How to Get Stuff Done as a Writer (or How This INTJ Leverages Her Te)

Most days as a writer, I wake up excited to tackle everything on my to-do list. My big plans always include ROCKING my daily writing session. I’m always like, “Today is the day I’m going to write 5,000 words in one sitting! Rawr!”

Then writing time rolls around. And… I’m still futzing around the house, weeding the garden, finishing my shower, getting my snack ready. So I’m usually about fifteen minutes late. Then I sit there. And I fiddle with that one button on my keyboard that’s always falling off. Or I decide I need I need to go clip that hangnail on my thumb. Or I pop open a research file to check something—and get sucked in to reading it for thirty minutes.

In short, figuring out how to get stuff done as a writer is sometimes the single hardest part of the job. We all have personal weaknesses that sucker us into wasting time over and over again. As an INTJ in the Myers-Briggs personality typing system, I’m aware that my type is notorious for getting sucked into “analysis paralysis.”

Two weeks ago, I talked about how writers of any personality type can optimize all four of the primary cognitive functions (Intuition, Sensing, Thinking, and Feeling) to enhance our writing capabilities. In the post, I quoted a question I’d received long ago on Twitter from Victoria Nelson (@ledinvictory), who wrote:

Hi! I believe that you’ve mentioned that you’re an INTJ (as am I). Do you ever find yourself caught in a perpetual Ni [Introverted Intuition] phase—the joy of planning/outlining? (I can build bigger and bigger plots & fantasy worlds forever!) And if so, how do you force yourself out and into a Te [Extroverted Thinking] space? This might make an interesting article if you think it would be widely interesting enough for others… Otherwise, I’m always trying to balance the two, not so successfully.

Some of you expressed interest in a full-blown Extroverted Thinking (Te) post. So here it is! For those who aren’t INTJs (and for those who have no idea or care what that is), don’t worry—all the tips I’m going to talk about later in the post can be used by writers of any type to get stuff done. But for those who are INTJs or otherwise interested, here’s the technical intro…

Why INTJ Writers Must Leverage Te to Get Stuff Done

C.G. Jung’s theory on cognitive functions assigns all people four functions—two introverted and two extroverted. These functions are then “stacked” in an alternating order.

If your top function is introverted, then you are considered an Introvert in this system, and vice versa.

If your Judging function (Thinking or Feeling) is extroverted, you are designated a Judger. If your Judging function is introverted, you are designated a Perceiver.

Hence, an INTJ’s functional stack looks like this:

  1. Introverted Intuition (Ni)
  2. Extroverted Thinking (Te)
  3. Introverted Feeling (Fi)
  4. Extroverted Sensing (Se)

All types feel most at home in the “attitude” (Extroversion or Introversion) of their dominant function. This means that even though our secondary function is more cognitively developed than the tertiary function, we sometimes find it more comfortable to drop down into the less mature tertiary function—since it always operates from the same attitude as our dominant function. (You’ll note the secondary and tertiary functions are always part of the same polarity—making them both either Judging or Perceiving functions.)

This isn’t always problematic, since all the functions are important and offer important capabilities. However, when we consistently bypass our secondary function and its opposite attitude, we end up in what is called a “loop”—endlessly chasing our own tails, stuck in either our Introversion or our Extroversion (depending on which is dominant). This loop inevitably creates problems. For Introverted types, such as the INTJ, the problem is that we get trapped inside our own heads—looping endlessly between Ni and Fi.

This is the “perpetual Ni phase—the joy of planning/outlining” that Victoria was talking about. This is where analysis paralysis can get all too real because however great our ideas, we never get anything done.

For INTJs, part of the difficulty is that we tend to view  life and all its problems as a giant chess game—and we don’t like to make even the first move until we’ve played the game out in our heads and know how it’s going to end. As writers, this can lend itself to powerful planning and outlining skills, which in turn (sometimes) help us avoid major rewrites and revisions. But when dealing with something as monumentally complex as a novel, this proclivity to endless planning can also mean we’re never satisfied enough with our planning to actually start writing.

