This I Believe

Tom - Cincinnati, Ohio
Entered on May 3, 2006

Perhaps I have legitimate claim to the title of “writer”. I have had four essays of commentary, seven poems, and one short story published since the millennium. I have edited and written for two newsletters, one self-published. And there are numberless letters to the editors of newspapers, most of them printed.

However, I am reluctant to apply that term to myself, as I seldom employ the disciplines associated with practicing writers, and I don’t try to write until and unless there is something to say. That last trait gives me, I imagine, some added integrity when I do write for an audience, some reason to feel myself superior to mercenaries and to pretentious literati.

Nevertheless, I confess to some mercenary motives and pretentiousness in my writing. I often focus the marketing of a poem or story on the journal that pays the most. I frequently preach accessibility, especially in poetry, but don’t always achieve it in my own work. My writing world is not so much one of natural flow as of painfully manipulated reality (better to manipulate reality than people) and, by life circumstance, not the most accessible one.

This opaqueness has something to do with my Myers-Briggs personality type, the INTJ, as those tests consistently reveal. To quote the standard description of this personality: “Ideas seem to carry their own force for INTJs, although they subject every idea to the test of usefulness. Difficulties are highly stimulating to INTJs, who love responding to a challenge that requires creativity.”

Maybe that’s why writing has appeal to me: I’m often challenged to express myself (now mostly by events and not by people), to articulate what’s meaningful to me, and usually the best way to do that is in written form. My familiarity with the world of words and ideas draws a creative richness I hope benefits others.

My essay was triggered by listening to Eve Ensler’s “This I believe” essay and her familiar idea that the naming of important things gives personal power–a great brain stimulator for an INTJ! My first response was “yes, but . . . .” I wanted to go further, from naming things into framing stories. And so I was off and running with a challenge.

Despite my Myers-Briggs profile’s suggestion that I possess a “drive to completion”, I frequently don’t follow through on what I start to write. But in this case, my audience will be blessed by a final product, should you decide to record and share it.

As with most prose I write, I pulled and tugged at language and ideas, working them like lumps of clay into a useful whole, trying to capture the right nuance and sequence of thoughts. For me, such molding is neither an alchemic nor an academic exercise in language expression. It’s a workmanlike means of telling truth as powerfully and usefully as can be done.

I went through several drafts without benefit of a word processor until the essay was nearly finished. Each draft emerged as an improvement over the previous one because it was more honest. It’s not that I need to check myself for a tendency to tell lies. It’s the effort to make writing meaningful that makes it more honest and real.

My essay is not your typical submission, because the beliefs and experiences related are not strictly event or people oriented. They’re reality oriented and the reality I relate sometimes lacks ready simplicity or clarity. This INTJ would say my reality is intuitive and communicates clearly enough what I want listeners/readers to understand, if not appreciate.

And what I want appreciated in my essay is what I value and why and how I uniquely relate to the “world of spin and personal politics”, all related to the spiritual (intuitive) world of ideas. If my writing is of its highest possible quality, it will be entertaining and instructive, especially for the listener/reader with some familiarity with the ideas that I have pulled and tugged into a frame that hopefully spurs valuable thought.