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September 21, 2009 / Andrea Wenger

The INTP Writing Personality: Rational Curiosity

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
Albert Einstein

What can knowledge of personality type teach you about your writing style?

INTP writers are curious and analytical. They enjoy technical subjects and seek to categorize information into an orderly system. With their insatiable appetite for knowledge, they may prefer research to writing. Objective and logical, they like to solve problems but tend to have little interest in ideas that can’t be proven rationally.

The INTP 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 INTP stand for the following:

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

T: Thinking preferred to feeling
INTPs 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.

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

Are you an INTP 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 INTP

If you’re an INTP, you may approach a writing project in the following ways:

  • You may regard a writing project as an opportunity to learn something new. You start by gathering a wide variety of facts, then classifying them according to an underlying principle. You enjoy writing about abstract ideas and theories. One idea may quickly suggest another. You may need to limit your topic during the pre-writing stage to keep it from becoming unwieldy.
  • You prefer to work independently in a quiet environment. You like the flexibility of setting your own goals. You may spend long hours on a project if the subject engages you, becoming deeply invested in the outcome. Remember to keep the audience in mind to help ensure that your writing is as interesting to them as it is to you.
  • You tend to be good at organizing ideas and weeding out logical inconsistency. You have a natural propensity for clarifying the complex. But you will likely need to make a conscious effort to include the personal dimensions of a topic. During revision, look for places where you can add examples or anecdotes, if appropriate, to illustrate the facts. This engages the reader and brings theoretical principles to life.
  • You’re motivated by your search for knowledge. An unconventional thinker, you have little regard for the common way of doing things. Chances are, formulas like “Top 5 Reasons Your Blog Should Have a Top 5 List” won’t appeal to you. Instead, you strive to surpass the ordinary.

Potential Blind Spots of the INTP

As an INTP, you may experience the following pitfalls:

  • You like complex, theoretical subjects, and you use your wide vocabulary in your writing. To enhance readability, choose the simplest word that communicates an idea accurately. You may sometimes make intuitive leaps that are unclear to your audience. Illustrate connections even if they seem obvious to you.  To ensure that your message is clear, ask for feedback from someone you trust.
  • You enjoy seeking knowledge for its own sake. Once you’ve solved the puzzle, though, you might lose interest in writing about what you’ve learned. It may be best to begin drafting even while you’re conducting your research. Treat the writing itself as a problem to solve. This may keep you energized until the project is complete.
  • You can become blocked if you can’t find opportunities to make your unique ideas heard. If a writing assignment seems restrictive to you, challenge yourself to find a way to work within the system while still expressing your ingenuity. Instead of turning cynical, use your dry sense of humor.

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 INTP 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: INTP
from the Villanova University website
Albert Einstein Quotes at Quotationsbook.com

ENFJENFPENTJENTPESFJESFPESTJESTP
INFJINFPINTJINTPISFJISFPISTJISTP

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12 Comments

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  1. Megan / Aug 25 2010 9:44 am

    This was amazingly helpful! Long story short, you just pointed out why, despite having an entire novel planned to the end scene by scene, I still can’t finish! No wonder: I know the end, and now I’m bored!

    Your technique to make the writing itself a problem to solve is excellent, thank you SO much for posting this article!

  2. AndreaJWenger / Aug 25 2010 3:22 pm

    I’m glad you found this helpful, Megan. The tip you mention, to think of the writing as a problem to solve, comes from Write from the Start by Ann B. Loomis. It’s an excellent resource.

  3. Alex / Mar 21 2011 5:52 pm

    “Once they’ve solved the puzzle, however, INTPs can lose interest in writing about what they’ve learned.”

    Based on what you have written in this article, I would suggest that INTPs solve the problem and present their body of knowledge to someone of another personality type (like my own INTJ type) and have them explain what they found in a clear and engaging way.

    You also wrote, “They tend to have a wide vocabulary and to use it in their writing. They sometimes make intuitive leaps that are unclear to their audience,” and “Remember to keep the audience in mind to help ensure that your writing is as interesting to them as it is to you.”

    I have a large enough vocab to understand pretty much anything in English, although I use a simpler vocabulary when writing. Intuitive leaps usually make sense to me, and when they don’t I know what questions to ask. As an INTJ, valuable technical topics do not bore me; and despite my affinity for technical things, no one suggests I’m boring, even when I ask them.

    Yeah, INTPs, give your project results to me and let me write about them. Then you can go back to doing what you’re best at: solving problems.

  4. AndreaJWenger / Mar 21 2011 11:01 pm

    Alex, I think that’s great advice for an INTP to partner with an INTJ on a writing project. INTPs can benefit from an INTJ’s more linear style and preference for closure. And INTJs can benefit from the INTP’s desire to gather more information before reaching a conclusion.

