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How does your personality affect your creative process?

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I hadn’t thought much about that until recently, when I got sucked into a whirlwind. I was part of the behind-the-scenes crew filming a show for the Travel Channel here in Florida. (I can’t give more details than that right now, sorry).

But here’s what I can tell you: we worked twelve hour days—minimum—at a crazy pace, with a constant need for improvisation, switching gears, and changing plans on the fly. It was completely exhausting.

Here’s the part that surprised me: It was also completely exhilarating.

I loved every minute of it. (Well, except getting up at 5:00 a.m.) I loved the pace and the energy and the people, despite my exhaustion.

Did I get any writing done while I was gone? Nope. Not a word. I occasionally answered a few urgent emails moments before I collapsed at night. That’s it.

That got me thinking about my basic personality and how it affects my creative process. While I was in high school, a mentor asked me how well I’d do as a writer since that requires so much time alone—and I’m such a people person. My hackles went up and I insisted I’d be fine. But the question lingered in the back of my mind. I freelanced for ten years before I went back to work part-time. To be honest, the silence and the loneliness got to me. I realized that being around people energizes me.

But to write, I need quiet. I need to climb into my head and quiet the noise enough to think. On every personality test I’ve ever taken, I’ve scored really high in two opposing categories. I’ve never put much stock in the zodiac, but is it any wonder I’m a Gemini: the twins?

I’m an extrovert.

And I’m an introvert.

So how do I balance that? I’ve realized that I’m probably never going to be one of those writers who can sit and produce five perfect pages of prose a day. I’m more of a book-in-a-week kind of girl. Puke it all out on the page in an intense creative rush–and then emerge from the cave for my people-fix.

What about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? And how does that impact your creative process? I’d love to hear what you think.

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    The Conversation

  1. diane burke says:

    I used to think I was an extrovert but the last few years I find myself most productive when it is quiet and I am alone. Don’t know whether that is a personality change or life circumstance forcing me to adjust…but that’s how it’s working (or not ) for me.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Isn’t it interesting how things change over time? My guess is that it’s both personality and life. But your books are wonderful, so whatever you’re doing, it’s working!

  2. I’ve thought it was odd for a long time that I felt I was both an introvert and an extrovert so it’s nice to know I have company. There are times I can spend days alone and be perfectly content and there are times I really enjoy being part of a large group and interacting with them.

  3. debianne says:

    I’m an introvert! But…I have found that most people have a “bad” connotation of introverts and would much prefer to be known as an extrovert. I’ve learned a couple of things along the way about introverts (myself): 1. If a person is and introvert, it does NOT mean they are shy or anti-social. 2. Introverts tend to dislike small talk. 3. Introverts like to socialize – only in a different manner and less frequently than extroverts. And…4. Introverts need time alone to recharge.
    It’s in that “alone” time that I find I can reconnect with my art. It’s without the “shadow” of othersthat I am my most creative self! It’s when I am completely alone that I can explore and create without inhibition. It’s also a time I can shut down the “inner critic” who would love to keep me trapped in the “extrovert” world of “shoulda”…

    • Connie Mann says:

      Everything you said resonated with me, big time, Debi! Thanks so much for articulating it so well. Getting out from under the “shadow” of others–and the dreaded “shouldas” is so hard for me. Thanks so much for the encouragement!

  4. Ilona Fridl says:

    Connie, I think I’m an introvert in an extroverts body. I was very shy as a child, but I forced myself to socialize. I still get the nerves when I have to talk to people.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Oh, I do get that! I did not completely conquer my fear of public speaking until I became a boat captain/tour guide. I’m comfortable in that arena now, but teaching? I still get butterflies.

  5. I’ve actually done the Meyers-Briggs testing, and I am an introvert (an INFJ, if I remember correctly. It’s been a while.) That “I” tends to surprise people who don’t really know me — I’m fairly outgoing and social. But doing that takes a LOT out of me. It really is not any kind of hardship for me to have a career that requires me to sit off by myself and focus on something solitary. I love it!

  6. Mac Crowne says:

    Interesting post, Connie. I’ll admit to being an extrovert with a selfish streak. I need to be around the action, but when the muse is on me, look out. I need my space and growl if I don’t get it. LOL I think everyone is somewhere in the middle, needing the human connection AND the quiet.

  7. Celia Yeary says:

    CONNIE–defnitely, I’m not an extrovert. I don’t like to be the center of attention as a general rule, but I can get up before a group, stand behind a podium, and talk. But extrovert? My best friend for decades is an extrovert–solid. She talks loudly at times, she wants the spotlight, she wears extravagant clothing, has flaming red hair that’s naturally curly. No one we know understands how we can be so close. Well, it’s because I let her have the floor. But when she wants serious talk, she comes only to me…because she knows I’m a little more sane than she is.
    It’s an interesting question connected to our writing. It gives me somethiing to think about.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Celia–I’m so glad it made you think–that’s one of the reasons for this blog. To help people see their strengths and work with them, not against them, so they can get where their dreams are trying to take them!

  8. I used to be a classic introvert but as I’ve aged, I’m changing into an extrovert. I think the reason is that I no longer care so much about what people think about me. I’ve got to the point in life where I can cheerfully say, “Take me or leave me. You don’t have to love me.” And that may be why I’ve become more outgoing and bouncy.

  9. Katherine says:

    Connie,
    I’m an introvert from a large family of extroverts. They joke that I hate people as a whole but like individuals. Sometimes, I think they’re right. I have to agree with what Debianne. I think she describes it perfectly. I hate small talk for the most part and I have a small circle of close friends I like to spend time with but put me in a large group of people and I feel distinctly uncomfortable.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Katherine, I’m going to have to use that joke from your family. It sums it up SO well!! Love it. And I agree that Debianne did a fabulous job of summing it up!

  10. I am definitely an introvert. I am also a Gemini, which is probably why I can fake being an extrovert. I teach group exercise classes, and even after 8 years of doing this, I STILL have to psyche myself up before each class and remind myself to smile and make eye contact.

    I have a blog for shy & introverted writers (http://shywriters.blogspot.com) and I’ve learned there’s a big misconception about introverts. People think we don’t like to socialize or that we don’t like people. This isn’t necessarily true. The main difference between introverts and extroverts (I’m generalizing here) is that introverts find social events and experiences an energy drain–we need to recharge afterwards. But extroverts are energized by them.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Connie Mann says:

      I think you’re absolutely right about the biggset difference between introverts and extroverts, Rebecca. I need my regular people fix; but if I don’t get some alone time regularly, too, I get very cranky. 🙂 So glad you enjoyed the post. I’ll have to check out your blog–sounds really neat.

  11. Calisa Rhose says:

    I think about this a lot, Connie. I’m an extrovert through and through. But- I’m shy in some situations. Does that make sense? I want, need, to be the center of attention, but when that spotlight falls on me I want to crawl under a rock. I want to be needed, in the know of everything- but I want my privacy and alone time at the same time. How is that possible?! I hate my office being in the living room where everyone else is, but want to be where everyone else is at the same time. Makes for hard writing focus for sure. 🙂

    Can’t wait to hear more about the travel channel show you are involved in!

    • Connie Mann says:

      Hi Calisa, that constant push-pull is tough, isn’t it? But it sounds like you know yourself well–which I think is the most important part of working with, not against, our personalities. Sometimes its not a question of balance, but of scheduling. People time and then alone time. Both together never works for me!

      I’ll post news about the show as I get it! Thanks 🙂