Why Do So Many INFJs Want to be Writers?01 May 2017 / By Deborah Ward Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on May 01, 2017
The INFJ personality is a complex type. We live in a world of hidden meanings and symbols and often struggle to fit in with a world that values action over contemplation. But while many INFJs feel misunderstood, we also share a love and passion for expressing ourselves creatively, most often through writing. So why do so many INFJs want to write? And how can we use the natural traits of our personality to enhance, rather than hinder, our writing ability?
Who Are INFJs?
INFJs are intuitive, feeling Introverts, which means we want a meaningful life and we need our work to be meaningful too. We’re more interested in insights, images and patterns than facts, data and logic. As intellectually curious people, we love to think about abstract ideas.
While we regain our energy by spending time alone in our complex internal world, we also care about people and value deep, authentic connections with others. We’re highly perceptive, aware and intuitive about people and we want to help others understand themselves and live up to their full potential. INFJs are complex, deep thinkers with a keen insight into how people think and feel, so we’re not afraid of dealing with people’s complex personal problems.
This combination of understanding, sensitivity and empathy creates a desire in INFJs to express our thoughts and feelings about the world around us and the people in it, with the ultimate goal of helping other people. We want to shed light on difficult situations and convoluted feelings and help people make sense of their lives and themselves.
Why INFJs Like to Write
INFJs are often natural writers. We not only have the empathy to understand others, but as Introverts, we enjoy working alone. For many people, the solitude necessary for writing is the hardest part, but for INFJs, it often feels like a sanctuary. It gives us the time and space we need to stop and think, reflect on our ideas and express ourselves.
As sensitive individuals, we are always absorbing information around us, including sights, sounds, smells, temperature, light and other people’s feelings. We are constantly processing this information and trying to make sense of it. Because we absorb so much, we need an outlet for all this energy. This is what gives us a creative drive. Without attending to our need for creative expression, however, we can quickly become ill or experience physical systems of being “blocked,” including skin problems, headaches, digestive ailments and sleep disorders.
In her book, The INFJ Writer, Lauren Sapala suggests that many INFJs have the same traits as gifted people, according to the criteria developed by Kaimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychiatrist and psychologist. Dabrowski was best known for his theory of positive disintegration, which proposes that advancing into higher levels of personal development requires having certain developmental potential. He suggested that most people stay at a basic level of development and only a few will grow beyond this.
These select individuals, otherwise known today as highly sensitive people, have a highly sensitive nervous system, leading to a more intense experience of daily life. According to Dabrowski’s theory, there are five categories of sensitivity, which he referred to as “excitabilities,” including psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginative and emotional, all of which are used to describe “gifted” people. According to Sapala, many INFJ writers have some or all of these qualities as well. Our tendency to be both highly sensitive and possessing these gifted traits means we have the potential for great creative work.
Why Writing Can Be Hard for INFJs
Being an INFJ means we’re endowed with a lot of special gifts, such as empathy, insight, sensitivity and creativity. But it’s not always an easy path to follow, especially when most of the population do not possess these traits and don’t understand them. Dabrowski himself called excitability or sensitivity "a tragic gift" to reflect that while there is potential to experience great highs, there is also the potential to experience great lows.
Similarly, great creativity also tends to create the potential for a great deal of personal conflict and stress. People with a highly sensitive nervous system are also prone to depression and anxiety, which can make any creative work feel impossible. INFJs can also find it hard to write because we tend to be:
- Perfectionists. We have a vision in our minds of how things should be and trying to create that perfect vision on paper can stop us in our tracks. We tend to have very high standards for ourselves and our work, which can make it difficult to silence our inner critic.
- Workaholics. INFJs have a rich inner life. We enjoy spending time alone and thinking about our ideas, but it can lead us to working long hours, isolating ourselves from friends and family and becoming burned out.
- Low confidence. Feeling different from everyone around us can make INFJs self-critical and feel bad about ourselves. It’s all too easy to think, “who am I to be a writer?”
- Thinking of possibilities. With intelligence and an active imagination, INFJs can see the potential and possibilities in almost everything, but that often means we don’t know which one is best and we can get stuck trying to find the right route or even the right word.
- Fear of criticism. INFJs tend to be sensitive to criticism, so we’re often afraid to show our work to anyone who might offer us valuable feedback for fear of being negatively judged.
