Playing to Your Strengths

In school, most of us were taught to write according to the rules. Problem is, when it comes to writing, there are no rules. Or more specifically, for every writing rule you hear, there’s an equally valid rule that says just the opposite.

To follow the writing techniques you learned in grade school (or even college) might be a terrible idea for you. For instance, there are more extraverts in the U.S. population, but more introverts among writing instructors. If you’re an extravert, the natural writing process of introverts may not work well for you at all.

So forget everything you’ve been taught. During the first draft, let your creativity flow. Write according to your natural style. Don’t think about the final product—your first draft is just the clay you sculpt your masterpiece from. First get it written, then get it right.

The “right” techniques are the ones that work well for you, even if they don’t work at all for your coworker or critique partner. Chances are, you’ll be most comfortable and productive if you draft according to the preferences of your personality type. Then, during revision, use your nonpreferred functions to fill in what you missed. In my upcoming posts, I’ll outline the natural tendencies of writers according to their preferences as measured by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

Note: If you don’t know your personality type, I recommend the free Jung Typology Test from Humanmetrics, although I’m told it has a slight tendency to skew toward Judging (J) over Perceiving (P). For a more thorough and accurate assessment, you can take the MBTI through a certified practitioner.

Related posts:

Extraverted Writers: Talking It Out
Introverted Writers: Thinking It Over

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5 thoughts on “Playing to Your Strengths

  1. This was a great post. Playing to your strengths means utilizing your dominant function and auxiliary functions to perform tasks. These functions are the most preferred functions out of the 8 possible functions of a personality. These functions are introverted thinking, extroverted thinking, introverted intuition, extroverted intuition, introverted sensing, extroverted sensing, introverted feeling and extroverted feeling.

    Any of these functions can be a dominant or auxiliary function. When focusing on these two functions, we have almost unlimited energy for them and will constantly improve and achieve our goals. It depends on which of the 16 personalities someone holds to determine which functions they prefer as their dominant and auxiliary functions so it is just a matter of finding them. Once again, great post! 🙂

  2. Glad you enjoyed the article. When I talk about playing to your strengths, dominant and auxiliary functions are part of it. But for writers, I think that introversion vs, extraversion is even more important than the cognitive functions. Also, the tertiary function plays an important supporting role. Because revision is as important as drafting, we have the opportunity to appeal to all our cognitive functions. Writing is one area of life where we automatically get a “do-over.” We can keep trying, bringing all our functions into play until our work is as good as we can make it.

  3. Interesting post, it talks about two of my favorite things, writing and psychology. What you said about just getting that first draft out without worrying about how it looks or sounds is spot on. Something I’ve found challenging for myself and some of my other writing friends is that we get so caught up and getting every tiny detail right, that we never actually get any writing done. Recently I’ve said to hell with it and just write my fingers away. As a completed student in psychology I’ve done a lot of research and reading into personality related psych, and I’ve found it to be one of the more interesting fields for me, helps a lot when it comes to character creation too. Looking forward to reading more.

    Mr. B

    1. I think that the education system, at least in the U.S., encourages the “get it right the first time” approach and discourages exploration. But art requires the freedom to explore. Art requires you to push your boundaries and not worry about getting it “right.”

      I find that creative writing is a sort of “layering” process. For me, dialogue and character are what I do best, so if I start writing a scene focused on plot and setting, I end up with something useless. If I start with dialogue and character, I get a usable draft, and I can layer in plot and setting during revision.

      1. Wow, you know I never thought about it like that. I’m in the same boat as you my main focus while writing is character and dialogue, so I’ll try out your idea and worry about plot and setting during revision. Thanks for the insight!

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