  5. INTP Typology Geek / Apr 3 2011 12:01 am

    I am INTP, and while I believe (and have been told several times over) I have a talent for writing, I seldom finish any of my projects. A lot of it is because I already know what I want to say (for an INTP, knowing is better than doing :D), but a lot of it is also because of INTP perfectionism. If something can’t be “perfect”. I spent at least five times as long on my papers as my classmates, ensuring everything was logically flawless, said both eloquently and clearly. I almost always got marked at the top of the class. I like to think this was mostly for my ides but I put a lot of it down to polished presentation; thorough but not bogged-down in details, clear but not terse, and with a little bit of my own punch and pizzazz thrown in for good measure (Do INTP’s have a fondness for colorful writing? I know I do! XD). The problem with this is, well, sometimes it’s just not practical! Knowing when to pull back is really a difficult skill to master, and sometimes it can be a terrible compromise for the INTP. My mind tends to work quite slowly, and I often find the point I am arguing makes no logical sense after I’m halfway done and feel compelled to rework it! My N works in real time and it can give me so many ideas and associations on the fly I’m just not sure when to stop rambling! It’s hard for me to sort out what is relevant and what is not (NP = everything is connected); this is a problem that only goes away because of all that insane time I spend perfecting it with that TP finickiness. A J can just write and make it all be coherent, adding fills as they go along if they wish. I start with an amorphous blob and slowly give it form; no one would know what I was saying if I didn’t spend that time! I don’t think I struggle at giving examples though; I have a massive store of trivia in my head that I can frequently relate to whatever topic I am discussing, both the profound (others say) and the hilarious. Often I’m not aware of the link till after I’ve started the paper; I’m a dyed in the wool P, that’s for sure!

    PS. Thanks for the link to wordle…for some reason I have been living under a rock and hadn’t heard of it. I put my own novel-in-progress in there as well. Will make for a neat decoration!

    • AndreaJWenger / Apr 3 2011 2:43 pm

      Thanks for those helpful comments. The perfectionism you describe also reminds me of INFPs, who sometimes go back and rework a paper even after they’ve turned it in. They want it to be as perfect as it can be, even if no one else will see it. It sounds like this could be a fundamental difference between INP perfectionism and INJ perfectionism. INJs develop an internal vision, which they try to manifest perfectly the outer world; whereas INPs use the outer manifestation to perfect their internal vision.

  6. Julie / May 6 2011 1:32 am

    Very interesting; thanks for the post. Apparently some pages out there say INTPs “shouldn’t” write fiction at all! :P So I found this page encouraging.

    I’m still trying to figure out how to “include the personal dimensions of a topic” when writing fiction. Or more specifically, critiquers ask, “What are your characters feeling?” As a thinker, I have trouble “showing” characters’ emotions, and I’m much more interested in the events themselves than detailing (or reading!) how the characters feel about them. I don’t have much patience for those “feeling” descriptions and so I don’t know where to start in writing them.

    The only workaround I’ve tried is writing scripts. (I’ve mostly written comic scripts, but any type of script could probably work.) Scripts focus on the external events and dialogue, and you don’t have to “show” the reader a character’s emotion on the inside–the artist or actor will be showing it on the outside.

    But the production of scripts tends to require collaboration, which isn’t always easy for introverts…

    • AndreaJWenger / May 6 2011 9:16 pm

      My advice for thinking types is to 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.”

  7. seraphism / Nov 21 2012 5:35 am

    I usually come up as INTP in tests, but in fact I find that I loathe detailed research (although I do enjoy following through on connections, I don’t enjoy sticking to it) and prefer to just get into writing, winging it where possible. I have found that I do better with writing projects I just throw myself into rather than plan too far in advance, but as a result my writing often lacks polish, which is a frustration, especially since I dislike editing as much as I dislike long hard research sessions…

    I’m most in my element when I’m lost in my imagination, although I perhaps spend too much time explaining what I’m seeing to my readers in intimate detail, ha ha.

    • AndreaJWenger / Jun 20 2013 1:05 am

      Seraphism, sorry for not responding to this sooner. I wonder if you might benefit from a writing partner. As an INFJ, I love the editing part of writing — cleaning up the language and turning facts into something the reader can relate to. Introverts don’t generally seek co-writing relationships, but if you can find someone whose skills and style complement your own, maybe you can work on the parts you enjoy and skip the parts you don’t.

  8. Brian Person (@brian1625) / Aug 27 2013 10:13 pm

    As an INTP myself, this nails it. I’ve been writing for 10 years and I started to learn my habits and eventually the system stated here came out through the years.

    I also noticed a little alcohol keeps me from slowing down. It often “allows” my iNutution to express itself. I edit the next morning with caffeine.

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