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Thursday, March 26

Write Happy! The 4 Little Letters That Will Transform Your Writing Process

By Jacqueline Myers

Part of The Writer's Life Series


JH: Finding the right process is a challenge most writers face. Luckily, Jacqueline Myers is here to share tips on how your personality can lead you to the perfect process.


Jacqueline is currently happily at work on her second mystery series (under a pen name) while sharing what she's learned with other writers. Using the synergy of personality theory and brain science, Jacqueline coaches writers using a proprietary methodology that helps them overcome their debilitating creative blocks so they can write un-put-down-able books.

If you are struggling, she'd love to see how she can support you! Schedule your free story strategy session here. You can also email her at jacqueline@intuitivewritingcoach.com.

Take it away Jacqueline…

What is freakin' wrong with me? I was poring over yet another writing guide, trying to figure out how to improve my writing process. At the moment, I didn't have one. I hadn't been able to write a coherent sentence in weeks.

Oh, I'd formally had a process, but it was too slow, too clunky for a "real" writer. Now that I was a published author, I needed speed. I needed something streamlined and sleek so I could turn out book after book without breaking a sweat. Cuz, you know, that's what "real" writers do.

I stared out the window of my home office as the dread I'd become intimately familiar with began to rise. What if I just got lucky the first couple of times? What if I don't have what it takes to be a writer?

Disgusted, I swallowed my panic, and moved back to my computer. I had work to do for my "day job," running my own ghostwriting agency. As I researched content for a client, I continued to sulk and fret.

Until, I "accidentally" came upon a website that changed everything.

No doubt you've heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) from somewhere. It's based on the theory of the father of analytical psychology, Carl Jung. Basically, it divides us all into one of sixteen personality types to help us understand ourselves and others better.

I became obsessed with learning about it. And as I discovered more, I couldn't help but see all the ways it could help me, not just become a better writer, but a happier one.

Everything started to come together—why I couldn't find an outline format that worked for me. Why my writing process was more laborious than other writers. Why I needed to take time off between writing days to process what I'd written, so I knew where to take the story next.

MBTI has been used for years and is the most respected personality test in the world of psychology. It's commonly used in psychoanalysis, as well as career training, marriage counseling, corporate team-building, education, and a myriad of other ways.

So, I asked myself, why can't it be used to help writers overcome their creative blocks?

The answer is it can!

In fact, my clients and I prove over and over again that using this system can transform the writing process so we can enjoy writing in creative flow.

If you feel like writing is a struggle, that's probably because you are working against yourself. Using your innate personality style—how you naturally work best, no matter what the writing gurus say, is THE way around the writing blocks that are holding you back!

If you don't already know your personality type, I recommend taking this free personality test before reading further.

MBTI uses four letters, or functions, to explain our personality preferences.

For example:

I am an INFJ (Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging)

My husband is an ENFJ (Extrovert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Judging)

My daughter is an ISFJ (Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Judging)

My best friend is an INFP (Introvert, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving)

These four letters tell us about our process and our preferences

Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) tells us how we focus energy and attention

Sensing (S) or Intuition (N) tells us how we gather information

Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) tells us how we make decisions

Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) tells us how we approach the outer world

If you took the personality test I recommended above, you can see just by glancing at your results that we all live on a continuum between each of the preferences. None of us is 100% of any of them. We each are inclined towards Extroversion or Introversion, Sensing or Intuition, etc.

As you continue to read, keep this in mind. You may find you fit squarely into some of the aspects of a preference but not others. That's normal. But for clarity's sake, I'm going to explain each of the preferences at 100% one way or the other.

How You Start Your Writing Process


Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I)

Extroverts work better when they get their idea "outside of themselves" by putting words onto the page.

