The INFP Writing Personality: Elegant Persuasion

Everyone needs to be valued. Everyone has the potential
to give something back.
—Diana, Princess of Wales

Have you ever wondered whether your personality affects your writing style?

If you’re an INFP writer, chances are, the answer is yes.  INFPs have a natural aptitude for writing. In exploring this solitary pursuit, you can communicate your deeply held values and experiment with elegant, inventive uses of language. But you may find that formal approaches taught in writing classes don’t seem to work for you. Composing an opening paragraph may prove impossible until you’ve fleshed out the major ideas. Developing an outline may turn a pleasurable activity into an intolerable one—and your zest for the topic may wither away. INFPs write best when their imagination is unfettered.

The INFP personality type is one of 16 identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a popular psychometric instrument used to determine how people prefer to gather information and make decisions. The initials INFP stand for the following:

I: Introversion preferred to extraversion
INFPs get their energy from the internal world of thoughts and ideas. They enjoy interacting with small groups of people but find large groups draining. They generally reflect before acting.

N: iNtuition preferred to sensation
INFPs are abstract thinkers, placing more trust in flashes of insight than in experience. They’re less interested in sensory data than in the patterns perceived by the unconscious mind. INFPs tend to be intellectually restless—they want to change the world.

F: Feeling preferred to thinking
INFPs prefer to use their rational feeling function when making decisions. They place more emphasis on the effect that actions have on people than they do on adhering to the rule of logic. They tend to give other people the benefit of the doubt.

P: Perception preferred to judgment
INFPs like to keep their options open. They enjoy beginning new projects and exploring opportunities as they arise. INFPs think in terms of possibilities rather than likelihoods.

Are you an INFP writer? If so, the following information may give you some insight into how temperament influences your writing style. Use these insights to help you play to your strengths and compensate for your natural blind spots.

Writing Process of the INFP

INFPs may approach a writing project in the following ways:

  • Work best in a quiet environment where they won’t be interrupted. They like autonomy so they can perfect their writing according to their own high standards without having to follow someone else’s schedule.
  • Prefer writing about personal topics. You may lose your creative drive if the subject isn’t meaningful to you. If so, try taking an angle that allows you to write about your feelings on the topic. If you’re an INFP technical writer, look for ways to connect with readers by anticipating and meeting their needs.
  • Have a keen insight into the nature of things. Their prose often conveys startling images of mood or atmosphere rather than objects. They enjoy complexity and can patiently unravel dense material. They are able to see many sides of an argument and so may have difficulty reaching a conclusion. During the writing process, they may often pause to consider alternatives or to seek connections between seemingly disparate things.

Potential Blind Spots of the INFP

INFPs may experience the following pitfalls:

  • Strive for elegance in language and may want to polish the work too soon. INFPs tend to write long, meandering first drafts, so you’ll likely need to synthesize and cut material later. Save the search for that perfect metaphor until the revision stage.
  • May write in purely abstract terms. INFPs communicate their values and personal vision through their writing. They search for the meaning behind the facts, and so may consider the facts themselves to be of marginal importance. This is not true, however, for most of your readers. During revision, add concrete details. Appeal to the five senses. Include statistics. Incorporate other points of view for balance. Make sure your research backs up your conclusions.
  • Tend to be sensitive to criticism. Nevertheless, consider showing your work to a trusted friend or colleague before you begin the final draft. This feedback may be especially helpful in focusing your work and ensuring that it includes enough facts to sway your audience to your position.

Remember, there’s no right or wrong approach to writing. Each person is unique, so don’t let generalities limit you. Do what works best for you.

Do you have any tips for INFP writers? Leave a comment and share your experience.
Also, for more information on this subject, check out the sources below.

Sources:
Write from the Start
by Ann B. Loomis
What Type Am I? by Renee Baron
Your Personality Type and Writing
from the Villanova University website
Princess Diana Quotes at About.com

ENFJENFPENTJENTPESFJESFPESTJESTP
INFJINFPINTJINTPISFJISFPISTJISTP

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23 thoughts on “The INFP Writing Personality: Elegant Persuasion

  1. Wow this is definitely how I write. Most people don’t even understand the main idea of my freewrites and short stories. You gave helpful advice as I do notice that I expend large amounts of energy on feelings instead of highlighting facts readers can relate to and utilize. I also dawdle and go on and on until I get the hunch that it’s finished. Thanks. =]

  2. I was raised by an ENTJ and so I learned how to back my arguments up with data, but still I tend to remain in the abstract. I’m not much for describing the sensory details of my existence. My writing is filled with an overflowing number of ideas that meander and interconnect. I try to bring order to it all, but I hate editing.

    I’m sometimes reluctant to start writing because I can write endlessly about some topics. And once started I always find further ideas and examples to bring up. There is never an end to the possible connections. Everything is connected!

    As for criticism, I’m better at accepting it in terms of the logic or substance of my writing. I can’t stand criticism of my wrting style because it represents my thinking style. I can’t change how I think and I don’t want to. If someone doesn’t like the way I write, that is their problem. That said, I do try my best to communicate well. I want to know that my experience can be understood by others and so I put great effort in my writing.

