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  • [Making the Leap] What's Your Writing Personality?
[Making the Leap] What's Your Writing Personality?
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
October 2013
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
October 2013

For over twenty years I worked in the field of higher education, much of that time spent working as a career counselor. One of the ways I helped students discover their major and career choice was by administering a personality inventory called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It’s based on the theories of Carl Jung, famed psychologist, who believed, in short, that there were temperaments or “types” of personalities. The idea for students, of course, was if they could identify their personality preferences and learn to apply it to evaluating job functions, the fit might be better for both parties.


As I’ve ventured into the world of writing, I’m brought back to this inventory and have reflected on how it might relate to my writing style. Although in consideration of space, this is a very short and non-scientific look at the application, it provides an interesting angle on our writing personality.

The Types

Extrovert (E)—Have an external focus and energy source. They like to talk their ideas out loud and will process as they do. They are stimulated by their external environment—for example, music may energize them and writer’s groups are wonderful for processing.
Introvert (I)—Have an internal focus and energy source. They can get lost inside their own heads with little need to verbally process. They tend to like quiet and find external stimulation distracting. While not always loners, their need for socialization is more limited than their extroverted counterparts.

Sensing (S)—Into the details: the who, what, where, when, and whys of things. They often enjoy precision and research and are exacting in their attention to details.
Intuitive (N)—Into the big picture. They love brainstorming and ideas. They are dreamers, but have a more difficult time and find it more tedious to get down to the “brass tacks” of an idea.

Feeling (F)—Make decisions through their heart. The first question they often ask is how do I feel about my choices? How will it influence others? Is it a kind/merciful decision? They lead with their hearts and may process decisions based on emotions.
Thinking (T)—Make decisions through their heads (even though they are aware of feelings) and ask questions like, does it make sense? What are the consequences? Is it just? Decisions, and even relationships, may be filtered through their sense of logic first.

Judging (J)—Enjoy a planned, organized lifestyle. High amounts of loose ends and unplanned interruptions will disrupt a judger’s sense of calm. They’re great with checklists and love the sense of completion of getting a task crossed off. Deadlines and a clean, organized workspace are comforting.
Perceiving (P)—Enjoy a more fluid, open-ended lifestyle. Although messes aren’t ideal, a sloppy desk isn’t a reason to panic; a Perceiver knows where everything is. Perceivers are more flexible with interruptions and have a higher need for variety. They’d love to be more organized and appreciate the need; they just seldom are.

In the theory of the MBTI, you would choose one type/letter from each of the four categories and this becomes your personality “type”.

What Does It Mean?

For me, being an INFJ means I can work, and in fact prefer to work, for hours in complete silence—only the hum of the refrigerator to keep me company. I love solitude and don’t crave writers’ groups, even though I know they are good for me. I love to brainstorm ideas in my own head and have a tougher time with the details, especially those pesky grammar details. I lead with my heart—I love to converse and relate to readers on a heart level. Despite my aversion to details, I crave organization. I keep bulletin boards with organized projects, a list of due dates for articles and love a sense of completion when I submit a piece. I can’t stand a cluttered work desk—it makes me nervous. The downside is I tend to sometimes get overwhelmed if there are too many due dates or open-ended projects on my to-do list.

Looking at this list, how would you describe your writing personality? Does this help shed light on your style? Are you a planner or a pantser? What does your work space look like? Do you thrive on the energy of other writers or crave your alone time? Do you like to dig into research?


For more information on the MBTI, visit here.

Keep Writing,

Julie

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Comments
  • Fi Phillips Revising

    Thanks, Julie. I like it too.

  • Julie Luek

    Oh Becky-- you're the perfect combination!

  • Becky Povich

    Hi Julie~ I took the MBTI for the first time about 2 years ago! (I hadn't even heard of it before then!) It was presented at a writers workshop and I don't remember the outcome, but I was a strange combination. LOL  (Not surprisingly, huh?!)

  • Julie Luek

    I love it, Rebecca!

  • Rebecca Ferrell Porter

    I like to do the N and S at different points in the process. To me, they fit together perfectly. In real life, I'm a database manager. All tech and precision. The writing is where my dreams take wing, but I will always research to fill in elements of realism.

    My boss tells me I'm not "normal" because of the research-a-holic statistician living happily with the creativity. Jung would have had fun with me. Shrug.

  • Julie Luek

    Rebecca-- love how you got there. I love the dreaming phase too. Technically they would say you can't be both an N and an S since they're in the same place, but maybe you just have a really nice balance with the two. 