I doubt it surprises anyone who frequents this blog to know I’m an avid outliner, spending roughly a year on the planning process and ending up with completed outlines that can be almost half the word count of the first draft itself. And it works—most of the time. Most of the time, this is a process that allows me to fully leverage my planning proclivity as my greatest strength. It allows me to create solid outlines that, when everything’s truly humming, mean I can write first drafts that require very little editing. It’s also an approach that has saved me from pouring time and energy into stories that were never going to work because I was able to play out the mental chess game all way through to the end without actually having to put in the time and effort of writing a first draft.

However, there are times when the planning gets out of hand. I’ve been at work on my current outline for over a year now, continually circling some major plot difficulties, trying to plan my way out of them so I can finish my fantasy trilogy. At this moment, I still believe I’m going to find the solution, but I also know I may just be stuck in analysis paralysis and that a writer of a different personality type might have pulled the plug long ago.

4 Ways Writers Can Leverage Their Extroverted Thinking

So now you may be wondering, how do you get out of this “loop”?  The answer is learning how to consciously strengthen and leverage your secondary function—Extroverted Thinking, in this particular case.

Whatever your type, the loop stops the moment you bring your secondary function back online. However, depending on how comfy you’ve been in your loop and how deep a habitual rut you’ve created, this can take some doing. Developing your secondary function often requires doing some serious self-work, examining your own resistance (e.g., INTJs often have a lot of resistance to moving out of the planning phase, even when they really do want to finish the book), and even acting in certain ways that may feel uncomfortable or scary (e.g., Introverts often find  it scary to “extrovert” enough to put a book out there in the world, just as Extroverts can initially find it uncomfortable to practice deep introspection).

But it’s worth it. When your secondary function is operating at full strength, your full skill set really comes online. Your work becomes more dimensional. And if you’re an INTJ—you get stuff done.

Here are some simple strategies that have made a huge different in my ability to develop my Te, use it to balance my need for analysis and planning, and access it to move the needle on my goals.

1. Trust Your Intuition to Know When It’s Time to Move Forward

People often ask me, “How do you know when to stop outlining and start writing?” The simple answer is, “When the outline is done.”

But knowing when that is requires the ability to accurately judge yourself, your motivations, your resistances, and your work. Turn that gift of analysis back onto yourself. Why are you resistant to moving on to the first draft? The reason could legitimately be that there is more work to be done in the outline. But it could also be that outlining is more fun, so you’d just rather stay right there.

To know when you’ve reached the end of an outline’s usefulness, focus on specific questions you have about your story. For me, the early brainstorming part of outlining is essentially a game of filling in the blanks. I start out with a few known points about a story and start asking questions about the dark spaces in between—until there are no quantifiable dark spaces left. When there are no more legitimate questions standing between me and a functional plot, then I know it’s time to move on.

An understanding of story structure can also prove helpful in knowing when the story is “finished.” The major structural beats can function as a checklist. Once you’ve created a solid structural spine, then you know you have your story. Structure is always specific, not vague, which is a massively helpful tool for INTJs to leverage in moving past their tendency for abstract thought.

2. Focus More on Short-Term Goals

INTJs like to play the long game. We don’t live in the present; we’re always minutes, days, weeks, even years into the future. And once we imagine what will be, it often already feels like it’s done. This means we sometimes lose incentive to actually do the thing. (Ah, the irony of being an amazing planner and a so-so doer.)

For this reason, it is often more helpful to put our focus into short-term goals rather than long-term goals. If you know your long-term goal is to “finish the book,” just hold that loosely in your mind. Use your planning skills to envision the steps necessary to get there, then focus all your energy on the one right in front of you.