Extroverts:
  • Write best when thinking out loud or discussing their story ideas with others.
  • Get their best ideas in a busy environment that stimulates their creative process.
  • Jump in when they get a story idea rather than planning or outlining first. They use trial and error to course correct.
  • Need to spend extra time revising due to rambling first drafts. Because they don't know where their story will take them when they start, their writing isn't always logically connected.
  • Come up with their best ideas while writing.
  • Need to finish their first drafts as quickly as possible without thinking about it too much.
Introverts work best when they have plenty of time to think through what they want to write.

Introverts: 
  • Need quiet to think about their story ideas without distractions. They think a great deal before they begin to write.
  • Hesitate to ask for feedback or critiquing, especially for early drafts.
  • Prefer to have a plan or outline to work from.
  • Favor writing at home alone or in a quiet corner somewhere. Too many interruptions shut down their creativity.
  • Need to take the time to ruminate on their story as they write. Rushing their writing process never works.

How You Discover What You Want to Say


Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)

Before we delve into this function, it's important for you to understand that I'm not saying that sensing types don't have intuition. We all have it, but sensors prefer facts and data. I'm also not implying that Intuitive types can't use logic. They can, and they do…after they feel into the situation.

Sensing types collect information from their five senses and from what is observable and knowable.

Sensing types: 
  • Gather discernible details, facts, and data deliberately before starting to write.
  • "Good writing" is all about descriptive details, correct grammar, and accuracy.
  • Need a detailed outline or plan to do their best writing.
  • Prefer keeping an emotional distance in their writing.
  • Provide a great deal of description and detail.
  • Need a clean and pleasing environment to write.

Intuitive types notice the possibilities and nuances of information and choose what they will use based on how they can connect those possibilities.

Intuitive types: 
  • See the big picture and bring out the abstract meaning of what they observe.
  • "Good writing" is all about originality.
  • Find detailed outlines too restrictive. They want to be inspired by a fresh approach to the topic.
  • Motivated to write on topics that are personally valuable or important to them.
  • Find it unnecessary to have the ideal writing space.
  • Tap into their characters' wounds and motivation easily.
  • Affected by harsh criticism and feedback.

How You Decide How You Want to Say It


Thinking (T) or Feeling (F)

Before we discuss the next function, I want you to understand that I'm not saying that some people are better thinkers and others are too emotional. Remember, we all have both sides of the spectrum in us. We simply each prefer to work in specific ways depending on our personality type because it feels more natural.

Thinking types prefer to be objective and make decisions that are best for the collective or community.

Thinking types: 
  • Think in black or white and base their decisions on the established criterion.
  • Focus on the content of their message and believe that as long as their writing is clear and correct, they will reach their audience.
  • Motivated to write on any topic, especially if it doesn't require them to get emotionally entangled.
  • Writing can be too reliant on details or be expressed too brusquely.
  • Need to create and follow a clear, linear process to do their best work.
  • Concentrate on clarity so they can get their point across. Depend on facts and observable information.

Feeling types make decisions based on what is good for the individual; each case is considered on its own merits.

Feeling types: 
  • Find it challenging to write on a topic they aren't emotionally engaged with.
  • Focus on how their message will come across to their audience.
  • Spend a great deal of time finding just the right word or phrase that is sure to grab their audience's attention. They worry about offending readers, so they soften their message.
  • Reveal a great deal of themselves and invest a lot of energy into their writing.
  • Favor less structure, and therefore, aren't likely to follow a linear writing process.
  • Concentrate on flow and connecting with their reader. They depend on impressions and imagined material.

How You Get Your Writing Done


Judging (J) or Perceiving (P)

Judging types deal with the outside world by taking charge of it to ensure things get completed.

Judging types: 
  • Set and work from a schedule. They work best when organized and structured.
  • Make decisions and stick with them, even when struggling.
  • Outline or plan on paper or in their heads. Reverse-engineer their schedule so they know exactly how much time it will take to meet their deadline.
  • Work on one project at a time.
  • Write shorter first drafts and add details to future revisions.
  • Narrow their topic early to stay focused.

Perceiving types allow the outside world to inform them of all the intriguing things to be explored.

