This week has been pretty rough.
It started with working late on Monday, to prepare for a trip to Southern California on Tuesday. I flew down Tuesday morning, worked for several hours in a somewhat picturesque desert, then flew back that same night. Wednesday was a normal work day, followed by writing with Michael and Cody (and Jenni!) at Starbucks. I was so frazzled, though, that I forgot to grab the power cord for my laptop, and had to do everything with pen and paper. Thursday was the holiday party at work, followed by the whole rest of the evening Christmas shopping with the kids.
Now it’s Friday. As I’m writing this, there are a large number of teenagers in my living room, enjoying each other and having a Christmas Party. My writing laptop is out there, hooked up to the stereo, playing Christmas music. I’m hiding away in my garage, clicking and clacking on my mechanical keyboard, enjoying some distance between me and all that noise and energy.
I’m not an expert on the Myers Briggs personality types, but I know what this feeling is that I’m experiencing. It’s the same thing I felt at the very end of Convolution. I’m out of that stuff that lets me hang out with people in an enjoyable way. I feel low. I’m tired. I’m on the edge of crankiness.
Fortunately, I’m also experienced with this little personality quirk, and I know how to deal with it. First, I need to do what I’m doing now. That is, I put a little distance between me and the rest of the world. It’s not a huge gulf. Melissa can still poke her head out and check on me, and I have walked in and been a little bit sociable throughout the evening. But there is a shield I can duck behind, and try to get my thoughts in order, and breathe easy.
That’s one of the things that was so crazy about this week. Normally, as a programmer, I can just put my headphones on, dive into my code, and the rest of the world goes away. I have to expend energy on the programming, but I also recharge a little. When I finish a particularly gnarly project, I get a huge boost. Or if I’m feeling really low, I can drift into the monotonous, mindless side of programming, and spend my work day recharging. It normally works out really well for me.
This week, however, I was constantly interrupted. We have a huge project that we need to have finished as soon as possible, and for various reasons, we’ve hit snags and delays and roadblocks, and I’m one of the ones that’s best equipped to help us get to a finished place. So all this week, I had a lot of phone calls, and a lot of people coming by my desk to ask me questions, or get my help. I had no choice but to put down my headphones, put down everything I was working on, and focus on the person talking to me so that I could help them as best I could.
Even though I need to withdraw from people for a little bit, I can still get lonely. Loneliness wasn’t my problem this week. I only want to mention this because it’s a logical mistake to think that an introvert might not get lonely while they’re recharging. I have, and I do get lonely sometimes.
Tomorrow, I’ll have a bit of time in the car on my way to the Oakland area for the Auspicious Northern California Writer’s Group. It’s very auspicious, and I’ve been looking forward to it for about a month. It includes me, Pol, Setsu, and Karen. I’ve read all their work, and I’ve written down some notes. I hope that I’m helpful, and I hope that the work I submitted isn’t judged too harshly. I think I’ll talk about that fear in another post.
The interesting thing about the formation of this group is that, as Setsu put it, I’m the center. Karen, Setsu, and I met at Convolution in the writer’s workshop, so the three of us are connected in that fashion. Setsu and I have become really great friends since Convolution. Karen and I have shared some correspondence since then, too, and it was Karen’s idea that we start a writer’s group when it became apparent that I couldn’t join her in any of the groups she was already attending. I’ve been friends with Pol forever, and Pol and I have written together and enjoyed fiction together for years and years. I’m the common thread in our group, and I feel some of the stress of being the hub in the middle of the wheel.
I’m not sure of the comfort level of all introverts in their ability to be the center, or if INFJ’s have some special, functional ability that helps. I’ve been the central figure in other sorts of groups, online and offline. The only way I’m able to function is to take an emotional step back, out of myself, and focus on the needs and goals of the group itself. Then I’m able to make plans and act on those plans for the group, and not just for myself.
I haven’t had to do so much of that with the Auspicious group. We’ve used Google Groups, and since Pol is hosting, he’s taken care of nearly all of the requirements for making the gathering happen. All I have to do at this point is show up and be happy and energetic.
Which brings me back to this hellish week, and what I’m doing right this moment. I’m recharging. I’m going to go to bed as early as I can get away with tonight, and I’m going to get up early and be out of the house early, so that I can be by myself in the car a bit longer. I’ll listen to James Marsters read me Jim Butcher’s Dead Beat. If I get to the Oakland area too soon, I’ll find a quiet coffee shop and putter around with my short story. I’ll be ready for tomorrow. I just have to get through tonight.
I’m an ENFJ and I feel pressure at the center, too. If anything goes wrong it falls on me — but I also feel responsible for others’ happiness in that position. It’s hard to enjoy the party as the host. I think ego, more than myers-briggs, determines how comfortable someone is as the hub.
I see your point on ego.
After you had pointed out that I was the one that connected everyone to each other in our group, I felt like if the group failed, it would be my responsibility. That’s purely ego, and also nonsense.
Part of it was also feeling responsible. I build models of everyone in my head, and the I could see scenarios where the strengths of the different personalities would conflict in terrible ways. I kept imagining all of the worst case scenarios, and I wound up fretting over nothing.
With Setsu being an ENFJ and Brian, you’re on the border between INTJ and INFJ (I think?), your group is going to ROCK. Setsu is also my partner-in-crime in our writing group and I feel like there is no better combination that the ENFJ/INFJ combo. The ENFJ feeds my creative spark like no other personality, and gives me an energy boost as well. It’s always a win-win.
Excited to hear how the meeting goes!
I thought the meeting went extremely well!
I’ve been friends with Pol for a very long time, and he was a generous host. He offered us a warm and inviting atmosphere, as well as an eloquent and unique perspective in his critiques.
Karen is an extremely strong writer that comes up with fantastic premises and executes them beautifully. She is extremely knowledgeable of the recipes for making good stories. She is able to not only use these formulas in her own writing, but also demonstrate where they apply with her critiques. Even better, she’s able to exercise her knowledge and experience without coming off as dry or pretentious.
Setsu is basically my new best friend. She brought to the group an energy and enthusiasm that I envy. In addition to being an excellent writer, she kept everyone talking and engaged. Her writing and approach is more visceral, and she’s honestly more brave than I am. She’s extremely encouraging.
I am on the border between INTJ and INFJ. With the first meeting, I was much more subdued than I wanted to be. I was nervous, and a little bit tired and stressed out from a long work day. I’m still learning to put my writing in front of people. I still feel exposed and raw and terrified, but I’m getting over past it. It really helps that this particular group is full of people I admire and respect, and I trust them not to cut my heart out.
Hi Brian, the Myers-Briggs test — I haven’t thought about it for years! But I remember consistently being tested as INTJ, although I think it’s possible that you shift over time. I definitely understand/empathize about needing to be alone to recharge. I loved our meeting BTW — I’m so impressed by all of you, Setsu, Pol, and you, Brian. You’re remarkably bright and articulate and fun and committed and I greatly look forward to next time!