The INTJ Writing Personality: Creative Precision

Neither a wise nor a brave man lies down on the tracks of history
to wait for the train of the future to run over him
.
—Dwight Eisenhower

Can knowledge of personality type make you a better writer?

INTJ writers are single-minded in their pursuits. They tend to envision the conclusion even before they begin writing. With a talent for analysis, they’re skilled at communicating about technical subjects. But pragmatic INTJs tend to dismiss subjects that don’t seem rational or useful. Visualizing the big picture, they integrate the theoretical with the practical.

The INTJ 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 INTJ stand for the following:

I: Introversion preferred to extraversion
INTJs 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
INTJs 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. INTJs tend to be intellectually restless—they want to change the world.

T: Thinking preferred to feeling
INTJs prefer to use their thinking function when making decisions. They place more emphasis on the rule of logic than on the effect that actions have on people. They tend to be skeptical in evaluating ideas, whether their own or someone else’s.

J: Judgment preferred to perception
INTJs are drawn to closure. They feel satisfied after finishing a project or reaching a decision. They think in terms of likelihoods rather than possibilities.

Are you an INTJ 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 INTJ

INTJs may approach a writing project in the following ways:

  • Are conceptualizers who tend to explore a narrow topic deeply. They take a systems approach, rather than a linear one, during the planning stage. They may start a project early to test their concept, then quickly drive toward the conclusion. Once the bones are in place, INTJs further develop the content, adding facts to flesh out their ideas. If you take this approach, you may find it useful during revision to challenge yourself to consider alternatives, rather than locking yourself in to your original premise.
  • Like to work independently. INTJs require long periods of concentration to form mental models. They focus deeply on the task, blocking out distractions. To facilitate this, find a secluded place to work. Schedule your writing for a time when you won’t be interrupted. Let others know that you need time alone.
  • Are innovative problem-solvers who want control over the product and the process. INTJs are confident in their vision and want to bring it to life. Their writing can have a sense of inevitability, presenting an orderly progression of facts and ideas that can lead to only one possible conclusion. Their authoritative voice can instill a sense of comfort and trust in readers. Make sure that trust is warranted—use your natural skepticism to seek out possible flaws in your reasoning and research.
  • Are motivated by their personal vision. Original thinkers, they have little regard for convention. They want things to make sense according to their own logical standards, and they will discard anything that doesn’t. For this reason, they tend to enjoy technical subjects. They often use visual aids that support and clarify their writing. 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.

Potential Blind Spots of the INTJ

INTJs may experience the following pitfalls:

  • 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. Where appropriate, include personal anecdotes to engage the reader. Don’t scale down to mere facts.
  • Want to control their work and express their original ideas. Make sure you do so within the parameters of the project. If you’re a freelance writer, for example, remember that you’re writing for an editor, not for yourself. If something about the assignment doesn’t make sense to you, don’t ignore it—seek clarification.
  • 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. And if you need help, ask for it. Other people don’t want you to be perfect—they want you to be human. Human is much more interesting.

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

Do you have any tips for INTJ 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: INTJ
from the Villanova University website
Famous Military Quotes at About.com

ENFJENFPENTJENTPESFJESFPESTJESTP
INFJINFPINTJINTPISFJISFPISTJISTP

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15 thoughts on “The INTJ Writing Personality: Creative Precision

  1. This is great! Absolutely awesome :) I found your website through this page because I am an INTJ, and according to this website, my personality is not fit to be a writer! But I say, what better use of “strategic planning” than in plotting a story.

    It’s almost scary how accurate the INTJ personality profile is to myself on other websites, but seeing the list of things on this page really makes me laugh. So true! I’d love to give other INTJ’s advice, but I honestly don’t know if I could sift through general writers’ problems and a personality type roadblock. I do know I write slower compared to other writers I know, and I have a hard time turning off my inner editor, but that seems to be a common theme amongst writers and not just personality types :)

    What would you think about this as far as an INTJ personality problem? I have been told that my dialogue doesn’t sound natural. I also feel that when I listen to other writer’s talk, they have a better grip on characterization, emotional motivation, and character relations. Does that sound like a personality problem to you?

    • The MBTI is a good starting place to help you find fields that might interest you. But don’t rule anything out just because it’s not on the list. A lot of the professional writers I know are INTJs.

      • Thanks, Andrea :) I was worried at first, but I found some lists of famous personalities, and INTJ’s have plenty of their own writers. It was just shocking when I first read the profile, that’s all.

  2. As an INTJ, I think the thing that I get hung up on the most is displaying emotions realistically. In real life, the T of INTJ often prevents me from showing/expressing emotion, even if I’m feeling it, and that carries over into my writing. With the fear of appearing overemotional or melodramatic, I often include emotions that are so subtle that not very many people pick up on it. So there’s that extreme that needs to be brought into balance.

