About a year ago I was going through a bad patch with myself. It wasn’t the first time I’ve fallen out with myself; I am often frustrated with my own mind, the way it works and the way it’s very proficient at obstructing my contentment. I just find life very overwhelming and the amount of information I receive too great to process. It was at this point that a good friend of mine sent me a link to a personality test based on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. And suddenly it all made sense! I came out as INFJ, “the Advocate”, and it fits my personality exactly, the pros and the cons. INFJs want to help others to help themselves, getting to the heart of issues, and are very determined in their altruistic quests. Think Jon Snow, Aragorn and Aramis.
I’m 98% introverted, which I would say is very accurate as I struggle with all social interaction. It’s not that I’m antisocial, it’s just that socialising tires me out, especially smalltalk. Talk to me about the deeper meanings of life and I’ll natter on for hours quite happily but ask me what I do for a living and all my internal organs groan, chief of all my brain.
Being an INFJ is all well and good, and I’m glad that it’s a very rare personality type because it can make life very uphill at times, but on top of that I’m also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). This means that I process and react to external stimuli to a greater extent than the average person. The consequence of this is that I need to spend a lot of time in a controlled environment, such as my home and particularly my geek den, in order to recharge my emotional batteries.
This makes me sound like a proper dysfunctional and socially handicapped individual, right? Not quite true. I have friends, a few very close people who I trust and confide in, I have a partner of ten years and I do go out and engage with the world. I just have to recharge in my den in between interactions. But that’s okay: some people are dolphins, some people are bears, but it takes many species to make an ecosystem.
So, what kind of writer does all this make? For now, I’ll talk about the pros of being an INFJ writer.
Well, this is a big plus for a writer, right? INFJs are super compassionate and highly imaginative which makes both for adept problem solving and also engaging storytelling. Being compassionate means that I am always sympathising, if not empathising, with my characters and their choices. I make that sound like I, as the author, am not making their decisions for them but really I’m not. I don’t write prescriptively with tight constraints on each scene but instead let the characters guide the flow of the story, putting myself in their position and imagining what they might say or do. It can actually make storytelling quite easy by letting the characters guide me.
Since I was first aware of myself I have always had a spooky ability to suss people out from the moment I meet them. I can tell instantly whether a person is genuine and trustworthy or if I should be on my guard. It makes me a salesperson’s nightmare customer! INFJs are great at seeing the connections between people and events, which is quite handy when putting together a story. It means I can look both at the bigger picture and the relevance of the scene I’m currently working on. There are many levels of meaning in The Tenants of Earth and parallels to historical events. Are the poachers just poachers or do they represent something more? It’s up to your interpretation!
3) Inspiring and convincing
If nothing else, I hope I am this in my writing. INFJs are fluid and inspiring in their writing and appeal to the idealist in their audience and I would say this is what I hope to achieve. I am not an idealist myself, I know too much about the world to be that, but I think in stories it is much safer for us to indulge our inner idealist. To see the world as we’d like to see it: fraught with challenges that our protagonist eventually overcomes to find a greater meaning to their existence.
Okay, if you talk to anyone I know they will tell you I am anything but decisive. But that’s not because I don’t know what I want, it’s becuase I am afraid of offending or upsetting someone in the process of achieving my goal. So really it’s diplomatic indecision not real internal ambivalence. In what I believe and what I want I am utterly convicted, which means I know the ending of the story long before I determine the beginning. I am goal-oriented in my writing. I think this helps to cut out the waffling and the meandering, which is particularly useful in writing YA fiction. There’s a momentum in INFJ writing because we are driven to see an idea through to the end.
5) Determined and passionate
Which leads nicely into this little pro. I write about what I’m passionate about because what’s the point in doing otherwise? In The Tenants of Earth you’ll notice some key themes such as conservation, equality, unconditional friendship and inner turmoil. These are all subjects I am very passionate about and I cannot help but be convicted in my writing about them. That’s not to say the books are preachy. In fact I’ve worked hard to keep my own voice to a minimum but my characters carry my passions with them as they navigate my story.
Which again leads nicely into this last pro. I write not to advance myself but to advance an idea that I think is important. The Tenants of Earth addresses a lot of current issues that are making the world a poorer place. We are losing our environment, our heritage and our connection to nature and we are growing to fear diversity which, in my opinion, is what makes us strong. It’s what puts the wealth into our species – the real wealth, not the material kind. One of my favourite things is to walk amongst old trees and feel distant from the hustle and overwhelming pressure of the modern world. For me as an HSP, being among nature is where I find solace because I don’t feel overwhelmed there. I feel connected and like I understand my surroundings. It’s why I get along with animals much better than humans. And I hope that even just a little of this idea seeps through to my readers because it’s so important that we keep and treasure our green spaces. Not just for my sake but for all of us who could do with rediscovering our connection to the earth and the relevance of our lives.
That’s all for now. Next time I’ll be looking at the cons of being an INFJ writer. Eek!
If you want to take the personality test (and I highly recommend you do as it enabled me to come to terms with myself), you can find it at: www.16personalities.com
You can read more about INFJs here: www.16personalities.com/infj-personality