  3. Benjamin, thanks for your comments. It sounds as if you might benefit from an outline during the revision stage. It can be difficult for NF writers to limit their topic for a couple of reasons: first, as you say, they readily see the connections between ideas; and second, because their writing is often an expression of deeply held beliefs. An outline would help you determine the key factors for the particular essay, article, or story you’re writing. (The other ideas you can save for a different piece.) By limiting yourself to a few key points, you make your argument more cogent, direct, and powerful, thus having a stronger impact on your audience.

    It’s typical in a first draft to write the way you think. This ensures that your voice shines through—and your voice is the one thing you have that no one else does. But during revision, the writer’s role is to reorganize the material and present it so that the topic develops naturally from the reader’s perspective. This gives your words greater weight and impact. Writing for an audience isn’t about self-expression; it’s about communication. The key to effective communication is to keep the audience’s needs in mind.

  4. Wow. Thanks for this! I never realized that my personality type could effect my writing and now it all makes sense. I’ve always hated technical writing and thought that it was just because I was lazy or just not very good at it. It’s good to know that that’s not the case! Thanks again.

  5. Glad you enjoyed the article, Reannon. I know several INFPs who excel in the field of technical communication; it aligns with their interests and values. Personality type should never be used as an excuse, but there’s not much point in staying in a field you hate. INFPs are unlikely to be happy in a job where they don’t feel like they’re making a difference.

  6. I almost failed freshman english in highschool because of outlines, I would usually put a quick one together after i finnished the paper. That english teacher never did enjoy my writing, it wasn’t until I found a teacher that literally told write what you feel like writing that I actually started to enjoy it, it became an outlet for me to write, poetry, songs, essays, or random whatever whenever I felt like it.

    • Thanks for sharing, Harpboy. It’s not unusual for perceiving types to write the outline after they’ve finished the paper — a rather pointless execise. An outline is a tool, and like all tools, its purpose is to make your job easier. If it doesn’t make your job easier, then there’s no point in using it.

      I’m glad you were able to learn to enjoy writing. I’m afraid that too often, writing instruction that’s poorly adapted to the student gives them a negative feeling about writing that they never overcome.

      • A common mistake is that people think teachers are there to nurture the creative spark of each individual student. They aren’t. They are there to get a group of 30 students to pass, and they only have about three hours a week to do it. Moreover, they spend a quarter of that time coaxing students to sit down, shut up and pick up a pencil. In the remaining time they have to troubleshoot i.e. the students seem to have NO IDEA what they are supposed to be writing and also have NO MOTIVATION to do so, time’s running out and it looks like they’re going to FAIL. Instead of walking away and putting her feet up, the teacher screams, “Writing a freakin’ outline! Get started, now!” and hounds the students until they have written something barely acceptable, by any means possible, which will get them a passing grade. Done! She worked hard, she got them a pass. Does she get any thanks? No. These students will then spend the rest of their lives whining because their teacher never helped them to express their creativity properly.

      • How sad. This is one more example of the erosion of civility in our society, that parents don’t even thank teachers for screaming at their children until they do the bare minimum they need to do in order to pass.

      • I’m also an INFP but I went through a different creative path: artistic drawing. It’s funny how I found exactly the same problem there as you did with writing!
        They teach drawing by drawing the outline first and I simply can’t do it that way, I must start with all the detail, I feel totally stuck if I start with the outline!
        Glad to know that with another artistic skill it happens the same way because I think it gets more personal by starting with the details.
        Will try writing soon, since I never tried it because I always felt very frustrated with my writing, my teachers were always terrible, I lost all the interest in it… (I’m not a native English speaker so my English may even be worse).

  7. I stumbled across this post today, and I’m so glad I found it. I do a lot of technical, persuasive writing for my profession and have always been good at it. I did a lot of creative writing as a child, and I’m thinking about returning to it, but I’ve been hesitant for many reasons – some of which are mentioned here (meandering drafts, larger ideas without a lot of detail, criticism). Thank you for writing this post – it’s given me more insight into the type of writing strengths I may have, as well as how to identify and improve on my weaknesses.

    Going now to check out the rest of your site!

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  11. Cool! I know my writing can get too abstract and I need to spell things out for the audience. I’ll keep your tip in mind to add concrete detail. I’ve already learned the one about searching for the right metaphor in the editing process and not in the first draft.
    Thank you,
    INFP
    Ann

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  13. I’m an aspiring writer and this article really boosted my confidence because I am supposedly an INFP. I do tend to ramble about every little detail which gets quite annoying. And yes, criticism isn’t my favourite thing. But I constantly want it. Weird. But being 15, I feel my books won’t be a success because I strive for philosophy in the smallest of the small things. Is that me trying act like a grown up?

    • To be successful, authors must be true to their own voice and their own vision. But they must also respect the needs of their audience. That’s why critique is so important. Sometimes our critique partners tell us things we don’t want to hear. But a good critique partner wants that author to succeed, and focuses on making the work better while maintaining the author’s vision. Without critique, it’s difficult to improve. It can be exciting when a critique partner points out a problem, and the author comes up with a great idea for fixing it.

      Keep writing, and learn as much as you can. Take classes. Read books on the craft of writing. Most importantly, never give up. You don’t fail until you stop trying.

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