Anatomy of a Writer: May 3

Blog Post 2 Everyone is different. We know this. Even the people we identify closely with are ultimately different in many ways from us. My writing group recently took some time to study our personality types. Personally, I'm a bit of skeptic so when the conversation started I didn't pay it too much attention.

It may have been the fact that I was set up at my favorite pita restaurant and was in the midst of devouring a gyro the size of my face while my Mac cursor blinked at me demanding a thousand more words.

Or it may have simply been that in my past, tests like these have been hit or miss. But then the messages on our Slack channel started scrolling in fast and furious. "This was so enlightening," sandwiched between, "Yep. That's when I finally realized why I hold back."

Excuse me? A personality test was enlightening and helpful? Okay fine. Give me the link and I'll take this bad boy. (If you want to do it, this is the test we used: 16 Personalities.)

So I took the test and bam! Not only did it peg me pretty darn accurately, but it really was very insightful! I was able to see myself in a new way, kind of like when you hear someone else describe you for the first time. They have a totally different perspective. And this test, much like a friend, allowed me to view the different parts of my personality with new eyes.

Why is this important to a writer (or other creative), you may ask? Well, as I mentioned in my Anatomy of a Writer post last week, writers are forced to inhabit a few different personality types--some that are frequently in stark contrast to one another. Some parts of the writer life are going to be natural, while others will always be a struggle. Those struggles can seem frustrating, especially if we see another author excelling in that area. But a test like this can give you insight into why your strengths are strengths and why your weakness are giving you fits.

I'll use myself as an example.

My personality is the INFJ-T aka "Advocate", part of their delegation of "Diplomats". They hooked me right in with the initial description. INFJ's have an inborn sense of idealism and morality.

Yep. That sounds right, but I was still feeling like we were in the fake-psychic territory of "this is a pretty wide net and a lot of people can fit inside this" ... until the next part. INFJ's are set apart from other "diplomats because of their judging trait. We're dreamers who believe firmly in taking concrete steps to reach goals.

Guilty as charged.

As in, it has been pointed out on numerous occasions (both positively and negatively) that I'm an unrelenting hard-ass about turning dreams into reality.

So at this point the test had my full attention. It goes into great detail about each point of the personality and what drives it, so I won't go point by point. I'd be writing a novel if I did. But I will tell you about a few things that made me go from "pshaw, what can this cooky test do to help me be a better writer, as if!" to "OMG this makes so much sense!"

  1. "Remember to take care of yourself. Your passion for your convictions may very well take you past your breaking point." (Again, guilty as charged. What is this stop and take a break before you break you speak of? I have a book to finish!)
  2. "Speaking in human terms, not technical, INFJs have a fluid, inspirational writing style that appeals to the inner idealist in their audience." (Don't beat myself up about my writing style.)
  3. "INFJs are able to follow through on their ideas with conviction, willpower, and the planning necessary to see complex projects through to the end." (Be proud of your planning skills and follow the heck through already!)
  4. "Highly vulnerable to criticism and conflict." (read: this is who you are, now accept it and stop trying to be one of those people with armor for skin. It ain't you, buttercup.)
  5. "INFJs too often drop or ignore healthy and productive situations and relationships, always believing there might be a better option down the road." (ummm...stop. Just stop. Also: reading this entire section for all of the additional insight was like WHOA.)
  6. "INFJs get so caught up in the passion of their pursuits that any of the cumbersome administrative or maintenance work that comes between them and the ideal they see on the horizon is deeply unwelcome. INFJs like to know that they are taking concrete steps towards their goals, and if routine tasks feel like they are getting in the way, or worse yet, there is no goal at all, they will feel restless and disappointed." (Ok. I copied this point wholesale from the 16Personalities website. BECAUSE OMG IT IS SO ME! And this affects my ability to work for myself, but more importantly, how I can be an effective team member in my writing group. We all have big goals and plans that we are trying to reach together. Understanding what trips me up and what I excel at will make me so much more effective to the group.)
  7. "Their passion, poor patience for routine maintenance, tendency to present themselves as an ideal, and extreme privacy tend to leave INFJs with few options for letting off steam." (So fix this, buttercup. Know your weaknesses and don't let them get the better of you. Burnout is not pretty and it's really hard to get back from.)

And this is just a teeny tiny fraction of the information available on their website. Nearly all of it was a dead ringer for me and it really was incredibly enlightening to realize this information could help me be a better writer and collaborator in the future. So, if you're intrigued by what drives your personality and how it may be affecting your effectiveness as a creative entrepreneur, you may want to take a few minutes to dive into this test and see what you come up with.