3. Move Into Your Fear—Every Day

Much of the reason INTJs get stuck in the analysis paralysis of their introverted loop is because, as folks who prefer the Introverted attitude, its much easier to think about things than to enact the much more difficult and sometimes scary business of impacting the external world. This is especially true if we feel we haven’t properly thought things through (aka, considered every systemic and causal possibility that might occur from now to the day the sun explodes).

By its very nature, Te is about pulling the trigger and acting. INTJs who learn to develop this powerful function will find a wealth of resources right at their fingertips. But first you gotta get into the habit of actually pulling that trigger. Take risks. Trust that your intuition actually improves when you let your Te test your theories.

To this end, it can be helpful to make it a goal to do one small thing every day that moves you into your resistances and fears. This might be as simple as letting someone else read your story for the first time. One of the biggest first steps I took as a young writer was joining a writing forum and offering up my story for critique.

4. Fill Your Think Tank Daily, But Don’t Go Down the Brain Drain

INTJs are information connoisseurs. We can’t get enough. Our dominant function, Introverted Intuition, is a perceiving function, which means we’re most at home just sucking in information. But this, too, is part of analysis paralysis. It’s super-easy to bury ourselves in the “work” of research, always believing we need just a little more information before we’re ready to write the book or share the idea.

It’s important for INTJs to feed their Intuition on a regular basis. But I find it’s best to limit the time I spend reading and learning. I put it on my daily to-do list like everything else so I get a little of what I need every day, and then I move on to the tasks where I can put that information to use (or, rather, where I can eventually put it to use—because, let’s be honest, it takes INTJs a looooong time to process information).

Intuition is a deep well, but it must be regularly topped off if it’s to provide the necessary resources for Te to get stuff done in the outer world. This may sound obvious, but I can attest that if you get too enthusiastic about using Te, you can run the well dry. The key is finding the balance between feeding your brain on a daily basis without letting it glut.

***

Sooner or later, procrastination is a stumbling block for most of us. Each of us must figure out how to get stuff done as a writer. Whatever your type, the fact that you’re drawn to storytelling means you may have a tendency to prefer living in your head to actually doing the writing. Learning how to activate all your skills and harmonize them into a powerful team of opposites can help you create a holistic writing process that takes advantage of all your gifts.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What are your top tricks to get stuff done as a writer? What have been some of the major challenges you’ve overcome? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. This is exactly how my brain works, and I kept looking at it meaningfully through this entire post. I have a question related to one of the things you point out, which is my MAJOR issue with outlining: that once I start outlining, I start to lose interest and stop writing. How can I avoid that? Because I tend to be a character-driven sort of writer who struggles with larger plots, and outlining seems like it would be the way out of that, but…I’m at the point where I’m AFRAID TO OUTLINE because at that point the whole world/plot just kind of falls dead to me. Which means I don’t know where it’s going, which makes me not want to start writing until I know where it’s going and…you can see where this leads. Help?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      For me, the motivation that sees me through to the end of a book is wanting to see it actualized in the world. I get great satisfaction out of *finishing* things. Unfinished things drive me nuts. This is Te. So if you’re an INTJ, you have this function that *wants* to impact the world and finish things. It just might need some discipline to focus on and develop it.

      • Elizabeth Hamlin says

        I could relate to your article and to the strong drive to finish things even though I am an ENFJ. I write more when I don’t socialise so much. I am a pantser for short stories and when I start a novel albeit do some pre-writing and outline further as I write.

        Elizabeth Hamlin

  2. I wonder how many writers are INTJ. I am an know this is less than 2% of the overall population. Thank you for the blog post. It’s good to know you’re not alone. I get bogged down in research and find it difficult to just write.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, the INTJ is supposedly the second rarest type (and INTJ women *are* the rarest), but there are quite a lot of us here in the writing world–especially among fantasy writers, I find.

  3. Christina Bang says

    I see myself here.This was so helpful!

