Friday, May 17, 2013

Guest author Julie Luek: What's your writing personality?

Julie Luek
Julie Luek has her MA in Education and Counseling and is a freelance writer living in the mountains of Colorado and is published in regional, national and online publications and is the author of two blogs A Thought Grows and In Fine Company. She is also a biweekly contributor to the international writing site, She Writes and has appeared as a guest blogger on sites like WOW (Women on Writing), Chiseled in Rock, and others with writer-based content. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter and enjoys supporting the community of writers.

For over twenty years I worked in the field of higher education, much of that time spent working as a career counselor. One of the ways I helped students discover their major and career choice was by administering a personality inventory called the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It’s based on the theories of Carl Jung, famed psychologist who believed, in short, that there were temperaments or “types” of personalities.  The idea for students, of course, was if they could identify their personality preferences and learn to apply it to evaluating job functions, the fit might be better for both parties.

As I’ve ventured into the world of writing, I’m brought back to this inventory and have reflected on how it might relate to my writing style. Although in consideration of space, this is a very short and non-scientific look at the application, it provides an interesting angle on our writing personality.

The Types

Extrovert (E)—Have an external focus and energy source. They like to talk their ideas out loud and will process as they do. They are stimulated by their external environment—for example, music may energize them and writer’s groups are wonderful for processing.
Introvert (I)—Have an internal focus and energy source. They can get lost inside their own heads with little need to verbally process. They tend to like quiet and find external stimulation distracting. While not always loners, their need for socialization is more limited than their extroverted counterparts.

Sensing (S)—Into the details: the who, what, where, when and whys of things. They often enjoy precision and research and are exacting in their attention to details.
Intuitive (N)—Into the big picture. They love brainstorming and ideas. They are dreamers, but have a more difficult time and find it more tedious to get down to the “brass tacks” of an idea.

Feeling (F)—Make decisions through their heart. The first question they often ask is how do I feel about my choices? How will it influence others? Is it a kind/merciful decision? They lead with their hearts and may process decisions based on emotions.
Thinking (T)—Make decisions through their heads (even though they are aware of feelings) and ask questions like, does it make sense? What are the consequences? Is it just? Decisions, and even relationships, may be filtered through their sense of logic first.

Judging (J)—Enjoy a planned, organized lifestyle. High amounts of loose ends and unplanned interruptions will disrupt a judger’s sense of calm. They’re great with checklists and love the sense of completion of getting a task crossed off. Deadlines and a clean, organized workspace are comforting.
Perceiving (P)—Enjoy a more fluid, open-ended lifestyle. Although messes aren’t ideal, a sloppy desk isn’t a reason to panic; a Perceiver knows where everything is. Perceivers are more flexible with interruptions and have a higher need for variety. They’d love to be more organized and appreciate the need; they just seldom are.

In the theory of the MBTI, you would choose one type/letter from each of the four categories and this becomes your personality “type”.

What Does It Mean?

For me, being an INFJ means I can work, and in fact prefer to work, for hours in complete silence—only the hum of the refrigerator to keep me company. I love solitude and don’t crave writers’ groups, even though I know they are good for me. I love to brainstorm ideas in my own head and have a tougher time with the details, especially those pesky grammar details. I lead with my heart—I love to converse and relate to readers on a heart level. Despite my aversion to details, I crave organization. I keep bulletin boards with organized projects, a list of due dates for articles and love a sense of completion when I submit a piece.  I can’t stand a cluttered work desk—it makes me nervous. The downside is I tend to sometimes get overwhelmed if there are too many due dates or open-ended projects on my to-do list.

Looking at this list, how would you describe your writing personality? Does this help shed light on your style? Are you a planner or a pantser? What does your work space look like?

For more information on the MBTI, visit here.


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm an ISTJ. I'm a perfectionist, so that fits well.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

I absolutely love the MBTI, and I'm an INFJ, too! For me, being an INFJ also means I love working alone for hours, but I crave organization AND I am an absolute perfectionist about the details -- I think I'm borderline T in this regard. As for clutter, maybe this is where I'm off the charts N because I'm absolutely cluttered beyond belief when I'm in the middle of a project! GREAT post!

Julie Luek said...

Thanks Alex and Julia for popping over here.

Alex, it's why you are so good and efficient at what you do too-- makes perfect sense.

Julia, glad you enjoyed it. It's fun to think about in regards to our personality. My "F" keeps me needing and wanting to give lots of affirmation and strokes too!

Rob Akers said...


Great article. I took this test in college, and I am not sure why I even remember this but I was a ENFP. Reading your descriptions I think I am a INTP. Maybe I changed in the last 20 years or maybe I am just old.