  • Rebecca Ferrell Porter

    NIS- I love the dreaming stage of writing, and once I've turned on, I can't be bothered with any distractions, but I love to research my way back to just enough reality to make my fantasy writing believable. NIS, that' me.

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Fi-- Isn't it wonderful that you can revel in the silence yet get out and socialize and find that fun to? That seems to me to be the best of both worlds!

  • Fi Phillips Revising

    Interesting article. I'm SFP but I'm also smack in the middle of the extrovert/introvert markers. 

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Kamy- I love the MBTI-- just used it in a college course I'm teaching and was, once again, impressed with how it can be applied to help us develop and appreciate our writing styles. I haven't read Betsy's book yet. I see I have yet another one to add to my to-read list! Thank you. 

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Julie, this is fabulous. I also loved Betsy Lerner's "The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers," for her breakdown--after many years as an agent and editor--of the writerly personalities she has observed. And of course Susan Cain's book "Quiet" comes to mind for the introverts among us.

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Jenny-- This is such a poor way to do it (because of its shortened version). The actual instrument and theory is backed by decades of testing and norming and is very reliable and helpful. But it gives you a way to start thinking about how you might best operate. 

  • Julie Luek

    RB-- your self-analysis made me laugh. Yes how difficult it is for the planners to feel like they're in plot writing limbo! I have a tough time just sitting down to write without having a goal idea. I don't need to know exactly how it will work out, but without that big purpose, I panic, so I get this!

  • Julie Luek

    Lisa, interestingly enough, the N-S is probably my closest category as well. I think my sense of "J" (organization) is so strong that it sometimes jumps in and performs the "S" (detail) tasks to keep me on target, but it is always that aspect that stresses me out a bit, which is how I know, for me, I'm more naturally an "N". 

  • Lisa Thomson

    Interesting! I'm a weird combo between Intuitive and Sensing.  Haha, I don't have a problem with the messy desk but I also lve getting it all organized once in a while. Thanks, Julie for sharing this :)

  • Julie Luek

    Great books--- thanks for sharing. I think it's very good food for thought. 

  • Janet M. Ruck

    A couple great books on the topic of writing personality are Write Type - Personality Types and Writing Styles, by Stephen D. Gladis and Write from the Start - Discover Your Potential through the Power of Psychological Type, by Ann B. Loomis. Fascinating stuff!

  • Julie Luek

    Yup, that's me Rebecca. :)

  • Rebecca M. Douglass

    Absilutely, Julie! Every writing "rule" is a train wreck for someone!

    I also like people, but have to recharge in quiet. I write best in quiet, too.

  • Julie Luek

    Karen-- I think understanding our personality in writing, at least for me, can help me know which "rules" are not for me (so many rules, in my opinion, that writers come up with are based on how they best work). It can also help us know why we struggle with some areas. I am, by the way, a gregarious "I". I definitely recharge my internal batteries through quiet, contemplative, alone time, but I love people too. 

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Great post, Julie.  You are so right about the need to reflect on one's personality and needs as a writer in order to be able to fulfill them.

    I've always thought of myself as an INFP, but I may be more of an XNFP. I am an introvert when it comes to talking about pet projects, but like writer's groups for generating seed material. Love working to music (helps me organize my thoughts), but also draw inspiration from hours working alone in my garden, with chimes as my serenade. ~:0)

  • Julie Luek

    Margo-- we're alike in that need for quiet and organization. I'm much like that too. Like you, I have to compromise that sometimes for family (dogs) and life interruptions. Food for thought, anyway.

    Dawn-- Bam, you have this nailed. That's me too, except the S piece. Details? Pffff- I let them scatter to the wind (much to my detriment often times!)

  • Dawn Downey

    I, because like Margo, I write in absolute silence.

    S, because I love the details, including grammar and precise word choice.

    F, decisions are all about how does it make me feel.

    J, because I love a checklists and a clean workspace. And now I'm verklempt, because responding to this very fun blog post was not on my checklist. Back to work.

  • Margo L. Dill

    I think my personality as a writer is different than my personality in any other part of my life! But I think I am an ISTJ. I do like writers' groups and networking, but when I am actually writing, I need quiet. I like the room that I'm in to be organized and clean (although this has changed somewhat since I had a child!!!! You have to go with the flow a bit or you will NEVER write!) Interesting post! Thanks, Julie!

  • Julie Luek

    Rebecca, you may just be right. I find it a helpful instrument-- but definitely not the definitive crystal ball!