  4. I am also an INTJ, though my N isn’t very strong. By contrast, my I and my J scores are almost off the charts. I find that I get past the information-gathering and outlining stage because my J function is calling me to take action, to DO something. Staying in the P side of research and outlining will drive me crazy at some point. So I tend to outline only the major turning points of my novels, though I know a lot of the scenes that have to happen between the turning points.
    As a result, I can cycle between research and writing pretty easily–I set word count goals and my J demands I meet them. Usually, at some point during the book, I wish I’d done more outlining, but I’m usually not too far off track.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is a great example of how important it is for each writer to optimize a writing process to with his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

  5. Aaron Blake says

    Thanks for that explanation and advice! As an INTJ, I can easily waste a week exploring rabbit holes of information that MIGHT be useful to my story. When I find myself too deep down a rabbit hole, I use that as motivation to take what I’ve found so far and actually WRITE the next section. You could call it rebound writing. Once that bucket of ideas is empty, I start down the next rabbit hole. It’s a balanced approach that works for me. Thanks again for your suggestions. I’ll definitely be putting them to use.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Te hates wasted effort, which when heeded can go a long way toward actualizing all the Ni dreaming and researching.

  6. INFP. Interesting. Hadn’t read about dipping into the opposite function before. I do get stuck in the loops, but have begun -late in life- to submit art and writing as a fun game to ‘see what will happen.’ The other issue is staying in a professional mode and stepping back for a balanced analysis when personality struggles arise with collaborator I’m working with on a novel. Writing collaboration is not a good idea, one is shackled a bit.
    So now to fill in ESTJ to my INFP.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “to submit art and writing as a fun game to ‘see what will happen.’”

      This sounds very Ne. 🙂 My brother is an INFP–so much creativity and passion. But your Te is your “baby” function, so there are definitely some unique challenges possible there.

  7. Thank you so much for this. I also am an INTJ. This go round, I’m working from a specific book on mysteries by Hallie Ephron (not that I don’t love outing your novel. I do!) There are a lot of tables to fill out and I was worried about analysis paralysis. But going through and reading about your gut check worked. Looking at it I know the outline is not done yet. I will get out of my head and outline til it’s done. Then I will bloody we’ll get off my patio to and write my cozy (second novels even in a different genre are HARD!!!) Thanks for doing what you do!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, sometimes INTJs, or anyone with planner strengths, can get guilted into feeling like we should move ahead even when we know deep down it isn’t time. Still, there’s a balance, and we have to hone our ability to know exactly when to pull the trigger and move on.

  8. This is so interesting! I still haven’t figured out how to make Ti-Ne-Si-Fe work together to get a draft done. My current strategy is to get a narrative down on paper and just keep the forward motion of the story. Once a sort of path has been beaten through the weeds, I trust I can run back through it and make everything smoother. Envisioning the story in the big picture is the easy part — I have no trouble seeing my themes and even understanding the particular “game” I’m playing with the story (if that makes sense). The hard part for me is the really basic thing of how to make one scene lead to the next so that stuff actually *happens* in the story. I become so interested in the shape of the story as a fixed object that I don’t understand how to keep the parts *moving.* It sounds so silly when I say it like that, but I would bet every writer has some area that they just don’t automatically get. It’s an interesting problem to try to solve. For right now, just keeping the thread going in chronological order is succeeding at the most basic level, which is getting text on paper. (I probably shouldn’t overthink it, but I suspect Ne does play a role in making the connections from Point A to B to C and so forth.)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      INTPs are like mirror images of INTJs. We’re both Intuitive Thinkers, but all our functions are opposite of each other (which means we actually share zero functions). Still, there are many surface similarities, and in many ways the Ti-Si loop looks a lot like the analysis paralysis of Ni-Fi. My other brother is an INTP. He’s amazing at identifying cohesive themes and integrating them at every level of a story, but by the same token, that level of planning can make it hard to actualize the entire story.

