My friends who are business people consider me an intellectual.
My intellectual friends consider me a businessman.
My conservative friends think I’m a liberal.
My liberal friends think I’m a conservative.
My Brooklyn friends find my writing commercial.
My Hollywood friends may find my writing literary.
My shy friends think that I’m outgoing.
My outgoing friends think that I’m shy.
I’m none of these things. I’m all of these things.
I read the description of the artistic personality type, abbreviated as ISFP (Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving), and I find myself in half of it. Not so much the other half.
On a Caribbean vacation a few years ago, I was playing in a pickup tennis game when the guy across the net asked, “What do you do? You some kind of writer?”
There may be a “type” who is drawn to storytelling, who seeks meaning by processing the human condition through the prism of fiction. Or perhaps the characteristics of the writing life just force certain traits on us novelists.
I do think successful novelists must have some specific traits or have to acquire them. (By “successful” I don’t mean monetary success. I mean the ability to make fiction work.) He must observe everything around him. He must learn the names of things. He must accept the physical world for what it is. He must be willing to go wherever his heart takes him. He must have an ear for voices and the rhythm of story. Above all, he must possess empathy — the ability to put himself in the position of any character, to understand all living motivation: good and evil, human and non-human.
If he succeeds at all that, he will pass through reality as a wraith, fully understood only by those who are willing to know him deeply.
For all others, through his work he will leave his mark.