Over the last couple of posts, we’ve been talking about how everyone’s writing process will be unique and how there’s no “one right way” to write. All that matters is that we discover a process that helps us reach “The End” for our book.
Those posts reminded me of an article I came across a few months ago. The gist of the article was that our personalities—as measured by the Myers-Briggs test—shape us as writers. For fun, the post’s author took a guess at what the test results of several famous authors would reveal.
Whether we put any stock into tests like Myers-Briggs, I do find them interesting for providing insights into strengths and weaknesses—either for ourselves or for our characters.
For example, I’ve written before about how we can apply those types of tests to our characters. By knowing our characters’ flaws, we might come up with ideas for our story’s arc (as our characters are trying to overcome one or more of those flaws over the course of the story).
I’ve also touched on how our test results might provide insights into areas we might struggle with. A better understanding of our personality traits might help us develop a writing process that works for us. *smile*
What Traits Do We Have?
I like this version of the Myers-Briggs test because it not only gives our results, but it also tells us how strong we are in each measurement.
(This is how I know I’m a borderline INTJ/INFJ. My T and F scores swap from day to day and are never that strong.)
Some of the links that I like for explaining the variations are this one (related to the test link above) and this one. (That second link gives very detailed explanations and an overview of how we might change with maturity.)
Once we understand those strengths and weaknesses, we can decide whether we wish to fight against our grain to improve, or we’d rather accept our limitations and find a way around them, or if we’d like to embrace them as part of our process.
For example, my personality type tends to become frustrated with too much focus on details. To put that into writing terms, I’m ready to tear my hair out after a nitpicky copyediting session.
I could fight that tendency, but why? I’d much rather work around my weakness and save that time and energy for an aspect where I’ll have a greater chance of success.
Instead, I can ensure my work receives strong copyediting by others with that strength, and not fruitlessly try to overcome that weakness by forcing myself to do something I’m not good at (and hate doing).
How Do Those Traits Affect Our Writing Process?
Andrea Wenger did a series of posts about the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types (Extraversion/Introversion, iNtuition/Sensing, Thinking/Feeling, and Judging/Perceiving) and their writing strengths and weaknesses:
- ENFJ: Expressive Harmony
- ENFP: Imaginative Voice
- ENTJ: Confident Clarity
- ENTP: Energetic Innovation
- ESFJ: Friendly Conversation
- ESFP: Spontaneous Joy
- ESTJ: Decisive Logic
- ESTP: Bold Action
- INFJ: Eloquent Vision
- INFP: Elegant Persuasion
- INTJ: Creative Precision
- INTP: Rational Curiosity
- ISFJ: Tangible Warmth
- ISFP: Quiet Music
- ISTJ: Model Efficiency
- ISTP: Extreme Knowledge
As I mentioned, I’m a borderline INTJ/INFJ, and as I’ve learned more about those two categories, I’ve gotten better at balancing my traits. Where one type is weak, another might be strong, so I let that stronger aspect take over for the appropriate elements of my writing.
Let’s take a look at some of those writing traits to see how these understandings might apply to us…
Writing Processes and Blind Spots of the INTJ or INFJ:
According to Andrea, some of the ways INTJs might approach a writing project and some of the writing pitfalls INTJs might experience include:
- INTJs require long periods of concentration.
True, but I’ve been trying to train myself to get around this by using 30-minute sprints. This same trait applies to INFJs as well, so I get a double-whammy of weakness here.
- Are innovative problem-solvers who want control over the product and the process.
Yeah, there’s more than one reason I decided to self-publish. *cough* control freak *cough*
- If you’re an INTJ, one path to success as a writer is to draw on your natural curiosity about how things work and your talent for explaining this for others.
That’s my blog in a nutshell. *smile*
- Tend to be good at weeding out information that isn’t pertinent to the project. Be sure to keep audience needs in mind, however. Concise is good; terse is not.
True, I had to work at developing my voice, and the last major puzzle piece of storytelling craft that fell into place for me was portraying character emotions.
- Set a high standard for themselves and can become frustrated if they can’t achieve it. Avoid pushing yourself toward an unrealistic goal. Tap into your desire for efficiency and recognize when 99% is good enough.
Very true, as a perfectionist, I’ve had to learn to be okay with that “99% good enough,” or else I’d never get anything done.
On the other hand, my INFJ side is where I get my tendency to write by the seat of my pants:
- The thought of using an outline may leave you feeling straitjacketed.
Yes! I like the freedom to explore, discover, and listen to my muse, which comes more naturally to me in pantsing mode.
Embracing vs. Overcoming Our Traits
Understanding our personality traits isn’t about beating ourselves up for our weaknesses. Instead, it’s about learning what to watch out for or what to give ourselves leeway on.
With some of those aspects, I’m working to keep them from being a weakness:
- I have to corral my perfectionism to prevent it from holding me back.
- I have to ensure that I’m letting my voice shine through the message I’m trying to convey.
- I have to learn to write in short bursts, or else I’d never write because it’s hard to find the big chunks of time I’d prefer.
However, other aspects I’ve embraced:
- I’ve let my control-freak self take over for self-publishing.
- I’ve let my curiosity drive my blogging efforts for digging deep into issues, finding patterns, and explaining them to others.
- I’ve let my desire for freedom take the lead in pantsing my way through writing.
Like I mentioned above with my hair-tearing-out urge after a copyediting session, I could spend all day looking for adverbs to eliminate. Or I could let my editors point out extraneous ones for me.
Similarly, I could plot a story with an outline before writing (and have done just that). Or I could trust myself and my muse to pants my way through a story.
After analyzing when I fight and when I embrace my traits, I discovered this simple truth:
If a trait isn’t a weakness causing us trouble,
there’s no reason to fight it in our process—
even if advice tells us otherwise.
Granted, that’s not an earth-shattering insight, but when we’re doubting ourselves, it might give us another layer of understanding.
- Is the aspect of our writing process that we’re doubting an element of our personality?
- Is it causing problems for us, or are we just doubting ourselves because of “advice”?
- Can we make the aspect work for us sometimes, or would it always be a weakness?
- Can we fight it, or would it be better to work around it?
No Advice Can Apply to Everyone
If we think about all those other 16 personality types, it makes sense that some advice will be geared toward people with different strengths and weaknesses from ourselves.
If we look through all those links above, we’ll see that some types would need encouragement to do more research and some would need encouragement to say “enough!” to endless research. Some like deadlines, and some don’t. Some are verbose, and some aren’t.
Some types might find it easier to establish themes. Some might struggle with showing emotion. And still others might forget to include any setting.
The needs of any one type might even change depending on the genre we write. Some genres are more plot oriented, so some traits might flow naturally with those reader expectations while other traits might require us to find a way around weaknesses affecting our ability to plot. Vice versa for character-oriented genres or stories.
There’s no one-size-fits-all for writing advice. So when we’re faced with advice that doesn’t feel right, we should ignore it. And maybe understanding ourselves a little better will help us shut up those whispers of self-doubt. *smile*
Do you know your personality type and the associated traits? Have you ever thought about how those traits affect your writing or your writing process? Do you have traits you try to fight or overcome? Do you have traits you embrace and make them work for you? Have you ever struggled with advice that you weren’t sure should apply to you?Pin It