Saturday, January 21, 2012

Introvert Saturday: Writing the Words, Living the Story

About the author: Adele Konyndyk is a freelance writer and INFP based in Hamilton, Ontario. When she’s not at her desk she’s probably eating cheese or browsing a used bookshop. You can follow her on Twitter.

I’ve had an introverted personality all my life and loved to write stories since I started putting sentences to paper. I’m an introvert. I’m a writer. And these are aspects of identity that I own up to openly, happily, and even proudly.

Well. Most days.

And I certainly didn’t at first.

I learned the word “introvert” while writing a short story for a high school English class on archetypes—universal images, plots, and characters used in literature across the ages—and their root in the gospel story. We read Steinbeck’s Cain-and-Abel-ish novel East of Eden, studied Greek myths and Shakespearean plays. I loved that stories could be both current and classic—that people could be paradoxes of unique elements and universal characteristics.

Not that I wore this love loudly. I talked little in class, already sure then I could articulate much better in writing than verbally But, as friends and family knew, it was one of my favourite classes. I was thrilled, also, that our final project could be a creative piece instead of an essay.

Somewhere in my story research into psychologist Carl Jung’s archetypes I rustled up his theories on introverted and extroverted personality types.

And they stuck. My story’s main character was a by-the-book INFP—opinionated but soft-spoken, intuitive but misread by others, creative but insecure. His name, was an allusion to the prophet who, to me, seemed to me the perfect example of an introverted ‘hero,’ and one scene between him and his mother was even modeled after Jeremiah’s calling.

This teenage creation was, of course, a completely unselfconscious literary masterpiece that led me, henceforth, to confidently share my writing with the world. It also caused me to proclaim myself “an introvert!” and glory in the very traits that had made me feel awkward or misunderstood.

Or…not.

Back then I couldn’t yet admit an upside to being one who often prefers to listen rather than speak or ponder rather than comment. I was stalled in my own fears and anxieties—my own attitude of “Alas, I do not know how to speak.” And it would be years before I’d admit that writing was more to me than the ability to embroider an assignment for a decent grade, but a gift of vocation.

This high school story did show me, however, that writing was a way for me to stay alert to joy. My teacher highlighted metaphors he liked and observations he found vivid. He also—and I think more importantly—pointed out places where he sense play, adding comments such as “you’re having fun, here!” beside inventive turns of phrase. I had to admit that I was having fun, here—and, in the process, somehow also speaking to larger truths about living authentically out of our differences.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to encounter many individuals with this same gracious attitude toward my work—and toward my personality. I’ve had—and continue to have—teachers, mentors, and friends who encourage me to live into and serve out of all elements of my identity. They don’t make me feel odd, for example, on nights I prefer solitude over a visit or one-on-one conversations over chatter in a crowded room. They understand when I want to express thoughts and feelings in writing (are patient, even, with oddly-long emails!). They remind me that I write because I like it. I suppose I could call them the notes in the margins of my life that help keep me alert to joy and affirm my God-given personality.

They’re also the much-needed voices of warning. When I wimp out, they call me on it. Some days I still act as if being an introvert and bring a writer are two burdens to endure. I diminish their delights and shirk the discipline they deserve. I fritter away time set aside for writing or contemplation because I’m too afraid to do real interior work. I refuse to share myself with new people, or my writing with anyone. I don’t set out to. I know it’s silly—cowardly. But, it happens

I am continually grateful for those who, in such times, talk me back into the fullness of my identity—not just as an introvert or a writer, but as a child of God. He is the very Father who told Jeremiah to stand up, go, and speak the words he had been given—who assured him, and assures us all, the he will be with us as we testify to the true story we have all been lovingly designed to tell.