Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual,
you have an obligation to be one.—Eleanor Roosevelt
Can knowledge of personality type help you as a writer?
If you’re an INFJ, the writing strategies you learned in school likely worked well for you. INFJs take to writing naturally. They enjoy working alone, reflecting on ideas, and expressing their vision. But the thought of using an outline may leave you feeling straitjacketed. INFJ writers organize their ideas internally, according to their own creative process. To feel comfortable, they need freedom to explore their insights and work through complex problems.
The INFJ personality type is one of 16 identified by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katharine Briggs. Myers and Briggs are the original authors of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a popular psychometric instrument used to determine how people prefer to gather information and make decisions. The initials INFJ stand for the following:
I: Introversion preferred to extraversion
INFJs 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
INFJs 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. INFJs tend to be intellectually restless—they want to change the world.
F: Feeling preferred to thinking
INFJs 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 impersonal rule of logic. They tend to give other people the benefit of the doubt.
J: Judgment preferred to perception
INFJs 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 INFJ writer? If so, the following information may give you some insight into how your personality affects your writing style. Use these insights to help you play to your strengths and compensate for your natural blind spots.
Writing Process of the INFJ
INFJs work best in a quiet environment where they won’t be interrupted. They reflect on their topic before they begin writing, mentally structuring the material and looking for patterns. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed into starting a project before you’re ready. INFJs are generally good at estimating how long this preparation stage will take. When they finally sit down to write, their ideas tend to be well-developed and organized. Their language may seem formal at first. If that’s the case for you, don’t fight it—you can soften this tendency during revision.
INFJs prefer writing about personal topics. You may encounter difficulty if the topic isn’t meaningful to you. If so, try different angles until you find one that engages you. If you’re an INFJ technical writer, for example, you can take pride in knowing that when you write clear instructions, you help your customers perform their tasks quickly and effectively. This sense of touching people’s lives is important to INFJ writers.
INFJs dislike writing according to a predetermined structure. They want control over their own creative process. Original and imaginative, INFJs are drawn to symbols. When revising a draft, search for a central, unifying theme, and articulate it for your reader. At the same time, avoid trying too hard to be unique. Instead, aim for authenticity.
Potential Blind Spots of the INFJ
INFJs strive for eloquence. Avoid wasting time polishing an early draft or searching too long for the exact word. Instead, get your ideas down. Don’t be afraid to use clichés—wait until the revision stage to fix problems. There’s no point in perfecting something that may get cut later.
INFJs enjoy to figurative language, and they like to infuse their work with a sense of their personal vision. As a result, however, their writing may be too abstract for their readers. During revision, add concrete details. In creative writing, appeal to the five senses. In freelance writing, include specifics like percentages and dollar amounts to persuade the audience. In technical writing, find out whether the customer needs to use a flat-head or a cross-head screwdriver, and what the recommended torque is. These may be boring details to you, but they’re essential for your reader.
INFJs communicate passionately about their beliefs. They tend to start writing before they finish their research, wanting to commit their insights to paper. Be sure to gather enough data to support your position, and include other points of view for balance. This is one arena where it may be healthy to indulge your perfectionist tendencies. Get the facts right to maintain credibility.
INFJs tend to be easily hurt by criticism, especially when it comes to their writing. Because they generally keep their writing private until they think it’s finished, they may not have a good sense of how it sounds to others. Consider showing your work to a trusted friend or colleague for advice before you begin the final draft. This will help you better connect with your audience, which is important to INFJs.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong approach to writing. Each person is unique, so don’t let generalities hold you back. Do what works best for you.
Do you have any tips for INFJ writers? Leave a comment and share your experience.
Also, for more information on this subject, check out the sources below.
Write from the Start by Ann B. Loomis
What Type Am I? by Renee Baron
Your Personality Type and Writing: INFJ from the Villanova University website
Eleanor Roosevelt Quotes at About.com
ENFJ – ENFP – ENTJ – ENTP – ESFJ –ESFP – ESTJ –ESTP
INFJ – INFP – INTJ – INTP – ISFJ – ISFP – ISTJ – ISTP
The INFJ Personality and the Search for the Perfect Relationship
The Truth About the Myers-Briggs Personality Types
Image: nuchylee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
36 thoughts on “The INFJ Writing Personality: Eloquent Vision”
Thank you for this article. I have always been an INFJ, and I am a graduate student in creative writing and a published writer. This article sounds so much like me, but I did want to respond to this:
“INFJs tend to be easily hurt by criticism, especially when it comes to their writing.”
