Tuesday, July 5, 2011

MBTI and Writers' Weaknesses and Strengths

I'm a little obsessed with psychology- personality theory in particular. In my last foray into MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator), I thought about what implications these dichotomies might have for writers.

MBTI is a preferences scale. It's all about which of two ways of operation you like better.

The dichotomies are
E: Extroverted - more in tune with and energised by the outer world
I: Introverted - more in tune with and energised by the inner world.

S: Sensing - concentrating more on hard, cold fact.
N: iNtuition- concentraing more on ideas.

T: Thinking- Making decisions based on objectivity.
F: Feeling- Making decisions based on how they will affect people.

J: Judging- Using the Judging functions (T/F) in the outer world and being happier with order, and decisions already made.
P: Perceiving- preferring the Perceiving functions (S/N) in the outer world and being happier with flexibility when gathering information.
(NB, Many of these words have general meanings outside of their MBTI meanings. For example if you are an introvert on MBTI that doesn't mean you will shrivel at a party or that you can't give a speech.)

Here's the gist of what I just said, with the 4 letter personality combos.

E/I Weaknesses and Strengths

Extroverts love being out in the world and interacting with it. If you are an Extrovert writer, you will have lots of opportunities to gather material for your books. On the other hand, concentration can be harder for Extroverts, so you may be prone to distraction during long stretches in front of a computer. Also, it can be difficult to organise your thoughts without bouncing them off someone else or talking them out.

Introverts are very good at thinking things through, and at concentrating for long periods. An Introvert is more likely to be able to work on the same project continuously- staring at it all day for months on end. To my mind, Introverts are also more likely to be plotters, since they like knowing the end result before they move. If you are an Introvert, you may need to remind yourself to get out and interact with the world once in a while. You'll have so much more to write if you do. Also, remember that others can help you make your work stronger.

S/N Weaknesses and Strengths
If you prefer Sensing, you are more concerned with things as they are and not as they could be. You are probably very good at representing factual data in a concise way. This lends itself to non-fiction writing on technical topics. More than likely, fiction will be difficult for Sensers. If you want to write fiction, you'll have to train yourself to imagine- physically stop yourself and ask "what if?" over and over until you've got a story.

This chart was made for fashion designers, another creative field. Notice where the S's are...

S/N is the only dichotomy that is wildly skewed in the American population. (Sorry, I haven't seen data for other countries.) There are about 65% Sensers and 35% iNtuitives in the U.S. However, the large majority of people in any field of entertainment and most creative fields (including writers) are iNuitives. As I've said before, being a Creative can be hard in the real world. But iNtuitive nature is a perk in the Creative world.

iNtuitives prefer ideas and possibilities. Life is a series of questions, and we use our creativity to answer them. The hard part for an iNtuitive can be reconciling creativity and practicality. Publishing is a business. Even the most literary of books needs some audience. iNtuitives (and their often fragile egos) need to work on accepting that they have to make their work acceptable to others, when they'd rather just follow the dream.

T/F Weaknesses and Strengths
Thinkers prefer objectivity and fairness. A Thinker probably has a plot that is structurally sound and logical. For a Thinker, the difficulty may come with adding emotion to the story.

Feeling types tend to live life based more on their particular value system. Feelers are most likely very good at illustrating characters and themes. They may have to develop plot and structure.

J/P Weaknesses and Strengths

If you lean towards Judging, then you prefer knowing that the decisions have been made. Moreso than any other dichotomy, this represents the plotter/pantser. Judgers like making the decisions and are happiest working towards a known end. Trouble sets in when the story or characters don't want to go where you told it. If a story or a character is really struggling to do something against the plan, let them. If you really, really, really need to be following a plan, take a break, think it through and re-outline from the point of departure. It may lead you to a stronger piece.

If you lean towards Perceiving, then the adventure is in not knowing. Perceivers are natural pantsers. The best part of a story is discovering where it will end up. Perceivers tend towards very original stories with twists you don't see coming. There are two disadvantages to being a Perceiving writer. Firstly, editing is tough. You've lost the spark of the story being new and exciting. You know what is going to happen. The fun is gone. Secondly, Perceivers are not fans of decisions, and an ending is always decisive. Perceivers may be tempted to throw new things at the plot, in an effort to put off an ending as long as possible.

If you're interested in a "Free Myers-Briggs Test"* check out:
Personality Pathways
Human Metrics
* Only CAPT is licensed to give the MBTI, so these are technically MBTI-based tests.

Btw, I'm ENFP.
E- Loves being out and about and suck at concentrating
N- Love to fly through a first draft and hate editing
F- Voice and characters are my strength
P- I hate writing endings. I wrote 51,000 words of my first novel in 30 days. I wrote the next 5,000 over 3 months.


J.B. Chicoine said...

Oh, I also find these personality profiles facinating. I like how you broke down each catagory as it pertains to writers--NICE!

I'm an INFJ, no matter how many times I've taken the tes--one of those people who confuse others--I come off as and extrovert, but I'm truly introverted and love time alone at my computer, imagining, and putting into words, all the what-if's of the universe!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Guess I'm an introverted thinker!

Marsha Sigman said...

I took this not that long ago and my analysis was an ENTP, which means the only difference between us is I am considered a thinker and your a feeler.lol

I love this stuff too.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...



Megan said...

INTJ...just had to put that out there.

夫妻\a片共享 said...