01 June 2006

i, weirdo

Every so often I am reminded that I am an Odd Little Duck.

And I don't mean in the quaintly affected way that some creative types labor long and hard to seem in a casual sort of way — I don't, for example, wear a beret or drink only some specific brand of bottled water or demand that my clothes be washed and fold In Just The Proper Manner. No, I mean in the "can be quantified and analyzed using standard accepted personality testing methods." Things like the Myers Briggs tests, Enneagram tests, etc.

It's hilarious and somehow comforting (for me, at least) to run these tests and see that I consistently score the exact same for decades at a stretch. Once Upon A Life Gone By, I was... well, "briefly in attendance at a prestigious military academy in Colorado." The whys and wherefores of that odd chapter of my life are not really important here, but that was the first time I started to become consciously aware of just How Different I was from my supposed peers.

Part of the [unnamed academy]'s intake process was a lengthy battery of tests on such things as ethics and personality. There is no "right" or "wrong" answer on these things, but I was struck by how different my scoresheets seemed compared to my classmates as we dropped them into the little "turn-in" bin. Twice I went so far as to borrow a sheet from a buddy, layer it over mine and then hold them to the light to compare my responses.

My sheet was almost totally opposite from his.

I repeated the process quickly with two other sheets. Same result: most sheets were somehow similar, excpet mine was the unmistakably odd one out.

One of the upperclassmen running these intake tests saw me comparing scoresheets and bellowed "NICHOLSON! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"


"Impossible, Nicholson — Infinity cannot be scored on a standardized test. Now drop and give me fifty pushups."

(As I said, my time there was brief, and in hindsight it's not hard to understand why.)

The point of this is simple: I have a goofy personality. On the Enneagram tests graph, I clearly and consistently score as a Type 8: "The Challenger: Powerful, Dominating, Self-Confident, Decisive, Willful, and Confrontational."

So I got that goin' for me.

Meanwhile, over on the Jungian-theory inspired Myers Briggs tests I have consistently scored as a textbook ENTP type for more than twenty years now, which describes me as follows:

ENTPs are known for their quest of the novel and complex. They have faith in their ability to improvise and to overcome any challenges that they face. They are highly independent, and value adaptability and innovation. They may be several steps ahead of others in encouraging and valuing change. They hate uninspired routine and resist hierarchical and bureaucratic structures that are not functional. They need freedom for action.

Other handy euphemistic descriptions for the ENTP type include: Inventor, Visionary, Lawyer. Some of my fellow ENTPs include Ben Franklin, Bugs Bunny, Wile E. Coyote, and Q from Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is cool 'cuz that seems like a fun group of guys to take a beer-fueled roadtrip with.

Of the sixteen personality types in the Myers-Briggs pantheon, the ENTP is among the more uncommon, seen in approximately 2% of the general population. That might be a good thing, actually, as one of the oft-repeated descriptions about the ENTP type is the way they see confusion and chaos not as problems so much as opportunities. Some folks like to spend their lives paddling across calm mirror-smooth lakes, but us ENTP types seem to prefer white water, metaphorically speaking, and often actually create a little pointless chaos just for fun.

Understandably, this can drive non-ENTPs a little batty, as us Improviser types pretty much live by the "well, let's see if THIS works..." mantra.

As writer, this manifests in screwy infuriating surprising ways, as well. Some of my peers seem to operate best in ordered calm organized environments and times. I, on the other hand, often seem bored until things get SO damned muddled and complicated and fucked-up and nigh-impossible that everyone else is heading for cover. I suppose when the going gets weird, the weird get going.

Today, for example, the deadline for one of my most-anticipated screenwriting contests slides by like a beer can floating past the bow of a chugging ship. I missed the deadline, due mainly to... well, a slew of other interesting things which have also been rapaciously consuming my attention. The Wife (who, God Bless her, has somehow survived my battle-loving psycho personality for fifteen years of marriage and twenty years of friendship) came in this morning and expected that I'd be bumming slightly, depressed that I'd somehow failed.

Instead, I was chipper — downright perky, in fact— a state which is entirely abnormal for me in the morning (I detest mornings — always have).

"I thought you'd missed the deadline for the screenplay entry."

"I did."

"And that's sad, right?"

"Yeah (giggle), I s'pose it is."

"But you're in a good mood?"

"Yeah. Now that the situation is impossible, I can finally make some progress. I find hopelessness somehow inspiring."

"You're a freak."

"I love you, too, dear."

So my deadline is passed. My home is overrun by kids (mine, mostly) all on summer vacation. I have an insane schedule of obligations in the next ten days, and my screenplay is a smoldering wreck, with a blown fuel pump in the middle of the second act and a nearly impossible confluence of final conflict forces which have to be braided into a cohesive logical cinematic and appealing unified cord.

No clue, no plan, no path in sight... let's rock.


suzbays said...

Heh. Good for you for being weird.

I'm weird and my kids are odd ducks so it works in my favor.

By the way and appropo of nothing, the main character of my novel is nicknamed Pato which means duck.


Julie O'Hora said...



Grubber said...

I came across a quote the other day I love - "the situation is hopeless, but not serious"

This sounds similar to your thought process...does stuff like this appeal only as we get older?

aggiebrett said...

Dunno-- I've been odd in this manner for pretty much as long as I can remember. Normal challenges bore me to the point of tears, but a truly pointless struggle -- the lost cause -- somehow sings to me.

"Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking."
--Ferdinand Foch, at the Second Battle of the Marne (1918)