’re great with checklists and love the sense of completion of getting a task crossed off. Deadlines and a clean, organized workspace are comforting.
Perceiving (P)—Enjoy a more fluid, open-ended lifestyle. Although messes aren’t ideal, a sloppy desk isn’t a reason to panic; a Perceiver knows where everything is. Perceivers are more flexible with interruptions and have a higher need for variety. They’d love to be more organized and appreciate the need; they just seldom are.
In the theory of the MBTI, you would choose one type/letter from each of the four categories and this becomes your personality “type”.
What Does It Mean?
For me, being an INFJ means I can work, and in fact prefer to work, for hours in complete silence—only the hum of the refrigerator to keep me company. I love solitude and don’t crave writers’ groups, even though I know they are good for me. I love to brainstorm ideas in my own head and have a tougher time with the details, especially those pesky grammar details. I lead with my heart—I love to converse and relate to readers on a heart level. Despite my aversion to details, I crave organization. I keep bulletin boards with organized projects, a list of due dates for articles and love a sense of completion when I submit a piece. I can’t stand a cluttered work desk—it makes me nervous. The downside is I tend to sometimes get overwhelmed if there are too many due dates or open-ended projects on my to-do list.
Looking at this list, how would you describe your writing personality? Does this help shed light on your style? Are you a planner or a pantser? What does your work space look like?
For more information on the MBTI, visit here.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Graphics such as this often are played at least to some extent for the humor, with some tidbits of truth and/or wisdom thrown in to anchor the whole thing. I went through the list, conjuring memories or pet peeves that matched up with the “tips” listed, or things my wife, kids and friends have to endure as they tolerate the writer in their midst. So, I decided to post each of the infonuggets here, along with my take on them:
- Never ask when the book will be published.
This one makes no sense to me. I love when somebody asks me this question. It (usually) means they’re interested in what I’m doing. I’m always telling people when my next book will be out and I keep a running “monthly wrap-up” on my blog, detailing the progress of every project I have in the hopper. My regular readers appreciate these updates, and they know they can ask me about the status of a given project at any time. What can I say? I’m an attention-whore.
- Do not ask a writer if they wish they had written the latest best-seller.
I’ve never gotten this question, but 1) All writers wish they had a best-seller, and 2) It depends on the book in question. I’m okay with not having written Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, but I wouldn’t mind writing something like Darth Vader and Son.
- Never say you’re thinking of writing a book. Never ever say you’d also write a book if only you had the time.
Okay, this one can bug me on occasion, mostly because it’s probably the one statement I’ve heard the most over the years. I frequently get asked some variation of, “How do I become a writer?” The most fervent askers of such questions don’t seem to like hearing that to be a writer, you have to...you know...write.
- Don’t call the police if you happen to see a writer’s browsing history. The average writer is not planning to poison you, hire a hitman, or move to Afghanistan. It’s simply research.
This, of course, is what we want you to think.
- Leave the writer alone when the writer is actually writing. You have no idea how difficult it is to enter “the zone.”
I agree with this one, for the most part. When I’m in my home office and the door is closed, that’s the universal signal for “Writer at Work.” Family and friends know that they open said door at their peril. You’ll know when I’m on a crash deadline, as I’ll have enabled the office’s protective guillotine and laser grid features.
- Don’t pick unfair fights with a writer. Writers do get their revenge in print.
And the dumber the fight or argument, the more painful your fictional namesake’s demise. For example: If you want to argue with me over how much you think the latest Star Trek film sucks, I’m sending you and your hovercar over the cliff on some winding Martian mountain road. Political discussions usually mean I’m going to make you the main course for a horde of zombies. Your mileage may vary.
- If you do want to fight, make it memorable. The writer is always looking for material.
I actually did craft an exchange of dialogue in one novel based on a string of comments from a Facebook discussion. Some of the more memorable conversations and/or arguments definitely make good fodder. However, no one from the original discussion died in the resulting book.
