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.
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.