The INFJ Writer

I’m sure I read somewhere that David Keirsey originally called the INFJ personality type “The Writer” instead of “The Counselor,” but I can’t find the article now. Nevertheless, it does seem that quite a few INFJs are attracted to writing. Even if they aren’t working as writers or typing away at a novel, they probably keep a journal/diary and are often more comfortable with written communication than they are with speaking. I’m a fairly typical example of INFJs in this regard — I write a blog (obviously), keep a journal, work as a writer, prefer writing e-mails to taking on the phone, and write fiction.

Speaking of writing fiction …

Winner-2014-Web-BannerI won NaNoWriMo! I’m particularly pleased with myself for conquering the 50,000 words a day early in spite of having pneumonia in November. Anyway, back to INFJ writers.

Imaginative Fiction

There’s an INFJ profile written by Dr. A.J. Drenth (which no longer appears on his website, but you can read it here) that has this to say about INFJs:

Although INFJs are commonly drawn to music, visual arts, design, or architecture, writing may well be this typeโ€™s signature creative talent. Adept at channeling their right-brain creativity into a fluid and engaging left-brain storyline, INFJs are unmatched in their feel for and creative use of the written word.

This creative aspect of our writingย  talent seems to be tied to an INFJ’s primary function — Introverted Intuition (Ni). Intuitive types prefer possibility to actuality, future to the present, intuition to fact, and improvement over the status quo. When intuition is introverted, as for INFJs, the focus is mostly on an internal world where our minds tinker with “ideas, perspectives, theories, visions, stories, symbols, and metaphors” (Dr. A.J. Drenth, Introverted Intuition).

Even INFJs who don’t write typically have an affinity for stories and a “rich inner life.” We tend to live in a world of possibilities, and I find that one way to keep my fantasy life anchored in reality is to turn those ideas into stories and write them down. It’s weakness/temptation for INFJs to never move their ideas from possibility to reality. With creative writing, I can set my imagination loose and tell myself there’s a practical application for it as well.

INFJs as Writers

It’s hard to type people when you don’t know them, but there are some famous writers that we can guess were INFJs. Keirsey lists Emily Bronte and Emily Dickenson as “Counselor” types. Another list of famous INFJs adds writers like Chaucer, Dante Alighieri, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. A forum discussion suggests Madeleine L’Engle, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Lois Lowry, Ursla LeGuin, Franz Kafka, and several others could be added to the list.

my latest novel, laid-out in Post-It notes above my bed

my latest novel, laid-out in Post-It notes above my bed, with a different color for each point-of-view character

Now, the fact that many INFJs gravitate towards writing doesn’t mean that it’s always easy for us. I’m not sure how many stories I started and abandoned before finally finishing my first novel in 2011. It was for NaNoWriMo, and I needed that deadline to keep myself writing. It’s so easy to build the story in my head, and then lose interest in writing it down once I think I know how it ends.

Though knowing the end makes me lose interest in the story, I also need some kind of outline to keep me on track. I’ve discovered sticky notes on the wall is my new favorite way to plot-out novels. They can be removed or rearranged as needed, and you don’t need to have them all there to start writing. For my NaNo novel this year, I began with only half the plot laid-out, and added more scenes as I wrote and the direction of the story became clear.

Further Reading

Why INFJs Have Trouble Writing by Lauren Sapala

The INFJ Writing Personality: Eloquent Vision by Andrea J. Wenger

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11 thoughts on “The INFJ Writer

  1. Agatha Christie was an INFJ writer. You’ll notice how her main characters are very cerebral, detached from their environment, and solve crimes through their instinctual knowing of other people’s motivations and emotions. Emphasis on intellect and de-emphasis on physical engagement of the crime scene (unlike ESTP Arthur Conan Doyle!). Very Ni-Fe. She actually wrote Poirot’s death before she started her story. She knew him from beginning to end.

    Many of the extremely Ni-heavy writers delve into highly symbolic things — it’s more about the symbolism of the story and its deep, internalized inner meaning, than it is the story itself. Even so, symbolism is important to a lot of INFJs.

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      • For me, in my writing, symbolism kind of tickles the back of my mind and then flounces in front of me and says, “Look here! Use me!” And then once I dabble a little bit in it, it unfolds in a grand vision in front of me, much larger than I anticipated when I first touched on it. The byproduct of Ne, I suppose. One dewdrop becomes a mountain range of meaning. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  2. I too am an INFJ! This gives me the motivation to start and finish the book(s) that have been in my head for years. I feel as though it will calm me from wanting to change careers 50 times ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am bored easily and therefore I struggle on a daily basis. I can’t believe I’ve been at the same job for 7 years! I guess I can thank day dreaming for that! Thanks!

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  3. Thanks for sharing the article.
    I find the potential for writing in myself, and I have little ideas that may be inserted in a novel for example, but I don’t know how to start writing, or more precisely, I’m afraid of failing at the first time.
    However, your article motivated me alot, so thank you.
    A fellow INFJ ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • I’m glad you found my article helpful ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s hard, but I find it useful to try and remember the story doesn’t have to be perfect the first time you write it (that’s why I never let anyone read first-drafts — they’re terrible until I’ve edited it a few times). Good luck with your writing!

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