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


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  • Rebecca M. Douglass

    Julie, I have to wonder about whoever decided that people would be one or the other! If I've learned nothing else in 50 years of hanging around the planet, it's that everyone is amble don't something. And in the nine years since our older son was diagnosed with Aspergers, I've decided everyone is somewhere on that spectrum, too,

  • Julie Luek

    Paula, there used to be a form of this instrument that broke down each type into subtypes. In that version, I was actually considered a "gregarious" introvert. For me, that translated that I'm not really shy, but I do crave and need my down time to rejuice my batteries. 

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Olga, I love your analysis of yourself and the instrument. Sounds like you have a good read on how you best work. Interestingly, the theory of the MBTI is that people are one or the other. It doesn't really take into account a continuum of the the extremes, but personally, after working with the instrument for decades, I have to agree with you. 

  • Paula Lozar

    When I took the Myers-Briggs years ago, I came out ENFP.  (One website defines the type as "Expect us Never to Follow the Plan," which I think sums it up well!)  But I'm on the cusp of I/E, and as a writer I'm introverted:  I do my best work alone (haven't had much luck with writing groups), and when I'm trying to work out a plot problem or a crucial bit of dialog, I'll take a long walk rather than discussing it with someone else.

  • Olga Godim

    I'm ISTJ.
    I - introvert for certain. I like quuiet and solitude and can't work with distractions (like music on). Social interactions tire me, and I dislike parties.
    S - details are important to me. If I don't know how my hero looks or dresses, what is his name (and it has to fit) I can't write about him. I always draw maps of my imaginary countries. Even though I can't draw shit, the esthetics are unimportant. The relative locations of rivers, mountains and cities are. Or I devise a floor plan of a building before I can write what happens inside.
    T - definitely making decisions with my head. Is that action logical? What are the consequences? Those are the questions I always ask myself when I write.
    J - I need organization and routine, everything in its assigned place, sometimes to the extreme. I hate interruptions. I make lists of what to do and cross the tasks off when completed.
    Looking at your list, Julie, I feel that most people might find themselves not at the extreme points of these 4 ranges but somehow in between, maybe gravitating towards one end, like 70-30 or about. But I have Asperger, so I'm at the extreme points on all 4 scales. It's not easy, but I think I've adjusted well to my strengths and, even more important, to my limitations.
    The downside is that my heroes seem to be more on the thinking/planning side as well, making decisions with their heads instead of their hearts. I didn't set out to make them that way, but I guess it's inevitable, at least to a degree, that they would resemble me - their creator. My next logical step is to learn to write characters who are the opposite of me - extroverts wearing their hearts on their sleeves. Illogical and warmhearted creatures make the best heroes - they make so many mistakes but they're so dear.

  • Julie Luek

    I'm an INFJ. For me it means I like a lot of quiet-- crave it. It also means I love dreaming up ideas and organizing them (the N-J piece). I keep lists of projects and love getting them done. It also means that I'm a little feeler-- I need a lot of heart in my writing. Inspiration is key for me. Not sure how that all translates for you. 

  • Lisa Hamer

    I'm an INTP and not really sure how that fits in with my writing...although I am definitely a dreamer, but can't quite nail down the details.  

  • Julie Luek

    Rebecca and S.C.-- Feeling/Thinking really has to do with how you make decisions in life. Some people are heart-decision makers. They consider feelings over consequences and choices. Likewise, Thinkers consider logic over feelings in priority.

    While most people have a mix, you go by what you naturally are-- your "pajama" self I call it. Not what you wish you were, or would like to be more. So Rebecca, I'd say you're more of a Perceiver- a little more relaxed and fluid, naturally in your approach, but that you're also a sensor-- (the grammar/research evidence) but that the Perceiver keeps you a little more relaxed in your approach. 

  • Rebecca M. Douglass

    Hi Julie!  I finally decided to follow you over here and see what this place is about (overwhelming; I'll gradually get a feel for what I'm here after).

    As for MBTI types. . . like SC, I'm definitely an introvert, but the others seem kind of mixed.  I love historical research and details, but am not very detail-oriented in my "real" life.  Totally anal grammar type, though.  And while I enjoy a planned and organized life and workspace, what I get (and seem to tolerate) is a messy desk and a generally seat-of-the-pants approach to life.  As a writer. . . working on being less pantser and more planner, just to see if it might work better in the long run!

  • S.C. Rhyne

    Well, I know I'm an introvert. But I really can't make out for everything else...I know I "feel" when I'm writing, so maby an emotional writer especially since I narrate my characters in first person.