Introvert

How an INTJ Writes a Story: Plotting vs. Pantsing

joelsnyder922_v4As my newest novella, Shadows and Nightmares (buy it on Amazon!), is now published, I thought I would talk a little about a question that many ask me. How do you write a story?

Really, this question could be better phrased as, “how do I write a story?” Every writer is different in their method. And what works for one writer will not necessarily work for another. So, what I’m going to do is give you an insight into how I approach writing. Today, I’ll talk about the first task that I do when I start to write.

The Plotting vs. Seat-of-the-Pants Spectrum

I used the word spectrum. Sounds smart, right?

Anyway, many writers land somewhere on the scale between being the person who plans every scene or who just kinda wings it. A famous plotter is James Patterson, and a famous pantser is Stephen King. Neither way is better than the other.

As an INTJ, I fall on the plotting side. I create a plan, a framework going forward. One of the things I do is write out a brief summary of every scene (chapter) in my books before I write them. In my summary, I include things like location, time of day, character development, how it moves the plot forward, etc. This allows me to keep the story moving.

However, I don’t plan the nitty-gritty things in my  outline. If I do that, I lose the ability to be flexible. Playing within the framework is important to me. I discover nuances as I write. Sometimes, I’ll change little things as I go to plug plot holes and the like.

The advantages of plotting are several. 1) I always know where I am going. I never feel lost as I write. The bones are already there. All I have to do is flesh them out. 2) I rarely have to cut a scene, because every scene has a purpose in advancing the plot. In fact, I usually add scenes in the initial editing phase. 3) I know what my characters will do before hand. This eliminates a lot of plot holes/inconsistencies.

The pantsers’ advantage is that 1) their writing can feel more organic. They are literally discovering what happens as they write. 2) They are more open to changing the plot as demanded. Nothing is set in stone. 3) Their characters can seem more dynamic.

Because plotters do much of their work upfront, they do less editing after it is written. Pantsers do less work upfront, but generally do much more editing on the back end. The work still has to be done either way.

Which approach works best for you?

(Here is a great article by Anton Vann on how to write either as a plotter or pantser. It’s longer and gives a you a lot of great ideas.)

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The INTJ Musician’s Top 7 Nonfiction Books from 2018

Hello Everyone,

It has been a while, so I thought I’d let you know about some great books that I’ve read this past year. This year was a first for me. I don’t usually read nonfiction, but I decided I needed more skills and knowledge. To help matters, one of my jobs allows me to read during lulls. I’ve squeezed in a lot more reading this year than usual, and you are the beneficiaries!

Disclaimer: 1) Some of these books can be directly applied to life as a working musician. Some will not. They’ve all helped my understanding of the world, though. 2) I have linked to their Amazon pages, but you could do what I did, which was order them from the library. I don’t get any money from sharing these links.

Without further ado, here are my top 7 books of 2018:

your creative career

7. Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino

This was an excellent book with a more philosophical take on being a creative. I would recommend it for those who need to get into the mindset of being an artist and a businessperson. It’s very pithy. It’s got great aphorisms that you can take to heart.

war_of_art

6. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

This short book will inspire those of us who want to create but are too afraid of taking the plunge. I don’t agree with all the language in it or even all the ideas. However, it has helped me focus, and I read it every so often in order to reorient myself.

hillbilly_elegy

5. Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

I descend from hillbilly stock on both sides of my family, so this book was eye-opening for me. I even grew up in a place nicknamed “Hazeltucky” (that wasn’t a compliment, either). Even though I’m a few more generations removed than Mr. Vance, I still could see some of the same mindset struggles in my own life.

ren soul

4. The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine

Those of us with multiple interests and skill-sets often struggle. We don’t know how to use our skills to create an income and a life we actually want to live. Thankfully, Ms. Lobenstine specializes in helping people with multiple skills/interests find careers. I highly recommend this book if you are of this mind and are looking to change your life.

intellectuals and society

3. Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell

This was the first book that I’ve read by the great thinker, Thomas Sowell. To be honest, it was a bit dense. I struggled to read some of it. What kept me going was the fact that the material was so great. Having spent  a lot of time in academia, I’ve met people with the bias Mr. Sowell is attacking. All too often, people with degrees look down on people who don’t. We should value people’s opinions based on the merits of their argument, instead of judging them based on how wittily they express their opinions or how many letters they put after their name.

