I enjoy personality tests. In fact, I often take them while pretending to be my book characters. The characters are fluid when I begin writing, and they develop personalities along with their stories, allowing me to eventually pinpoint basic type motivations and fears. Then I answer the personality surveys
as an excuse not to finish my stories to test my own abilities in understanding archetypes.
At some point in my personality test obsession, I signed up for daily advice e-mails directed at “my type.” This was today’s advice: “…if you let go of your identification with your particular self image that you are separate from the environment (an outside observer), you will find transformation through understanding” (Understanding the Enneagram, 375). Will I, now? Who wrote this advice, and is he insane?! Observation is what brings understanding. When I remove myself from the environment, and that isn’t at all difficult to do, I can see the world from a neutral distance. I don’t need to involve myself in it. How does being in the thick of things bring anybody closer to understanding? It’s an act of distancing, even, that allows for understanding book characters. Observation of human behavior may be my best and only skill.
Yet, and yet…observation often prevents action. This week, I’ve had to act. I’ve had to cope with problems at the university. I’ve had to drive my children many places. I’ve had to give my eldest driving lessons. I’ve had to fill out applications. I’ve had to put together a resume of my spotty work history in order to rejoin the workforce. When I say rejoin, I mean I’ve literally been nothing more than a housewife for about eighteen years, aside from the part-time or temporary work I’ve done to help pay bills. But my life is changing. In less than a month, I’ll be taking two classes with labs (which effectively doubles class time w/o doubling credits), working to pay for my classes, homeschooling, and publishing another e-book. My life must change from one of observation to one of action.
This is an important lesson for any observer to learn. At some point, you–the observer–will be called to action. I understand this. After all, I’ve studied the personality types and taken the tests. On a spiritual level, I also have the sense that God wants me to begin taking action. I don’t care if you don’t believe in God, or whether you believe that God is an impersonal entity. This is my blog, and I believe in a personal God who is calling me to action. I’ve been carrying on a conversation in the comments section of an old blog post; I don’t know the person whom I’m conversing with, but his comments have given me reason to consider how I’ve been wasting my life. What’s important? What’s truly important? I only know of obvious answers to this question.
Going back to my original paragraph, I must ask myself which of my characters needs further understanding. I can take personality tests and test as any type I choose to, but how does this help me revise? In essence, I’m thinking along these lines: maybe the book that needs revising is me. As awareness of character is only the start to revising a book until final draft, my own awareness of self is also just a beginning.