    I agree with Emery–all that I’ve read so far on INTJ personalities have been “scarily accurate.” I’d feel predictable if we weren’t only like 9% of the population. ;)

    • Amanda, you’re an INTJ, too? Cyberspace hug! Oh dear, my immaturity is showing…

      Anywho. You took the words out of my mouth. I have actually told friends recently (a writer friend even!) that a major fear of mine is that I am melodramatic. This translates completely into my writing. I hate reading melodramatic characters, so I try to tone down and make strong emotions as digestible as possible. It’s definitely something that we need to get an outsider’s opinion on – are we (or our writing) too melodramatic, or are we holding back from the reader? It’s a very important thing to know.

      What’s even crazier about INTJ’s is that female INTJ’s are even rarer! And there’s two of them in the room right now! :D

      • Actually…I’m a man. Duh. :P

        Had to give some immaturity back. ;) I never did get to use my name-joke in elementary school–it wasn’t the right time, or it wasn’t the right place…

        Female INTJs FTW! :D

  3. INTJs are actually about 2% of the population. :) They’re one of the rarest types, and often misunderstood.

    I recently gave the following advice to INTPs about conveying emotion, and the same goes for INTJs:
    Focus on what the characters are thinking, rather than what they’re feeling. To convey emotion, you can use imagery, sensory detail, and physiological reactions: “Martha watched the yellowing leaves fall from the trees. Her chest felt hollow.” This is much more effective than saying, “Martha felt sad.”

    I suspect that INTJs may have more trouble verbalizing character emotions and motivations, but not necessarily understanding them. That’s why showing the emotion, rather than describing it, may be easier. And in fiction, showing is generally better than telling, anyway.

    Ann Hood’s book, Creating Character Emotions, might be a good one to read. It comes down to craft, regardless of whether you prefer Thinking or Feeling. In some ways, I believe Thinking types might have an advantage when it comes to bringing emotion alive on the page, because they’re less likely to be maudlin than Feeling types.

    • Thinking about it that way…that is so much easier than starting with the emotion and working my way back to the thoughts. I feel like I should shout ‘Eureka!’ or something. :) And I knew INTJs were 2% somewhere in this brain, but I got it confused with my specific political affiliation percentage, lol. I knew it was small, anyway. :)

  4. Emery, regarding your question about dialogue: Difficulty writing realistic dialogue is a common problem, and I’m not sure it’s related to personality type. ITs do have a tendency toward formality, however, and that may contribute to what you’re experiencing. Try flexing your type, and letting out your inner EF.

    EFPs are especially fun to write, because you can use long, meandering sentences that end up someplace completely different than where they started: “I saw the cutest pair of shoes at Macy’s, they were blue with a satin ribbon, kind of like the ones Joan wore to the Fourth of July picnic—you remember, she had on that white blouse, and Frank spilled potato salad all over it?—I’ll have to call Joan to get her potato salad recipe. It was really good.”

    Now, I’m not saying that you necessarily want to use dialogue like that, but writing it may be good practice that helps you break out of your comfort zone. Also, I’ve heard that Elmore Leonard is one of the masters of dialogue, so you might try reading some of his work to see how he does it.

  5. I really appreciated this article. As an INTJ who loves writing, I found it strange that none of the many descriptive pages on INTJ ever mentioned this. I am a very strong INTJ, though I’ve learned over the years that some behavior is just not smiled upon in society.
    This is particular appropriate to my writing style:
    “Their writing can have a sense of inevitability, presenting an orderly progression of facts and ideas that can lead to only one possible conclusion. ”

    Thank you for a great post, it is appreciated.

    • Thanks, Alyssa, glad the post was helpful. The requirements of writing as a profession—and particularly science and technical writing—are well-suited to the habits and interests of INTJs. It’s a shame that technical writing isn’t mentioned more as a profession for INTJs, because it’s projected to be a good field to get in to over the next 10-15 years. (The market’s not great right now, but it’s slowly coming back.)

  6. Hah! I could shout, I’m so excited I found this page.

    Over and over I’ve been discouraged with my characters- they weren’t believable and realistic, they never had the raw human emotions (even after filling out character questionnaire after character questionnaire!) So discovering this has been absolutely fantastic, and now I’m itching to get back to my notebook.

    I think the biggest problem, for me, has been dialogue and character variety. Too often I find them all reserved, cold, awkward, unfeeling, and plain…boring. Who else has experienced this? What have you found that helps release the ‘inner EFP’ (; I’m just about to go research the personality types and writing them as characters. Haha, that’s something I can never get rid of, I love the internet and research!

    Hugs to all my fellow INTJs (especially us ‘rare girls!’)
    Razzie

  7. Pingback: [INTJ] The Scientific Writer

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