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Peter Stipe – Extraversion, Introversion, MBTI and Writers.

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Peter Stipe

My publisher and several of my writer friends love to say that writers are introverted.  They believe writers are solitary souls who communicate best when they are alone, writing rather than face-to-face with their audience.  I disagree.  As I mentioned in an earlier blog it’s dangerous to stereotype.  I expect that there are writers of all types; they are extraverted as well as introverted.  I know that I am a bit of both and I need to draw on both types and behaviors in my work as an author, though my preference is to be extraverted.

I worked in Human Resource Development and Training before I retired three years ago.  In that profession I became certified in MBTI, Myers Briggs Type Indicator.  That assessment instrument defines extraversion and introversion as the source where individuals finds their strength.  It’s not that extraverts are “people people” and introverts are shy and reclusive.  Extraverts seek energy from external things; people, events, experiences and places.  They need to get out there and mix it up in the world around them.  Introverts find the source of their strength within.  They need time to themselves to contemplate, to process their experiences, to chill, to rebuild.

I was raised in an introverted household.  We lived quietly and stayed home.  I read a lot. My desire to be out seeing friends and seeking excitement was discouraged.  I discovered myself to be an extravert when I left home for the first time and went off to college.  Because of my time living as an introvert I am comfortable now with that approach even though my natural tendency is extraverted.  I understand people whose preference is with either approach. I can empathize with and write about characters who live either way.

So how does this impact my writing?  I find my stories as an extravert, out there in the world, meeting people, hearing their stories, encountering a variety of experiences.  A friend once told me that he was sure I “hadn’t missed too many things along the way”.  I love that!

But then, for me to write, my introvert side has to kick in.  I come back home, loaded with storylines and characters.  I sit at my computer and dedicate hours to the craft of putting my experiences into words.  Sometimes I draw on my understanding of MBTI when I write.  People who are familiar with MBTI might see some of those concepts showing through if they analyze the characters in my stories. Consider any of the characters in The Art of Love and see what you think! And I need to do even more solitary, introverted work.  I must revise, edit, and polish my writing before I start the final hard work of perfecting each story further with an editor.  I find it a tedious but necessary process.

Finally, when the book is published, my extravert side kicks in again.  Now I go out to book signings, writers’ conferences and other events.  I smile, shake hands and talk with people about my books.  At a recent book event someone asked me, “Are you going to go home after this and write a story about me and my friends?”  I laughed and said, “Probably.  Keep an eye out for a book with you as the protagonist.”  She laughed along with me but she looked worried.

Peter Stipe is the author of Finding Our Way; a collection of short stories, and The Art of Love, a novel.  Peter   Facebook: PeterGStipe

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