This used to be very true of me, but over the years, my skin has thickened and I have practiced sorting through people’s criticism to take what is helpful and ignore what is hurtful. I’m sure anyone can do this. Now, I am not easily hurt at all, and I see almost everything a critical reader says as helpful to my final goal.
As another INFJ writer, I concur with the whole of this comment.
That’s a great point, Becca. It took about 8 months of regularly having my work critiqued for me to make that transition. At first, other people’s comments would sometimes upset me so much that I couldn’t write until I worked through my feelings about it, sifting through what advice was good, what was bad, and why. Now, I’m able to recognize when the comments can help me make the story better, and when the comments just aren’t relevant to the story I’m telling.
a thousand thankyous..Andrea..I love your blog and have blasted info on it across the internet on facebook, twitter, and RED Room..Next stop…the British Litopia…
What a wonderment to have your insights…on a manuscript I am working so hard to get into the hands of an agent..what a chore!! 🙂
Thank you for your kind words and for publicizing my blog. I hope others find it useful. I’m also trying to get my manuscript ready for an agent, so I sympathize with what you’re going through. I’m enjoying your blog as well!
This sounds SO much like me! Rationally, I know outlines should be helpful — but I feel extremely stifled in using them. I often create patterns in my novels that I don’t notice until the revision stage. I can obsess over finding the right word, unless I push myself just to FINISH the chapter. Very true, about the INFJ writer.
Charity, I’m the same way. I like to let the novel unfold organically. But I’m finding it helpful to identify milestones to keep me on track – Act I climax, midpoint, Act II climax, etc. That way I know the structure is sound.
I usually have a vague idea of where I’m going in my head (and some idea of the climax) but a lot of it just … surprises me when I look back later and I say, “OH, THAT was the underlining emphasis of this book!” 🙂 I have written historical fiction based on outlines before (historical figures = accuracy) but it kind of … felt dull after awhile, and it kept me from thinking outside the box.
Omg. This speaks right to me. 😮
(omg, this is the typical infj sentence!)
… I’m an INFJ who uses to write free verse poetry.
I was very sensitive to criticism in my 20s, now that I’m in my 30s I grew in confidence and I’m doing better. Writing is my finding place.
((I’ll read more, I like this blog, beautiful insights))
This sounds spot-on to me! Really interesting post…thanks! 🙂
Reblogged this on A Little Bit of Sunshine and commented:
This perfectly describes me as a writer. I love it.
I am an INFJ and your words define the very core of whatever small I have written about. Great post, hope you write more, would love to revisit for new stuff.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I hope to be able to get back to blogging more regularly soon.
I notice that the INFJ writer and INFP writer descriptions seem very similar. What would you consider the key difference? It seems to me the concept of eloquence vs. elegance, but the term “elegant” is so subjective it’s tough to get a real feel for what is meant.
There are a few key differences between INFJs and INFPs. INFJs like to start on a project right away (even if that only means prewriting in their head) so they get a feel for the scope of the project. They plan out the milestones so they can finish on time or ahead of schedule. They do only the research they need in order to meet their goals for that project. INFPs, on the other hand, are more comfortable letting the project sit until closer to the deadline, quietly pondering the topic but not necessarily prewriting. When they research, they look more widely, following topics wherever the ideas take them. As a result, they’ll have a broader understanding of the subject matter, but they may have difficulty narrowing their topic, having to cut interesting tidbits that don’t support the work as a whole.
I always say the difference between INTPs and INTJs is that INTPs are interested in knowledge for its own sake, while INTJs are interested in practical applications. The same is true for INFPs and INFJs when it comes to writing. When INFPs use figurative language, they’re more motivated by the beauty of the expression (elegance), while INFJs are more motivated by a desire to convey the concept accurately to others (eloquence). It’s possible to overstate this, because both care about both those things—the difference is in emphasis. INFPs are such perfectionists that they may keep polishing their writing even after they’ve turned in the project. INFJs (even if they feel they could have done better) are eager to put the project behind them and move on.
I hope this helps. For more information, you might want to see my posts on perceiving writers (http://wp.me/pwENu-PC) and judging writers (http://wp.me/pwENu-Pe).
I love how you differentiate between INFJ and INFP. My brother is an INFP. He always find my writing too raw, too honest, too straightforward. He loves the beauty of the expression (elegance) which I was motivated to get people to understand the concept (eloquence).