- If your writer wanders off at a party, don’t panic. Writers love to inspect the host’s bookshelves and medicine cabinets.
I can honestly say I don’t peek into cabinets or drawers in other people’s homes or offices. That’s just rude, but I do peruse your movie collection, if for no other reason than to see if you’re bold enough to display your porn alongside the mainstream titles. I’ll also definitely be checking out your bookshelves...mostly to see if any of my books are there, and I then judge you accordingly.
- Buy your writer notebooks and cute pens as gifts. Do not buy flowers. Chocolate is also acceptable.
I’m not much of a flower person, but I imagine at least someone out there would appreciate the thought. I’m okay with notebooks, but feel free to substitute “vodka” where it says “cute pens.” In fact, sub it for “notebooks,” too. On the other hand, the chocolate is always welcome.
- Leave your writer alone when a rejection letter arrives. After the deadly silence, screaming, crying, moaning and muttering have subsided, offer your writer a cup of coffee or tea. And a cupcake. Add a huge hug.
I know no writer who gets that worked up over a rejection. It happens to all of us, and it’s just part of the game, right? Personally, I shrug it off, see if there’s anything in the rejection letter I can use to improve the story I submitted, and then I move on. This goes double for bad reviews, which we all get, too. Stuff happens, but feel free to send along the cupcakes. They can’t hurt.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
My first two books were published by the now defunct Dorchester Publishing company. A year ago Amazon bought out Dorchester and after two years of little activity, my books began selling again. In the month of January I sold over three thousand copies of my first book. My husband was ecstatic. He was happy that I could actually make a living by my writing. He couldn’t wait for the February statement. I was, however, cautiously optimistic. I know in the business of writing, consistency of remuneration is not always the norm.
When the February statement rolled around, I had only sold a few hundred copies. My husband’s disappointment was obvious. I calmly told him it was the nature of the business. He told me he could never be a writer. My response was, “Writing is not for the faint of heart.”
A professional writer’s life is one of crests and valleys, and a trial of patience. You write a wonderful masterpiece, you edit it, you submit it to a publisher and you wait and wait and wait, only to be sent a form letter telling you that your masterpiece was rejected. A person without tenacity or one who sees writing as a high-returns-low-investment scheme would give up. After the sixtieth rejection letter even the dedicated writer might give up. But who knows, the sixty-first could be the one who accepts your masterpiece.
Let’s say you’re fed up with the anxiety and stress of the traditional publishing houses and you decide to go the Indie route. That still has its crests and valleys. Many authors write and produce really wonderful literary masterpieces and publish them via indie publishing. Some even offer free books and sweepstakes. Yet often times the sales are erratic. Sometimes they sell a lot, other times months go by and the sales are in the single digits. Does it mean he or she should give up? No, a true writer keeps writing regardless. Even if a traditional publisher grabs up the book, sometimes the sales will be through the roof and other times they may lag.
Now you’ve gotten your book published and it is selling relatively well. The reviews are good initially, but then you read one bad review on a blog that has an extensive comment thread, where people vow they will not purchase the book because of that bad review. Do you give up? Only if you are thin-skinned. I remember reading a review of one of my books, where the reviewer began by saying all of the other reviews were good so she felt she had to give a bad review too even it out. Seriously? No matter how good a book you write, there will always be negative reviews because not everyone will like your book, your writing style, or your characters. So we have to grow really thick skin and like a duck, let the water slide of our backs and just keep writing.
So if you’re gonna write professionally there are a few things you have to do.
1. Get a backbone – you need it for the reviewers and critiques
2. Be patient – getting published requires some waiting
3. Ignore negativity – it’s not worth listening to naysayers
4. Grow really thick skin-- again you need it for those negative reviews
5. Be tenacious – just keep writing regardless
And finally, if you are going to be a writer, write for the love of writing. If you’re in it for the money and not for the love of the craft, the anxiety, the stress, the waiting will kill you, because writing is not for the faint of heart.