Perceiving types: 
  • Prefer a less-structured environment to allow for spontaneity. They work without an outline or only a basic idea in their head before they write.
  • Research during most of the time they are "given" to create the final product. Writing under pressure helps them connect the research and their ideas.
  • Avoid writing too soon because they don't want to leave out any ideas that they may find as they continue to plot or research.
  • Keep topic options open and flexible.
  • Let deadlines motivate their writing. They make story decisions only when necessary.
  • Work on several projects at once, allowing each to "inform" the others.
  • Include everything in their first draft and have to pare it down later.

So, how can we use this information to transform our writing process?

Here are a few examples:
  • If you are an intuitive or perceiving type, let yourself "pants" your work or use a basic structure to outline your ideas.
  • If you are a perceiving type, allow yourself to work on multiple projects at once. You will find that often you come up with a brilliant new story idea for a project you've been struggling with when you are working on something else entirely.
  • If you are an extrovert, find a writing group that encourages lots of discussion about works in progress and offers frequent critiques.
  • If you are an introvert, find a critique partner who understands you and your work. Make sure it's someone you trust, who will be gentle and honest with you.
  • If you are a sensing or thinking type, be aware that you can overdo the details. Make sure you are creating deep, three-dimensional characters that your audience can connect to.
  • If you are an intuitive or feeling type, be aware that your writing can be too ethereal for your readers to follow. Make sure you don't rely too heavily on symbolism and imagery so that your message gets lost.
  • If you are a perceiving type, put loose deadlines on your projects so that you actually finish them.
  • If you are a judging type, remember that you tend to stick to a schedule or plan longer than is good for you. Don't be afraid to reevaluate and make changes to something that isn't working.
Obviously, there’s much more to it. When we put different combinations of letters or functions together, things change. For example, as an INFJ, I love structure and organization. I can spend hours happily planning alone in my office. But when I write, I can “see” what’s coming in the story only so far ahead. It’s impossible for me to use a detailed outline. I’ve tried all different methods. That’s how I ended up in creative paralysis.

Our society is addicted to the idea of a magic strategy in all areas of life, including writing. To that end, writers read, study, and listen to writing experts who may or may not be able to help. What we don't recognize is that we each have our own magical method within us. But instead of trusting and embracing it, we think someone else must have a better system. When we let go of all the complicated and contradictive writing advice out there and tap into our own innate writing process, we can effortlessly write in a way that touches, informs, and entertains our audience.

8 comments:

  1. Wow! that was great. I have looked at that personality type thing several times without it making any sense. the test you sent me to was easy to do. thanks. I enjoyed your article.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Rainbowhand! I'm so glad it was helpful. It will be interesting to see how your new understanding will positively impact your writing. ;)

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  2. This was super interesting! Thank you so much for exploring these labels. I recognized myself in many of these descriptions. :)

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    1. Happy to shine a little light, Jami. I hope you are able to easily translate what you learned to make writing more enjoyable! Thanks for your comment!

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  3. Thank you so much for a great article! I've been 'paralyzed' for months now and now I think I know why. I've been trying to force myself to be more methodical, plan and outline more, and it's gotten me nowhere. As an INFP, I'm most definitely have not been embracing my personal process. Clearly that's not the way forward. ^__^

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    1. I feel your pain, brohne! I did the same thing as an INFJ--I tried to be a sensor type. Many of my clients are INFP's and you all are an interesting type! ;) The best thing you can do for yourself if to allow yourself to "write in your head" while you do other things. And give yourself permission to work on multiple projects. The trick is to discipline yourself to eventually write down what you have in your head and not to get distracted by writing all the things. Good luck!

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  4. Thank you! I have known my type (INFJ) and used Myers-Briggs insights for many years, but have never seen the test applied to writing style. Very helpful.

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  5. Hey, Connie! Great to meet another INFJ writer! I'm thrilled you found it helpful!

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