This post is awesome. You talked about a few points that I face as an INFJ writer. I do not like to do research. I usually feel so strongly about my belief that I would start writing without any research. And I always have a draft outline but it changes along the way.
I love this sentence by you. “Avoid trying too hard to be unique. Instead, aim for authenticity.” That’s one problem I face. Sometimes, my writing sounds trying too hard to be unique and smart. It doesn’t sound like talking from the heart or humanistic enough. So like what you say, I always have to polish it in my second draft.
Thank you for this post! 🙂
Thank you for this article! I always tend to look for different words through Thesaurus. I feel like I am best writing in my personal style in an eloquent way, so the academic writing doesn’t appeal me.
Thanks for stopping by, Danyal! A thesaurus can be a great tool for finding the precise word, as long as it isn’t an obscure word that calls attention to itself. I’m not a big fan of academic writing, either—it’s too formal for me.
Reblogged this on I Write In the Dark and commented:
This article describes me in so many ways. I’m an INFJ and proud to be one. It’s one of the rarest personality types. This is definitely a good read.
Reblogged this on Bonnie Ferrante – Books for Children and commented:
I’m an INFJ. (I used to be barely introverted, but am becoming more “I” with age. I enjoy company but it leaves me feeling drained.) I think the “Potential Blind Spots” might be useful to other writers. Click on your Myers-Briggs type to find out yours.
Wow, what a great read. I’ve been writing seriously for just over 2 years now, and this helped me understand a great deal.
I’m not a trained writer, but always took naturally to creative writing. I’m actually a graphic designer working for a corporation by day… and suddenly I just had this story unfold in my head, and now I’m writing a sci-fi novel 🙂 I’m so encouraged by your words, and I am grateful for you outlining some blind spots. I think I’m ahead of the INFJ game at least in one way – as a designer & artist, I’m exposed to criticism on a daily basis. It was definitely hard to overcome, and I still struggle sometimes, but hopefully that will make me more open when the time comes to edit and critique my novel.
Reading your article made me realize that I’m guilty of figurative language, and focusing on conveying the actions and internal reactions of my characters (and yes, relationships)… and I’d gone 9 chapters without describing any of my characters other than maybe tall or having curly hair, and also without describing any setting other than the name. Gotta go back and add in some sensory elements. I realized that I was doing this, but now that I read your article I understand the why: because personally I am very internally and relationally focused. I’m not unaware of my surroundings, but I often find myself needing to force myself to stop and experience my environment (like on vacation for example).
Thank you for this article Andrea.
I wanted to leave a comment mainly to shed some light on how greatly significant is this post of yours and any post of sort by anyone online that aims on educating people and helping them discover themselves. We live in a global universe thankfully, and people like myself in under developed countries with immature education systems are forced to take a slightly rougher road toward self discovery. It is posts like yours that make us greater people, that made me a greater person. For that I thank you Andrea.
From one INFJ to another, I hope these few words will fulfill you even if for a moment. If they would do, then that would momentarily fulfill me too 🙂
Thank you for your kind words. I hope that one day we’ll all have the same access to education regardless of where we happen to be born.
Being a poet, which I am, is perfect for an INFJ, which I also am. 🙂
Hmm, I am INFJ, but most of this does not resonate with me. I do thorough research, outlines, I don’t use a lot of figurative or descriptive language, but have a very straightforward writing style. No symbols or hidden meanings there.
I do have a horror of critique groups, and would never want to join one. I have been writing for 30+ years, but didn’t start outlining until about three years ago, so I guess that wasn’t my first preference.
I do write about issues that I feel passionately about, but not necessarily that I have personal experience with.
While I do prefer quiet, I cope by drowning out the loud world I live in with nature sounds. And I know that short writing sprints are far more productive for me than a long, uninterrupted session.
This sounds totally like me! In my case however I never start writing before I finish research. I need to know everything
All this explains a lot, haha! Because I write about my life in Ireland and with multiple sclerosis as well as general MS information, I can get lost for hours trying to find the “right” research, even when I already have research material that is tried and tested.
Also, I love using Irish slang, idioms, and figurative speech but I need to remind myself that not every blog article needs a lot of the above.
As for INFJ personalities, I have the tendency to want to know everything about… well… everything, and it can keep me occupied way too long. Like you mention, though, it’s better to keep writing and add everything later. I’ll try and make this my new year’s resolution 🙂