Last year sometime I had occasion to undergo a DISC behaviour assessment during a professional development course. It’s one of many such psych tests commonly used by organisations to develop (and sometimes screen) employees. They’re fascinating things.
Anyway, I was thrilled to discover that according to the DISC assessment I am a ‘Creative’.
“Huzzah!” thought I. ‘Creative’ is just what any engineer-turned-writer wants to be considered. ‘Creative engineer’, I believe, is somewhere on my resume. And now some psych test is confirming what I always suspected…
Only it turns out that ‘Creative’ according to the DISC assessment does not actually mean what one might think it means…
The other definition of ‘Creative’
A fairly comprehensive description of the DISC ‘Creative’ behaviour or personality type can be found here. In a nutshell it sees high ‘Dominance’ (relating to control, power and assertiveness) go head-to-head with high ‘Compliance’ (relating to structure and organisation).
This means Creatives desire immediate results, yet have an equally strong desire for perfection.
This means Creatives think and act quickly, yet will explore all options before making a decision.
This means Creatives have a tendency to become too demanding of themselves, their biggest fear being the failure to accomplish goals.
Basically it’s a war between opposing behavioural forces.
The ‘Creative’ writer…
Despite my mild disappointment that it isn’t really an endorsement of my creative prowess, I must acknowledge that this DISC definition of the ‘Creative’ personality explains a lot about my — heh — creative writing process.
It explains why I find it hard to ‘blurt’ out the words while I’m writing, and instead have a natural inclination to consider carefully their deployment — then sometimes feel frustrated by my slow progress. (I have been working hard on turning this around while writing the messy first draft of my current WIP.)
It explains why I spend time figuring out what’s going to happen in the next few scenes before I write them — but don’t plan out the entire novel in detail, because that isn’t getting the book written. (I also personally think I would lose interest in writing the story if I knew everything that happened. Major turning points and a broad outline are necessary, however.)
It explains why I set ambitious word count goals, record my productivity, embrace structured challenges like NaNoWriMo — and beat myself up when I don’t succeed 100%.
It explains why I’m struggling a little with the end of my current WIP. I’m writing a lot of notes and figuring out all the possible ways it might pan out, yet remain hesitant to commit words to the page… Because what if I get it ‘wrong’?
Putting perfectionism in a straitjacket
This last is of course ridiculous. Because there’s already a lot wrong with the messy first draft, owing to the fact I have diligently being working to restrain my ‘perfectionist’ trait in favour of my ‘getting things done’ trait.
Moreover, if I get the ending wrong all I need to do is RE-WRITE it. That’s the power of being the author. It happens like we tell it to. And if we don’t like it, we change it.
All I want to do is finish the cursed thing (Dominance), but am simultaneously terrified that it won’t live up to my vision of what I want it to be (Compliance).
I can’t help but shake my head and smile somewhat wryly. What a head case!
It’s all part of the process
I think it’s interesting to reflect on all this for two key reasons. First, if one is aware of certain behavioural tendencies it’s possible to modify them where appropriate. On the other hand, understanding my preferred behaviour helps me accept my natural process on the occasions I’m not able to change it.
In any case, while I could wish I was more able to discard perfectionist tendencies during the messy first draft stage — and have in fact made great strides in this area — I still aspire to achieve my ‘grand vision’. To this end, I’m very excited about the revision phase.
In the end, there’s probably no going against type. I might as well embrace it.
But first I’ve got to sit down, resume writing, and finish that first draft — even if it turns out to be less than perfect.
Have you ever taken a psych test that effectively ‘explains’ why you act in certain ways? Did it identify behaviours you’d like to change? Please do share your thoughts on the subject.