Our Four-Lettered Selves

One of my favorite ways to spend an evening is with two of my favorite girlfriends, Emily and Rachel. For over a year now, we’ve been meeting about once a month for what we’ve deemed “Creative Betterment.”

“Know your own bone,” Thoreau wrote. “Gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, gnaw it still.” Of course, the beginning of this powerful piece of wisdom is: “Do what you love.” In order to do what we love—whether we are woodworkers, legal-aid attorneys, emergency room physicians, or novelists—we must first know ourselves as deeply as we are able. ‘Know your own bone.’ This knowledge can be messy […] But it is at the center of our life’s work, this gnawing, this unearthing. There is never an end to it. Our deepest stories—our bones—are our best teachers. Gnaw it still.”
—Dani Shapiro, Still Writing 

We meet up at a little tea house not far from my house, get teapots of our favorite tea, and talk. We talk about what we’ve been working on lately and how things are going. We talk about issues we’re having in our creative pursuits and, usually, between the three of us, come up with creative solutions to our latest conundrums. Sometimes, it’s all high-fives and great-jobs (yes, we have show-and-tell time).

Ladies just need to talk. I know that now—as much as I need to write things out, I also need to talk them out. So our little meetings have been a chance for me to wade in about writing and the challenge of balancing creative work with the rest of life, and how to stay inspired. They were the first to know that I’d decided to write a book a year ago, and sometimes I wonder if I could have actually gotten it finished without our meetings (and their friendship). They’ve kept me sane, focused, accountable—through verbal processing and the cutest little teapots of sweet almond tea.

Last night, we met up again. It was a damp, dreary night—a perfect night for hot tea and staying indoors. I brought a book along to share: Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive. I’d emailed Emily and Rachel earlier in the week to ask them to take a personality test. Since taking the test myself last week and getting my results, I’ve been enamored with everything I could find to read about my personality type.

Why? Well, it’s spooky. I’ve learned things about myself—those rare, objective things that are completely outside of your own arrived-at revelations. It was a glorious dose of insight. And I hoped I could share it, that I wouldn’t be the only one feeling like I’d just gotten a healthy heap of affirmation.

Know Your Own Bone

My personality type (INFP) is prone to pursuits of self-exploration and self-discovery and introspection; it’s good to know that. I also need time to think and derive meaning. I’m an idealist; possibilities interest me more than realities. I struggle with perfectionism and sharing my work publicly—again, true to my INFP nature.

Are four letters enough to represent all the complexities of our inner lives, our preferences, our habits, our hopes and fears?

The most powerful thing I learned—without a doubt—is that I’m an introvert. While we usually think of introversion as the way we are around people versus being alone, introversion is really more about our orientation to the external world. Introversion is explained like this in Gifts Differing: “Minds inwardly directed […] interest and attention being engrossed in inner events. The real world therefore is the inner world of ideas and understanding.”

Thoreau once said, “Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” Are four letters enough to represent all the complexities of our inner lives, our preferences, our habits, our hopes and fears?

Probably not, but maybe they’re a start.




Further Resources & Readings

Take the Personality Test
Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type by Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter B. Myers
Creative You: Using Your Personality Type to Thrive by Otto Kroeger and David B. Goldstein
What Type Am I? Discover Who You Really Are by Renee Baron