Either way, this is a great because we all need to know ourselves before we can create great characters.

Julie Luek said...

Thanks for stopping by Rob. I'm glad it was helpful. There are actually a couple reasons your type may have "changed". The theory is you are what you are from birth, but often we grow more comfortable in who we are as we age, so we grow into our type rather than trying to fit a type. Not sure if that applies, but it's what I see a lot in the contests I use it. At any rate, what's helpful is seeing our strengths and weaknesses as writers.

Tara Tyler said...

love these types of analysis!
i'm totally a J!
the others were harder, with pieces of each, esp the seond.

that was fun & eye opening!

Laura Eno said...

I am INFJ - except when I'm on vacation. Then some switch flips in my brain and I'm TOTALLY P, something I can't tolerate in daily life. :P

Rachel Schieffelbein said...

This is really interesting. :) We talk about this a lot in our early childhood group. It can be hard when mom and kid are totally different!

Julie Luek said...

Tara--J and I are my strongest, although I'm fairly solid on the other two as well. Organizers are like toys for me-- I love them!

Laura-- I am married to a P and I love that he keeps me from being too uptight about schedules, especially on vacation.

Rachel-- There's a book out called Types and Tiger Stripes based on an instrument very similar to the MBTI that is geared for kids. It's fascinating to see how this plays out in families.

S.P. Bowers said...

The first two were easy. IN

The next one was harder. I think I'm an F. Though the older I get I use my head a little more. Maybe I'm in the middle somewhere?

Last one I would go with J but I'm probably in the middle somewhere again.

So probably I'm a INFJ but not a hardcore one.

Julie Luek said...

That's possible, and if you took the actual inventory, you might have a stronger discernment on the latter two. This is a pretty quick n' dirty. But my S-N aren't hardcore, so I hear you. I wonder if it's more common for writers to be INs?

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! That's interesting. It's been so long since I took that test, and now I'm wondering how I got to be an INFJ . . .the J part doesn't quite fit me - I love lists but am ok with a messy workspace - well, comfortable clutter, not overpowering mess.

Thanks for this post!

Julie Luek said...

Tyrean-- Usually when I see that with clients, they are really a P but have learned how to J very well (after all, it's how we survive in the public K-12 system of education!). Thanks for stopping by-- it's fun to think about. :)

2busy said...

I am an INTJ...I did this with my school counselor once for fun. It was interesting to learn about myself.

Julie Luek said...

Hi 2 :) My favorite context is with a team and leadership setting-- it has great applications there.

LD Masterson said...

I took this test way back when and I think I was an ESFJ. But I do remember I was so close to the center on all the pairs that I was probably only one question away from being on the other side.

I'm not sure what that means for my writing.

Julie Luek said...

I always think of ESFJs as being very likable, popular people--usually outgoing and sensitive and get things done.

Sometimes the instrument scores funky if people are in an unsettled point in their life, too. Theoretically, the MBTI isn't a continuum-- if your "just this side of E" you're an E. But I think only the person can tell if it rings true or not. Of course, some people don't like this instrument at all-- so there's that too! :)

Kevin Mackey said...

Been a while since I was tested - and tested out as INFP.

And I'm afraid/glad/believe it's absolutely fabulous that I fit that mold (or it me?) pretty darned well.

"...don't crave writers' groups..." I recognize myself in that. In fact I don't crave groups of any sort - at least ones in the real world. And I find I have to work at being part of unreal world (or online, if you will) groups which is unfortunate. Because groups, of whichever flavor, are valuable, necessary even. And, in my opinion, particularly to writers.

How one writes computer code, which I've done for a living, or play chess, which I used to do for fun, intuitively is not easy to say. Artfully is the best answer I can come up with. :)

But it is how I write poetry or prose. And it seems to work.

LadyD Piano said...

INFP but I love music, too. It sets the tone and drives away noise. I love this, thank you!

Julie Luek said...

Interestingly, N-Ps have the most difficult time with the instrument. Ns like open-ended thinking and possibilities and Ps are uncomfortable with any thing that doesn't allow them flexibility. The very nature of the instrument "choose one and that is your box" goes against an N-Ps very personality. (Throw in a T into that mix and it gets really interesting.)

Kevin, sounds like you've found a great life that utilizes your preferences very well.

LadyD-- Glad you found it helpful and fun. :)

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I'm a big fan of the book Personality Plus. This breaks it down one step further. (I'm half melancholy, half sanguine. I'm an outgoing introvert.)

Julie Luek said...