ethnic america

2. Ethnic America by Thomas Sowell

I know, two books by the same guy? This was much more readable than the other book I read, and it was a fascinating read. Learning about the struggles of the major ethnic groups (at least, up to the 1980s—seriously, it needs updated) in America gave me a lot of context. Highly recommended!

the money book

1. The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-timers, and the Self-employed by Joseph D’Agnese

The Money Book has changed my life more than any other book this past year. It contains a ton of helpful information on how to deal with personal finances when you have irregular income. Because of this book, I have saved more than I ever have! If you are a working creative, you need to get this book!!!!!!!

INTJ Musicians and Physical Fitness

In 2012, I moved back to MI in order to be close to family. I had worked out at a gym 2-4 times a week in NC, but I was displeased with the results. I was in better shape than other people, but I didn’t think I was getting the most bang for my buck for the amount of time it took to drive to the gym (and back), getting dressed, and working out. Surely, there had to be a better way. For myself, I found that better way shortly before I moved. Vague rumors of a dvd program by Beachbody called P90X were floating around. So I tried it on its most basic level. Somehow, I managed to finish it.

Several things about the program appealed to the INTJ in me. 1) The goal: well-rounded physical fitness. You didn’t spend all your time doing muscle workouts or running. The end goal was that you could do multiple different kinds of physical activity and not injure yourself. 2) The beautifully systematic way in which Tony Horton went about it. He split the program into 3 phases (30 days each-hence the “90” in P90X). Tony went further: the program targets every muscle group including cardio each week. 3) The results were good. I actually became much more physically fit. I recuperated quickly if I did some new activity. Durability increased. 4) The introvert in me liked that I could get up in the morning without talking to anyone, throw on a pair of shorts, and get a solid workout done in an hour: quick, effective, and relatively painless.

As an INTJ, I play the long game and try to improve systems. There were other programs that-in my opinion-had some strengths that P90X did not. I mixed one new program a year into the 90 day program to improve it and for variety:

Isanity-Shaun T is a master of cardio.

Body Beast-Sagi Kalev is a master of muscle work.

I found that I could easily hybridize these workouts into the previous program. As my work life became more hectic, I found that sometimes I had less time to work out or needed some easier workouts. I enjoyed creating my own schedules and specifically tailoring the hybrids to what I needed at the time. The following are all 30 min.

P90X3-Excellent well-rounded workout program

Insanity Max 30-Shaun T’s cardio is amazing

21Day Fix Extreme-Autumn Calabrese did an excellent well-rounded workout program

I also found that as a musician I had to adapt the schedule. I avoided doing a bicep workout the day before or on the day where I had a heavy conducting schedule. I also found that I had to be careful of overworking my forearm muscles. On the day after a concert, I had to be sensitive to how much energy I have left. Also, I highly recommend P90X3: Yoga workout the day of a concert.

Which is the best program? The best workout program is the one which you can do consistently without injury. If you consistently run but you don’t consistently do muscle workouts, then emphasize running. Some people really enjoy dance workouts. If that will motivate you to be consistent, then go for it. If you need to start with an easy or short workout program so that you don’t injure yourself, then you really should start with an easy workout program and work your way up.

Featured Image By Onurcannar (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Six Interesting Facts about INTJ Musicians

I recently posted about being an INTJ. This Myers-Briggs personality type is often maligned and frequently misunderstood. Writers usually make them villains, typically because of their inscrutability, seeming lack of emotion, and their emphasis on strategic thinking. “Knowledge is power,” as the old saying goes, so I thought I’d do my part and list a few interesting facts about INTJ musicians.

