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 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.