I've done a little work with the melancholy, sanguine ratings-- it's a bit of a different theory base than the MBTI, but it gives another piece that helps give a comprehensive picture. I love stuff like that!

Yolanda Renee said...

Interesting stuff, I guess I'm an ISFJ, but love the brainstorming - great with the big picture, and the minute details too. Maybe because while the boss, I was female and never had the secretary fall back on, unlike all the men who had assistants.

Very organized, an introvert for sure, very comfortable alone, but love entertaining.

Julie Luek said...

Yolanda-- My S-N are my closest. I think my high J need (organization) makes being aware of details and keeping lists a natural offshoot, although, I don't always do it well.

M.L. Swift said...

I'm an ENFJ, and it fits me perfectly.

And Oprah is an ENFJ, too. Hmmm...maybe that inside connection will put me on her book club list one day.

Gary said...

INTP here. Fairly non-organized except for my wilderness trips which only seem unorganized as I will change a canoe route according to the wind or group dynamics happening (Or if the fish are biting in that area we might camp early in the day and pull a night paddle later).

Liane Spicer said...

Interesting exercise but the problem for me is that there are times when I'm the exact opposite.

Definitely an I although I can socialize my butt off when I want to.

Equally S and N; they alternate depending on the project.

F has the edge over T, alas.

Veer wildly between J and P.

See? I could never get these things to fit. :D

Al Diaz said...

I think I'm an IITP, I think...hmmm. Or a cocktail of all of them, depending on the side of the bed I wake up. Nice article. SH.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm an IST with conflicted J/P tendencies. A different drummer, I guess.reckons

Julie Luek said...

Mike --Oprah would be a fool to not host you.

Gary --I love chatting with NTPs. The conversations fascinate me!

Liane-- not everyone likes this instrument or find it helpful, for sure.

Al --first, SHs to you. You're a great cocktail.

Pat-- my conflicted type is SN. I love that we all drum differently and complement each other.

Jane Turley said...

Yes, an interesting exercise which I can see if you are trying to define a career path might be helpful. Like Liane though I found that there are times when I am the exact opposite, especially in the first two categories. (For example I would say I was by nature an intuitive person - but then I have a history degree and sometimes I can be almost autistic about details if I'm really interested in a topic!) I would probably say I was an EIFP person though. My desk is a hideous carbuncle of a mess that other writing friends have expressed extreme horror at - yet it doesn't bother me at all.

Julie Luek said...

Jane-- just kind of an interesting theory to apply to our work preferences and styles. :) said...

I'm an ISFP, very much fueled by feelings. That's why I get so stuck and unable to make progress when writing about emotional things. Oy, I'm in trouble. =) This was fun, nonetheless, and it's interesting to apply the test to a writer's personality. Thanks, Julie.

Nancy LaRonda Johnson said...

INFP here. Boy do I struggle and long to be organized, but am poor with the upkeep. I could use a sidekick little helper, sort of a housekeeper for the rest of life, that lives inside me and comes out when things need straightening (ie, desk and car), crowds need talking to, (to tuck me in at night), and when I need to go hide away for a while to get a "breather" of myself again. Know anyone who can develop that for me? :)

Demetria Foster Gray said...

Julie, I enjoyed this post and learning that you're an INFJ personality type. I did Myers Briggs several years ago in which I'm an ISFJ. I would have to say my MBTI is fairly accurate.

Jewel Amethyst said...

At the risk of sounding wishy-washy, here is my conflict, I feel like I'm an ISFP, but many times I am an N because I see the big picture. And though I lead with my heart I make decisions with my head making me both an F and a T. So sometimes I'm an ISFP and sometimes I'm an INTP. The only consistency is the I and the P.

Julie Luek said...

Robyn--I lead with my heart too-- which I think is obvious in my posts, but I was raised in a strong T house-- so am able to call on that when/if needed (just not always well lol)

Nancy-- I married an INFP-- he is a clutter-bug sometimes. But 27 years has taught us compromise ;)

ISFJ-- I bet your employers love you. I knew I liked you. ;)

Jewel-- I've mentioned it in a couple comments, but if you go through and read them, you'll notice that it's typically the people who would, if the HAD to choose, would choose NTP, struggle the most with this instrument. NTPs are wonderful and being flexible, considering options and thinking outside the box, so this instrument feels restrictive. And truth is, that T factor is perfect for jumping in and performing more S and J tasks.

Steven W said...

Great article, Julie. You really got me thinking. I need solitude and organization, and right now, as I'm in the starting a family stage of life, I can't say I'm getting a lot of that.

T.J. said...

ENTP over here, are you surprised? LOL

Sunny Frazier said...

What--only Gary and I are INTP??? How can that be?