  1. INTJ’s don’t crave applause or being in the limelight. It’s not a matter of not wanting it, but rather of not needing it. This confuses many because they assume that someone either wants it or they don’t. INTJ’s instead want freedom to accomplish their goals. The limelight is useful only insomuch as it can enable this freedom. INTJ’s know full well the downside of the limelight-constantly being around people. It is very exhausting for INTJ’s to be around people for extended lengths of time.
  2. Because they don’t need to be in front of people, INTJ’s are perfectly fine with someone else leading, provided the other person knows what they are doing and are willing to consider feedback. Incompetent or vision-less leadership in an ensemble or organization is incredibly frustrating to INTJ’s, especially when the leadership won’t listen to the INTJ.
  3. INTJ conductors want their musicians to pull their own weight in the ensemble. No drama, just fix the mistake. With an INTJ who hasn’t been developing his people skills, dealing with an emotional colleague in this straightforward way can come across as bluntness. This is because INTJ’s have a hard time figuring out someone else’s emotions, much less how to best deal with them. Emotions aren’t logical. Someone who fixes their own issues with minimal emotional outbursts will instantly put an INTJ at ease.
  4. INTJ’s perform the same way when in front of an audience as they do when in their dressing room. They aren’t dependent on others’ energy, so their performances are very consistent.
  5. An INTJ musican’s relationship with emotion is a mistrustful one. INTJ’s know that emotions are necessary for good performances. However, they also know that overactive emotions can get in the way of prudent decision-making. INTJ’s channel the precise amount of feelings they need to in order to communicate effectively.
  6. INTJ’s love to be in positions where their plans can come to fruition. They always have a master plan or vision. In music, this appears in many different roles: directing ensembles, teaching classes and lessons, making a character come to life in an opera or musical, etc. It’s not really the vocations that are different, but the approach to the vocations. INTJ’s approach what they are doing very strategically. They ask themselves the following questions: What am I trying to accomplish (i.e. the goal)? What are the important pieces I need in order to complete the goal? How do the pieces fit in order to accomplish the goal? How do I get the pieces to work together in order to accomplish the goal?

Projects, and life in general, look like a giant chessboard to an INTJ. To some, this way of thinking and behaving might seem completely alien. Perhaps this is why you’ve had conflicts with that INTJ in your life. Hopefully this answers some questions you might have. Maybe it raised a few. In any case, now you know this type a little better.

How to Perform as an Introvert

We live in a day and age that consistently exalts extroversion. In some senses, this has always been the case. Because they gain energy from being around other people, extroverts are usually the life of the party. They often volunteer for people-oriented tasks. This affinity for being in contact with people allows extroverts to easily gain attention and accolades from the world.

Yet, introverts offer much as well. They give off a quiet warmth and are usually good listeners. Because they lose energy when around others, they are often overlooked. Unfortunately, assumptions are made concerning their skills and abilities. One of these overlooked areas is the ability to perform in front of others. Many assume that introverts are shy wall-flowers who cannot perform well. Yet, it can be done. Introverts just naturally cannot perform the same way extroverts do. Introverts won’t be stereotypical, overly-dramatic performers.

Extroverts will naturally gain energy from the crowd when they perform. This is usually a strength. They can easily read the energy of the audience and other performers in the room, feed off of it, and even re-energize it if it begins to wane. The downside is that if the audience or other performers are low energy, extroverts will struggle to find their own energy.

Introverts will have the same energy level regardless of the energy in the room. However, Introverts must consider certain elements if they are to perform well. While I cannot speak for all introverts, I will let you in on some of my own methods for performance. These recommendations are for solo performance only. A director or conductor needs to make other considerations before he or she leads.

First, I don’t worry much about the energy level of the room; I concentrate on my own performance. Is my own energy level sufficient? Is my interpretation of the song/character good? Is it authentic? Are my technique, artistry, and musical precision communicating this authenticity?

Celebrated novelist Ray Bradbury once stated that great works of literature have “pores” in them. By this, he meant that great works of literature speak to the universal human condition (e.g. love, joy, death, sorrow, etc.). The stories feel real. So too, must great performances have this same level of intimacy. If I concentrate on my own performance, I find that I don’t lose energy, my interpretation and technique are consistently good, and the audience and other performers are energized and emotionally moved.

Second, I strive to stay completely in the moment. Introverts (especially intuitive ones) are often stuck inside their own heads. I use this head-stuckedness to my advantage. During the performance, I  focus on the work as a whole and where I currently fit. This allows me to chart where I’m going and helps me to be precise. It also enables improvisation, which is necessary for any good, truly moving performance. Improvisation ensures that no two performances will be exactly the same, the performer will take artistic chances, and that he can adapt when other performers mess up or if something unexpected happens.

Doing these things keeps me centered during performance. Being centered offers a lot of positives. Most notably, I don’t really get stage fright. This should help you perform as well.