Saturday, June 23, 2007

Extraverts can be great writers, too

People know me as an extraverted person. I get energized by being around people and doing things in the world. When I think of my favorite foreign trips, I inevitably imagine myself walking in large exotic public spaces surrounded by throngs of people. Once in college I talked for eight hours in one day. You get the picture.

Because my extraversion has always been so clear, I have often wondered whether I am the right kind of person to be a writer. Writing usually happens when you are alone. It requires a lot of concentration. It takes a long time to get the words down, and then to edit them into the right shape. You can talk over ideas but at some point, you need solitude. Lots of it.

While introverts are 25% of the population, I am pretty sure that a significant majority of are introverts. Introverts’ personalities are streamlined for the process of writing in the same way that super-studly Olympic champion Michael Phelps’s body is streamlined for the process of swimming.

Introverts rarely have resistance to the notion of spending time thinking by themselves or working by themselves. For instance, my partner, who is a law professor, is an introvert. He spends his days happily working on legal scholarship. Ten hours after turning on his computer he is still at his desk, the only signs of physical movement an expanding set of empty coffee cups.

That is just not me! I can sit still for maybe a couple of hours, max. And even then I need to indulge in various kinds of self-bribery, most of which involve food.

And yet—my whole entire life I have been drawn toward writing. As a 12-year old in California, I typed 150 pages of a novel (it was about a 12-year old character named “Michael Melcher” who lived in a townhouse in New York City and went to a special school for millionaires’ children). I’ve continued writing, on both serious and wacky topics, ever since. Several years ago I wrote a novel with three other people (about a student prostitution ring at Harvard), and I just wrote a self-help and career-management book for lawyers (which is … a self-help and career-management book for lawyers). Plus articles, travel emails, crazed letters to the editor . .. the whole nine yards.

My urge to write has persisted. Writing is not the thing that makes me most comfortable, but fulfillment and excitement are rarely about comfort. When I do it, writing makes me very happy in a very unique way.

So now, instead of wasting any time wondering whether writing is really me, I focus on creating the workarounds that enable me to write—I have lots of clever tricks (more on those, later).

All this kinda makes me wonder how many of us put off pursuing things that excite us because they don’t seem to fit. Instead of just making them fit.

There are a lot of masterpieces of all kinds waiting to be created. What would it be like to make them happen, rather than pondering the reasons you might not be able to?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hassle me, please!

My friend Gretchen Rubin just turned me on to a new site, brilliant in its power and simplicity!

It's called "Hassle Me" and, basically, it bugs you at particular intervals to do things, like go to the gym, pet the dog, or take a moment to get out of your head and enjoy life. What I love about the idea is that it's a way to build in MINDFULNESS–at those prearranged moments when you are being bugged by the reminder, you remember what it is you are trying to focus on.

This is basically part of what I do for my clients, albeit in a psychic, non-computer way. They internalize the Michael Melcher voice who occasionally peeps up in their unconscious, "oh, I need to use my positioning statement" and "oh, I need to call person I've been trying to reach" and "oh, Michael Melcher says I'm allowed to treat myself to something fun when I do something that's hard so I'm going to buy flowers for myself and also get a massage and also have chocolate."

I will let you know how it goes. I'm going to focus on "eat fresh fruits and vegetables" which apparently is the key to all happiness.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Buddha on the Subway

This morning, when I was talking with a friend about life stuff, I remembered an exercise from a self-help book I once read.

Try going through your day imagining that everyone you run into is more enlightened than you. This means: the post office clerk, your boss, your dog, the checkout girl chewing gum, the delivery boy, your kid, your spouse or partner, your assistant, the scary teenagers shouting on the subway. Et cetera.

Sound hard? Actually, it’s easy. It frees you from the burden of judgment. If you regard other people as more enlightened than yourself, you’re accepting that you don’t have all the answers, and don’t have to.

Instead of getting annoyed at the person who stands directly in front of the subway doors, you get curious about him—because he’s more enlightened than you are. You start wondering about his thoughts, interests, gifts, what he’s struggled with, what he knows, who he loves, who loves him. In a weird way, through this kind of observation, you join with the world, rather than detaching yourself from it.