An INFJ Writer: the cons

So, last time I looked into the pros of being an INFJ writer, how various aspects of the INFJ personality can contribute to the writing process. Well, this time I’m going to dig around in the more challenging aspects of the INFJ personality and ponder how these aspects affect my writing, both negatively and positively.

1) Sensitive

Yes, yes, I know. Being sensitive is usually seen as a positive trait but there’s sensitive and then there’s INFJ sensitive. We have all the feels all the time and are highly sensitive to the world. Whereas most people’s brains filter out a lot of sensory input, INFJs suck it all in and then overthink everything to the nth degree. We are constantly brewing about the world. It causes us a lot of trouble. Expect a very strong reaction if you criticise an INFJ, not because they don’t receive criticism but because they over-receive it. Even the slightest, most well meant comment can have a huge impact on us and haunt us not just for days but for years. So being an author is not only an ideal job for an INFJ but also a pretty dangerous one. By putting our work out there we are opening ourselves up to unlimited criticism that can do some serious damage to our sensitive minds. I know it took me years to come to terms with exposing myself to potential emotional landmines and I think I will always live in fear of them. A thick skin does not reside in the armoury of an INFJ.

That being said, there is a positive side to this extreme sensitivity. It allows us to perceive the world to a greater depth than many others. We see and understand things that perhaps others miss: nuances in expression, subtle body language, hidden intentions betrayed in the slightest movement or comment. We read people like books. You can’t lie to an INFJ. You can’t deceive us. We know exactly who you are. And this all gets translated into writing: into the characters we shape, into the world we create, into the stories we narrate. I like to write genuinely, perceptively, sensitively. When you read my books, you are reading me and my interpretations and translations. It may be fiction, it may be fantasy, but it’s always real.

2) Extremely private

Yikes. Yeah, a lot of good people have been left perplexed at how little of myself I will reveal to them. It takes years, and I mean years, for me to trust anyone enough to disclose what lies beyond the iron wall of my life. And, to be honest, I’ve no idea why. I’m just an intensely private person. I simply don’t want other people, even those I consider to be my friends, knowing everything about me. Perhaps I don’t want to give them ammunition to judge and criticise me but then if you are my friend, then you are not the kind of person to do that because I filter out the deceivers and negative forces. It’s weird. I don’t understand it.

But, this was a huge influence for my main character, Sky. She also has an iron wall around her mind that repels anyone who tries to get in without an invitation. Unlike me, Sky constructed her wall in response to extreme emotional trauma but it’s absolutely written from the heart; it is part of the infrastructure of my mind. I’m horribly familiar with mental protection, so Sky and I very much see eye to eye.

3) Perfectionistic

Mmmm. This is the one that everyone gives in their job interview when they’ve been asked to identify a weakness. It’s a weakness that, handily, will prove very beneficial to the company. Ha! But if anyone out there is a perfectionist you will know just how frustrating everything you do in life can be. This is because perfection can only be achieved within a frame of imperfection. You are striving for an unobtainable ideal which means everything you do is just not good enough. I, personally, have been plagued by this phrase my entire life: not good enough. I am forever falling short of my expectations, which means I don’t respect my achievements all that much and give overwhelming precedence in my mind to my failures. They are far more important to me. On top of this, I am never satisfied. I run under the constant impression that there’s a better option out there, which means I am always looking to an unfulfilled future rather than recognising the merits of the present. So, you can imagine how healthy my thinking patterns are. I am a weapon of self destruction.

This has a huge impact on my writing as I am always striving for a better way: a better way to express something, a better way to present a character, a better way to develop a scene. Does this make my writing perfect? Well, writing perfection can only be achieved within the imperfect frame of your writing ability and this is different for everybody. So the answer is yes and no. It’s about writing the best you can, doing something to the best of your ability. That’s how we can all achieve perfection within the frame of our own imperfection. Welcome to the human race.

4) Always need to have a cause

Gah! Yes, this is why chores and mundane tasks can push me to within an inch of my sanity. If I’m not doing something to change the world then there’s no point in doing anything! Okay, that’s probably taking it to the extreme. I have been known to push the vacuum around and even go food shopping but such activities are not in any way fulfilling to me. Their mundanity drains me and makes me restless, unless, of course, they are contributing to a greater cause. INFJs are like knights errant, constantly wandering the Earth in search of chivalric adventure. Whatever we believe in, whatever we are passionate about, we pursue it to the nth degree.

This definitely shows itself in my writing and forms one of the solid bases for my love of stories. Stories are where we INFJs can live out causes that may take much longer or be impossible to do so in real life. They give us short term relief for our long term frustrations. Making my own story is therefore very satisfying and contributes towards my greater cause of becoming an author. More than that, I am hyper focused on the cause of my story. It’s something I’m very passionate about and I hope that passion leaks through to the reader. Not in a preachy way, which I strive to avoid, but in a more subtle way as the reader lives the story from beginning to end.

5) Can burn out easily

All this sensitivity, protection of privacy, lack of patience, passion and dissatisfaction can very easily lead to the depletion of mental energy. Constantly striving for an ideal means we are often frustrated by the real and you may know just how exhausting that can be. Sometimes I need to retreat from the world for long periods of time. If I could I would be a total recluse but that’s not always practical!

This recovery time, however, is when I do my best writing. It’s when I’m dwelling over the world and within myself and can lead to new insights and better understanding. I’m fortunate enough to have people around me who understand the burning out process and my need for lengthy periods of introversion. It’s not you it’s me, kind of thing. I don’t enjoy burning out but I have learnt to make the best of it and doing something creative and productive can help to restore me again.

So there you have it! Now you know what it’s like to be an INFJ writer. It can be tough; the world can be very overwhelming and frustrating but I think that helps us to write with sensitivity and insight. At least, that’s what I hope I’ve done! But if I haven’t, please criticise carefully 🙂

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