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 …
I 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.
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 type’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 writing 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.
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.
Why INFJs Have Trouble Writing by Lauren Sapala
The INFJ Writing Personality: Eloquent Vision by Andrea J. Wenger