Why Do So Many INFJs Want to be Writers?

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 feeling 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 Counsellors, 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.

Deborah Ward

Deborah Ward is a writer, editor and an INFJ. She has a passion for writing articles, blog posts and books that inspire, motivate and encourage people to build self-confidence and live up to their potential. Her latest book is Overcoming Low Self-Esteem with Mindfulness. Deborah lives in Hampshire, England, where she enjoys watching documentaries, running and taking long walks in the country, especially ones that finish at a cosy pub.

Comments

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...

Hi Kerry,

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!

bjoconnor says...

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.

 

Barbara

Deborah Ward says...

Dear Barbara,

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,

Deborah

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...

Hi there,

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. 

Best wishes,

Deborah

Deborah Ward says...

P.S. If you need help with your post, you can email Truity at help@truity.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...

Deborah, 

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...

Liv, 

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...

JessicaT,

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!

Deborah

 

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