How to Use Your Personality to Write Better
INFJs make up only one percent of the population so they are a rare type, with many challenges, but it’s also a gift. If you see your personality type as a curse, you’ll never live up to your true potential, and you’ll never write another word. When you see the positives in who you are, and how it can make you a better writer, you’ll be able to use your trait to develop yourself and your skills. Here’s how:
- Embrace your empathy. INFJs have the ability to understand people on a deep level. We can sometimes even feel what others are feeling. INFJs are known as Counselors, because of our desire to help others. People are often drawn to us, eager to share their thoughts and feelings with a compassionate soul. While this can be overwhelming, it is also a great source of information, allowing us to create realistic, well-developed characters in our writing.
- Use your artistic mind. As creative people, we think in images. We’re dreamy idealists, intuitive and emotional. Instead of feeling like it’s something to avoid, change or bury, we need to use it. This is our strength. Trying to use your logical mind when you’re writing is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Writing needs creative freedom, so let go of logical thinking and just write. You can edit your work at a later stage.
- Let go of perfectionism. It’s important to remember that creativity isn’t about being perfect, it’s about expressing yourself. INFJs can get bogged down in revising their work instead of moving forward and getting their ideas down on paper.
- Feel the music. Music is a great way to open up your feelings and get your creativity flowing. While scientists still aren’t sure why music has such a powerful effect on our emotions, it does create the mental space we need to write. To do anything creative, we need to feel relaxed, happy and playful, the way children do when they invent imaginary games. A relaxed mind is a creative mind.
- Shut the door. INFJs work best in a quiet environment where we won’t be interrupted or disturbed. We need a break from the overstimulation of our daily lives and time to reflect before we begin writing. Don’t think of creative time as selfish, it’s time you need to be who you are and develop your skills. Don’t let anyone take that away from you.
Whether you’re a seasoned INFJ writer or just starting out, remember the world needs your unique gifts. You may have had a late start due to feelings of self-doubt or anxiety or maybe you’ve just spent a lot of time deep in thought.
Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, articles or poetry, the INFJ’s drive is to use your insights and sensitivities to shed light on difficult subjects. Ultimately, INFJs want to help people. We’re not motivated by external rewards like money, fame, success or even a bestseller. If you write for those reasons, says Sapala, you’ll lose motivation. Our motivation is internal. So write for yourself. Be an INFJ writer and share your gifts with the world. Both you, and others, will reap the rewards.
Kerry Kerr McAvoy (not verified) says...
Thank you for this excellent article. I started out as a counselor (psychologist) but found the work too draining. Now I write. I'm working on my fourth book, a memoir.
Your comment about the need for an outlet or face illness hit me. Yes, I feel despair if my life lacks meaningfulness. Writing goes a long ways in providing such purpose.
I have also learned that I become easily ill if over stimulated. I have gotten much better at recognizing this and setting better limits with myself.
Thank you for validating what I have been discovering about myself.
Deborah Ward says...
Thank you for your comments. I thought about being a counsellor too, but like you, found the work too emotionally draining. I think it could work for some INFJs. But the important thing is to do something that gives your life meaning. I think whenever we're helping others while fulfilling our own needs at the same time, we're following the right path. I wish you all the best, Deborah
MoeEh (not verified) says...
I learned much information about INFJ. It is really helpful for me. I wanted to write short stories which I think to be helpful for mental problems. But, I was afraid of the other people would judge me. I see myself, I am good at giving advice to my friends whenever they have problems. Now, I am going to write my short stories. I believe myself, I can help other people by writing. THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE ARTICLE!
Thank you for this it really hit the nail on the head for me when it comes to writing. I express myself best through writing or music. My friends joke telling me they know to grab a cup of tea before they read one of my emails because it is always a long one. In fact my close-est friends when asking for a response will request the "readers digest" version of whatever my response might be. My signal to carefully choose my words and think brevity when I respond because they don't want to hear why I am thinking what I am thnking they just want the point of it.
I have a friend who is a published author and has been encouraging me to write the stories I hear and see played out in my head. So far my writing consists of songs, poetry and journaling my thoughts. This article was great because you really understand my personality and spoke to it. It is so hard when it feels like no one "gets you" so they take your silence to mean you are angry with them or depressed when it just means you are thinking deeply and/or daydreaming at the moment. Something we all "get" as fellow INFJs but not many others do.
Deborah Ward says...
