Wednesday, June 23, 2010

“Often you prefer to read a book than go to a party” – question from a Myers-Briggs personality test.

Well, Kristen’s great post on Monday really got me thinking. I was in the process of writing what turned out to be a very long-winded comment, so I thought I’d pick it up and plonk it down here as my post for the week.

Feed back. This is the topic that got my cogs spinning; why some of us need and thrive on it, while others (erm, that’d be me) writhe in agony at the thought of anyone reading anything less than my bestelling, Pulitzer Prize-worthy, hardcover.

OK. I’m not that bad. I do adore feedback when I get it. But as the ladies of All The World's Our Page will attest, the snips I send out to share are few and far between. And it used to bother me that I was so reluctant about sharing my work when others so obviously got such a huge charge and boost to their creativity by doing so. I wanted some of that good stuff, too, but just couldn’t seem to make myself send out anything. Then I realised my reluctance was hardwired in me, all because of my type – my Myers-Briggs personality type, that is.

I assume most of you have heard of, if not used, the personality inventory devised by Katherine Cook Briggs and her daughter, Isabel Briggs Myers (if not, here’s a quick overview.) According to their theory and process, there are sixteen possible psychological/personality types; taking a Myers-Briggs test will determine which type you fall into.

I’m firmly in the type known as ISTJ; Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judgment. Here’s a detailed run down of what it is to be an ISTJ, "The Duty Fulfiller" (oh man, that sounds so boring!) but basically, I prefer to live in my head, drawing energy from ideas and thoughts and reflections; I need to retreat to my cave and recharge if I have too much exposure to the outside world; I like my routines, rules and regulations; I’m dependable and responsible, organized and methodical; I can juggle and store a vast amount of facts; I prefer to work alone; I’m a perfectionist, but also a keen observer of life.

So it kind of makes sense that I’m not one to readily seek out feedback. I’m internally motivated, and my perfectionist streak makes it hard for me to let my work go.

It’s also interesting to note how my ISTJ attributes can be a bonus, as a writer. I don’t mind working on my own; in fact, I love it. I’ll drive myself hard, stick to my routines, soak up the little details of the world when I dare to venture out. I can keep track of a whole novel’s worth of facts and plot points, and twists and turns, in my head. And my ISTJ tendencies also help to explain why it’s taking me as long as it is to write my book – I have to work out how to do each and every step of this novel writing process exactly right, and “winging it” will never work for me!

Conversely, knowing I’m an ISTJ makes me aware of the pitfalls of my personality. Like my tendency towards hyper-perfectionism, which could see me writing draft number five hundred and twenty-nine of this book and still not being happy with it. And that my inability to let go and share my work, warts and all, can stop me from getting valuable and necessary feedback. Not to mention that my ability to force myself to stick to a writing routine can also tip into me slave-driving myself into creative burn out.

So, what’s your type? Here’s an online test, if you're interested in finding out. And in what ways do you think your type helps or hinders you as a writer?


  1. I am consistently an INFJ. This description is absolutely me:

    Counselors have an exceptionally strong desire to contribute to the welfare of others, and find great personal fulfillment interacting with people, nurturing their personal development, guiding them to realize their human potential. Although they are happy working at jobs (such as writing) that require solitude and close attention, Counselors do quite well with individuals or groups of people, provided that the personal interactions are not superficial, and that they find some quiet, private time every now and then to recharge their batteries. Counselors are both kind and positive in their handling of others; they are great listeners and seem naturally interested in helping people with their personal problems. Not usually visible leaders, Counselors prefer to work intensely with those close to them, especially on a one-to-one basis, quietly exerting their influence behind the scenes.

    In terms of writing, I do find myself most energized when working with other individuals or small groups in depth as long as I have private time to recharge and re-assess. I sort of need that combination. It's that lack of private time for me to recharge and re-assess that's causing me problems most recently. So I need to figure out ways to counteract that...if only I didn't need sleep!

  2. Hey Rach -- ISFJ -the Protector. Yup. Me and Mother Teresa. LOLOLOL. I've always thought I was like Mother Teresa. Of course all the jobs they listed are my idea of hell... My mom always tried to make me take this test. Every time it would come out differently. The only constant would be the introverted part. :) Yeah. I KNOW that. Still, interesting stuff.

  3. Have always been INTJ - "the Scientist" - go figure. (The other description called this type "the Mastermind," teehee.) I consider myself an INsTJ, though, as I also have a LOT of ISTJ characteristics/overlap.

  4. I was ENTJ when I was a lawyer running a legal department, now I'm ENFP or (with the test linked to this post) an INFJ, a first "I" for me. I think the results must change as we live through experiences that call forth different aspects of our personality. FWIW

  5. Precie, Jenny, Martha - hey, great to "see" you guys! :-)

    Precie - I know exactly what you mean about the lack of private time. I went away with the DH and kids last week and came back exhausted, partly because four days of intensive "togetherness" just wore out this ISTJ hermit. (g)

    Jenny - You're "The Scientist"? Never! (g).

    Martha - I do agree that different aspects of your personality come to the fore depending on what's happening in your life. I was a lawyer, too, before children, but never took the Myers-Briggs tests until recently; it would have been interesting to compare the results.

    Kristen - ah, the Protector is you to a tee! And the jobs listed for me all seem very dry and dull - and yes, lawyer is one of them! LOL

  6. I think it's true that the test result changes as you do. I know in college I always got INFJ like Precie. I wonder if having kids slid me over the edge into the Protector role. Not that all mothers aren't protectors...

    Rach- me to a tee? LOL. I kind of had a cringe moment after I posted that as I remembered how I always Mother Hen you, Claire, and Jen. :)

  7. I remember taking this test in high school, and I think I must have gotten the same answer back then too... INFJ - The Counselor/Idealist.
    Given a good book versus a party I'm afraid the book would call me nearly every time.
    How come one of the jobs listed is librarian - but there's no writer or bookstore owner?

  8. Another INTJ here. Hi, Jenny!