Thursday, November 8, 2018

The 'Write' Fit: Writers, personality, and process

Eek! I screwed up, hence why this post is coming to you late. It's two days post Election Day and my brain is entirely elsewhere. So I apologize. Also we had another mass shooting and my anxiety is through the roof, but I'm here. Because if it's one thing I hate, it's not showing up when I'm supposed to.
So Carrie's bullet journal post reminded me of something I wanted to write about. In Carrie's post she discussed how list-making helps her stay on track. It keeps her organized and focused. And I admire Carrie greatly because I always wanted to be the person who was organized. But you know what doesn't help me in the slightest? List making. Clearly, Carrie and I have two different personality types.

A year ago, hell, six months ago, I would've read about bullet journals and I'd have gone online to buy a fancy journal. I would've gotten excited about making lists, assuming that this system of organization would change my whole life. And then, I'd make a list only to freaking forget about it the very next day. And then I'd feel like garbage. Because as I've learned, I'm not a detail-oriented list maker. Carrie is. Kim is not.

You see over the summer, on the recommendation of several author friends, I took a class called Writer Better Faster. And despite the pithy title, this class is way more than simply learning one process to write better faster. This class, taught by the smart AF Becca Syme, doesn't instruct authors in some one-size-fits-all writing process. It teaches authors about themselves through personality and strength assessments to see what writing strategies will help them specifically. It is an eye-opener.

Most people have heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test. I don't want to get into the science on it, because I get overwhelmed with the details, but it basically boils us down into 16 personality types. (If you want to take a free test, you can google it, or you can click here). I took this test as part of the class, and I'm an ENFP. To be succinct, I'm an Extrovert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving.

So what does that have to do with writing? For example, I'm an extrovert (big surprise to anyone who knows me). I need to talk. And when I get stuck on a plot problem, I need to talk about it aloud with either another person, or to the wall. But either way, I need to verbalize my thought process. A mystery plot that I've brought to a convoluted halt? I need to tell my dog about it. Whereas an introvert needs quiet time to work it out internally, I need to break down things out loud.

I also discovered that one of my greatest strengths is adaptability. I can go with the flow. Plotting mysteries isn't something best left to pantsing, but as long as I know the killer and crime, I can find feel my way there. For so long, I have beaten myself up over having to rewrite my books at the 50K-word mark. Except this is something I've learned to accept is part of my process. It's not always efficient, but I get a better book when I've felt out the story.

Other things I've learned about myself:

I am not detail-oriented. I am a big picture kinda girl. This means that when I plot a mystery, I can nail down big plot turns, but small clues go by the wayside. On revision, I then need to insert those clues into the manuscript. A far easier task when the story is already done.

I work better in the morning. The early morning. When no one is awake and the coffee is all mine.

I can't do spreadsheets, and there is no point in keeping track of word counts.

And....I can't have the internet up while working. It has to be off. I can focus for chunks at a time if I'm in the zone. I often work at the library and don't request internet usage.

Also, I need quiet. Like a monastery quiet.

Perhaps you're thinking why would someone need a class to learn these things about themselves? Granted, I am oversimplifying a very nuanced approach to writing. But we assume so much about ourselves and then we read all these craft books that tell us, 'this is how you do it.' What works for some, doesn't work for others.

Anyway, if you can't afford to take a class, I suggest trying some of these online tests. See what they say. Then determine if you're setting yourself up for failure by trying to conform to a process that won't work for your brain.

Carrie's bullet journal keeps her focused. A 5am wake-up writing time works for me. What might work for you?


Carrie Beckort said...

I love that writing is one of those professions where there aren't any specific rules for how you have to get it done. Everyone is different and is motivated differently. And I really do like my lists :D Time to go cross something off!

Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

I can write a list, but I'll just ignore it. ;)

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