Thank you so much for your comments. I'm so glad my article resonated with you. It's so important for INFJs, and all of us, to recognize that we're not alone. And I do understand. It's not always easy being an INFJ, but your personality comes with many gifts, and I believe creativity is one of them. I hope you keep writing and don't stop dreaming.
All the best,
somenamesoIcanpostthis (not verified) says...
Overall I feel the article is spot-on. I am curious as what your basis is for the comments on how blocked creativity can lead to physical problems. I have had all of these issues, yet never have heard anyone talk about this kind of potential cause.
PS. This will not let me post with a normal name! Not sure how to work this system.
Deborah Ward says...
Thanks very much for your comments. I'm really glad you liked the article. I know Louise Hay and others have written quite a bit about the physical effects of emotions on the body. Because INFJs are so sensitive and because repressed creativity is a huge source of stress, we're likely to feel blocked creativity in a physical way. You can read more about it here.
I've also asked the folks at Truity to help you post with your name.
Deborah Ward says...
P.S. If you need help with your post, you can email Truity at email@example.com
Rozarrianne (not verified) says...
I am an INFJ and everyday I have this need or urge to write something, I am inlove with the paper and pen or the keyboard itself but I cannot write what I want to write because just like what was mentioned above, I am a perfectionist who has a low confidence in my article and literary works in fear of criticism. But thank you so much for the advice, I want to write something now :D
Liv (not verified) says...
I LOVED this article as I am an INFJ who quit my high powered sales career and now struggling miserably to figure out "my calling" and what I really want to do be doing - something that actually fulfills me and allows me to share my strengths with the world without complete exhaustion from performing tasks that I hate. I love to write for all of the reasons an INFJ does, however, have never written in a "professional" capacity via blogging, writing articles, etc. What is your greatest piece of advice for just getting started and finally committing to becoming a writer?
JessicaT (not verified) says...
I share a very similar experience and was going to ask the same question. In January of this year I left a very intense, very draining sales career. For a very driven perfectionist that was a difficult choice to make. This article has been such an encouragement because I sincerely want to contribute to the lives around me. I have always been a hard worker but I've spent the better part of my life pouring my resources into jobs that weren't suited for me at all. I passionately love to read. I have always kept a journal and many times have thought about starting my own blog or trying to write a book. I have several of the same questions you listed above.
I think right now my biggest challenge has been giving my permission to be myself. Reading this article has helped me to understand some of the reasons I've struggled with this so much. I've often times tried to fit myself into other "molds" because I thought that was success. I am learning what makes me tick, what gives me life, and ultimately what allows me to make the greatest contribution to those around me, looks a lot different than the norm....whatever that is.
Thank you Liv for sharing your thoughts and thank you Deborah for this article.
Liv (not verified) says...
Thanks for your post and sharing your experiences as well. Our "story" sounds insanely simialar in terms of the types of roles/environments we've worked in along with where we are now in figuring out the next step to "living life on our terms" in order to achieve greater fulfillment. I'm curious (and if you wouldn't mind sharing) - since January, what has your process looked like in order to make a breakthrough? In other words, have you made any progress? I am very interested in hearing how different people make these shifts in their lives and also enjoy offering up what I have been learning along the way as well. Let me know if you would like to connect off the blog!
Deborah Ward says...
Hi Liv, JessicaT and all INFJs,
Thanks very much for sharing your comments and experiences. I don't know how to define success as a writer, and there isn't one clear path for everyone, but what is important is to simply write if you feel like you should be writing. The hardest part is getting past your own self-doubts, so park your inner critic and just let loose. Whether it's a blog post, a novel or a poem, start small, one day at a time. It's a choice you make every day. One of my favourite sources of inspiration comes from Hemingway, who said every day he tried to write just one true sentence. You don't have to write a whole novel today. That's way too intimidating. But maybe you can write one true sentence.
Best wishes for your writing!
Mary Davis (not verified) says...
Oh my goodness this described me to a tee! I've hardly read a more insightful article. Thank you so much!! It's like I have this ideal vision in my head but it's hard to get it down well enough on paper, but I feel the drive to keep trying. ;) So many sentences I was thinking, "Wow, this is me! And that... and that!" :D
Mary Davis (not verified) says...
P.S. And yes, I do have friends coming to me for advice and opening up to me, and I don't have the goal to be famous... in fact I don't want to be, because the thought of lots of people knowing where I live, etc would be overwhelming, and I don't want lots of money, just enough to live quietly and comfortably. I just want people to like my work and appreciate it, and I want to uplift others and make the world a better happier place. I've kept a daily journal since I was 11... writing down tons of details (and feeling very private about it haha)... driven to write everyday... wow, so much makes sense now. :D
Diane Pender (not verified) says...
Thank you for this inspiring and informative article. This is a wonderful read for INFJs. I practically came out of the womb writing as a child and have quit for many years. I feel like I have to find my voice all over again to start my blog and it's frustrating. Your writing is making a difference. <3
Benjamin-1357 (not verified) says...
Great article. Thank your for sharing your insights.
I am a recently discovered INFJ but have been toying with a book for 2 years (I am new to writing). I have worked on it off and on but set it aside some time ago. I am thinking about beginning again because of INFJ. What started me 2 years ago was that I felt there is this book in me trying to get out. It seems I want to do it for my sake but I was concerned it will be a collasal waste of time and effort (it is a complicated tale and I do tend to get obsessed when I work on it). I can see now that I may feel this way because of my INFJ bent of needing to help others, not just myself.
I was writing this to ask for your insight in how writing (fiction) can help others but, you will not believe this, I have just had an INFJ aha moment: My story can help others because it is told about authentic people who encounter difficult situations and must wrestle with them in authentic ways. It also deals with this small group seeking harmony and justice while facing personal peril. I think it may be, as you say, my creative outlet of how I think people should and would behave. It is my commentary on some past history and also some issues that we may face in the future. It offers insight into human behavior and interaction. Maybe others can see the human potential for solving difficult problems.
This may be so simple to many but I am in awe of how this has been brewing inside me and suddenly became so much more clear.
Thank you that your article helped me piece this together in my mind and was the spark that congealed it. I wish you well and hope you can still offer your insights.
marla (not verified) says...
It just happened for me.
I'm always writing down my "feelings" about things. Lent (I'm a Catholic) is a wonderful time for me, as it draws me to be more introspective and quiet.
But around 6 months ago, I just began to write a book, and was probably into around 20,000 words before fear began to take charge. I googled probably every blog on the right thing to do when writing fiction.
Step 2: I began to overthink things.
Step 3: And then, things really went off the deep end, when in my book, the main character meets a Eastern European man, and by listening to his story, is brought back to occupied Europe in 1939. So now, this book started to take a life of its own. I had to research occupied Europe, the plight of the citizens, the Jewish people, Auchwitz. Everything. Including food, etc.
I gave it to a Polish friend of mine because I wanted it to be culturally sensitive and correctt.
She loved it, but seriously? I don't even know from day to day why I'm doing this!
Gaurav (not verified) says...
Thanks a lot for writing this stuff. Really, some points mentioned here helped me realise why good grades, money and fame were never rewarding to me. Thank you so much.
Willeke-Maya (not verified) says...
Thanks for such an informative post, Deborah! I'm glad I am not the only INFJ who loves her quiet alone time above anything to write, fight perfectionism and soak up people's experiences.
After emigrating to Ireland and being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years later, the path to pen and paper opened up - I dare say out of necessity. I had to defer studying for a degree in psychology, and when I was forced to retire from work, it helped me find my feet inside the boundaries of my new normals.
Instead of continuing the degree, I eventually opted for a short-term diploma in counselling and although I knew I can't work anymore, studying is about the urge to understand people's behaviours, so I've now added CBT to it also (I did two Meyers-Briggs tests as part of the studies with a ten-year gap between them, and another one years later. To my surprise, each resulted in the INFJ type).
Not writing often feels like lacking air to breathe, and I can get quite philosophical about reading and the physical act of writing itself. Despite chronic pain, sleepless nights and delving deep into my own experiences, my main goal is to help people find some solace and sanity in their own life with MS, or any illness for that matter. Please feel free to take a look at Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, and if you know anyone who might be interested, perhaps share.
Thank you once again!
Colin McDonagh (not verified) says...
Thank you so much for your article!
I'm an INFJ male. As our title suggests, I think INFJs are really drawn to counselling. It's something I think of quite a lot, as I am currently working as a computer engineer. I volunteered at a phone centre that dealt with some serious callers over a period of a year, and that was great experience. However I had to stop because I couldn't leave the centre without carrying a huge amount with me out the door. Sometimes I would even be frustrated having to listen to others giving out about their spouses without having really thought about their own actions, so I'm not sure counselling / listening would be a perfect fit for me. However, maybe that will change in the future.
But thankfully I love my job, and have no intention of switching fields yet. It's not something I picture for myself :)
I'm really attracted to the thought of writing though. Definitely something I cohld do in my spare time. I think it would have to be something serious; a parable would be fitting.
Ann Ria Lawrence (not verified) says...
Thank you for shedding light to my inner conflicts of being an INFJ. I had shut my innerself for the past 6 years trying to fit in to the norms of what is ' technical success ' to the world around me choosing a degree that was munching my soul. Without even aware of what was occurring within me , my mental health took a deep five into the darkest place I never imagined I would see. It was true hell but I recovered. I quit my soul munching degree and decided to write. Yes, it is difficult as I am a social being constantly being judged by family , cousins, freinds, neighbors and the whole world persistently trying to make me fit in. At times , I wonder why am I like this and trust me the worst hater is within me - the fear of being judged.
I love this article for reminding me the person I am - the way I am born. Thank you so much , now I feel I am not alone anymore.
Suriah Anggraeni (not verified) says...
Thank you so much. I am 30 years old and It's hard to understand my self, then your article help me to accept my self. Become a writer is always across on my mind but I never try it yet. I hope this is the time. God bless you, Thanks.
Elenya (not verified) says...
This was such a incredibly well crafted post. I am truly touched by the insight and encouragement given here. As an INFJ the struggle I face most often is anxiety over writing. Your advice was very helpful and I intend to keep writing— not because I need to, but because I want to.
Modus (not verified) says...
Thank you for sharing your insights. I came across this article while learning about my MBTI type. I'd like to share that writing is a skill I find comes naturally, never quite understanding why it isn't for others. Many. The majority. I put it down to lack of effort and/or enjoyment, which in a sense is true, and yet the same applies with translating ideas and concepts to an audience, in a creative and memorable way, came naturally to me. Also as a dreamer who enjoys hours of mentally working and reworking ideas, I am never happy enough to put it down on paper. If I'm serious about being a writer (and one who aspires to change the world) I will need to trust the process and allow it all to flow out. Your advice has been most insightful and inspiring. Thank you.
Liz Wilkinson (not verified) says...
I wish I could reach through my tiny iPhone screen and hug you. I was talking to a relative the other day about my anxiety and a host of other issues I've got going on. She said that I sound like I'm a INFJ like she is. She directed me to the site to take the test, well, that was three days ago. I've spend countless hours reading every resource I can find about INFJs. Turns out I'm not insane, I'm just an INFJ-T and apparently rare. I actually feel normal for the first time in my life! At the age of 38! Anyways, I googled INFJs and writing. I've wanted to write my whole life. I have a book that I've been working on for 15, yes, 15 years. I can't do it because of everything you've mentioned. I want my book to change our broken political, banking, health care and education systems. (I know, I ask a lot), I want it to reach a lot of people and change lives for the better. I want it to smash the racial and gender divide. Again, I know I ask a lot. And I'd love to earn a good income from it. This article has been what I've needed to help me realise why I'm like I am and why I should push myself to write. It's 3:50am at the moment, I should sleep but I just want to write. Thank you so much. Thank you.
Naveen Bommakanti (not verified) says...
That's really fascinating Deborah :) Every word you spoke truly resonated with me. And Yeah. 1 year ago I chose to listen my intuition and started Breathe To Inspire. Today I am proud of myself just bcoz of my mind, heart and soul. I wish every one of us realize the gift hidden inside and choose to listen to it period....! Soon, they too will be proud of themselves and understand what it is to be a human. :)
Thank you.. Enjoyed your writing...
Rebeca E (not verified) says...
This article was spot on. I'm a recent MA Creative Writing graduate and really want to do something involving writing, but trying to find anything is proving very difficult. I know I’m young and there's still plenty of my life left, but it just feels like I'm getting nowhere and will be stuck doing something I dislike.
True-Heart0922 (not verified) says...
I’m an INFJ-T to be specific and I truly relate with this. I have been experiencing some stress in the last 2-3 years and I’ve been writing fan-fiction to help me relax and express myself in ways I don’t feel comfortable enough with much other people. I haven’t posted it anywhere and I probably won’t for a good while. I’ll go by the exact same nickname in case someone’s interested! Music has also helped me come with many ideas and still does! Anyways, I hope someone out there can relate to this! Sincerely, True-Heart0922!