      • “in many ways the Ti-Si loop looks a lot like the analysis paralysis of Ni-Fi” – yes, very true! An additional problem for INTPs, I think, is that even the natural Ti-Ne combo can be a type of analysis paralysis, if Si isn’t developed enough to handle the practical details. I do think this is why even healthy INTPs (especially in the teens and twenties, before Si comes into play) tend to have more trouble getting the work done than INTJs. It is *very* helpful to learn that another INTP has the same issue with big-picture thematic analysis versus actualizing the story.

  9. I don’t know how I score personality wise, but I do know that I’m a huge planner, and share your described struggles. I’ve found that once I have a sufficient outline, one that even still may need months more of tweeking, that it is helpful to clock in some writing time along the way. I keep a minimum word count for this, and I write either a scene that I’m sure will be in the book, or something from the emotional well if it is available to source. I do this just so I am not stuck indefinitely in planning mode, and there is no band aid to rip off. I allow myself additional pure planning and research time as needed, but try to keep the actual first draft writing going to some degree as well. Note that what I do write is well within the parts of the outline I consider solid, or definitely keepers.
    Thank you for another useful and inspiring article!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I could see this being an advantageous Te tool for breaking out of a loop. For better or worse, I’m very one-track minded. When I’m in one mode (outlining, researching, writing, editing), I have to stay in that mode until I’m finished; otherwise, I get too scattered and feel like I’m cheating. But if a writer has trouble actually getting all way through one section of the job (outlining, etc.), then doing a little bob and weave seems like it could be very helpful.

      • christina bang says

        Can I ask what is the Te and Ne etc., are they related to the personality letters of the Myers-Briggs? Which personality test do you use. I used 16 personalities, but kept getting different results: Consul, Entertainer and Campaigner. These results are very strange as I am a plotter, and tend to get into research rabbit holes myself.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I am not a fan of the tests. They simplify the cognitive functions, often produce inaccurate results, and generally offer a limited view of the functional stacks. In fact, although I reference MBTI, I find it often too simplistic an approach to cognitive-function theory. I recommend studying the system as a whole. The site PersonalityHacker.com has lots of great resources. I also got a lot out of the book Was That Really Me? by Naomi Quenk.

          Abbreviations such as “Te” and “Ne” refer to the functions, with the second, lowercase letter indicating whether the function is being discussed in its introverted or extroverted form.

          The abbreviations for all the functions are as follows:

          Extroverted Intuition: Ne
          Introverted Intuition: Ni

          Extroverted Sensing: Se
          Introverted Sensing: Si

          Extroverted Thinking: Te
          Introverted Thinking: Ti

          Extroverted Feeling: Fe
          Introverted Feeling: Fi

  10. “consider every systemic and causal possibility that might occur from now to the day the sun explodes”

    Ha ha ha ha ha! This really tickles my funnybone today. It is SO true! (I’m not that bad, but I can relate to it.)

  11. Patrick Macy says

    I know I am an INTJ, but never realized that was why I am having so much trouble on the second draft. I have rewritten the first chapter many times and it still seems wrong. So, I listen or read more about writing… almost everyday I spend a few hours looking at different courses (like those on Great Courses Plus) or some of the lessons from Infostack, and every one of your posts since I found them. There are other blogs, some similar some different, but as the rabbit hole expands, I keep finding more things to help me find an answer and less and less time working on the second draft.
    THIS week’s podcast was very insightful and helpful (I hope it works anyway.)
    Thank You Again for your work.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Ni wants to see the whole pattern of something. And story theory and technique create a *vast* pattern. But the more you understand, the clearer the big picture becomes, and the easier it gets to actualize the pattern within your own specific ideas.

  12. This post could not have come at a better time. I had planned to write my novel (I’d been outlining for three months) over the summer. Well, innumerable things came up during June and I got completely sidetracked. “I’ll finish it during the fall,” I thought. Yesterday (yesterday!!) I told my dad about it, and he told me I was going to write every single day and finish it before September. Thirty-two scenes in 58 days… I did the math and freaked out. But I had to do it! Talk about impromptu NaNoWriMo! Then I look in my inbox and see “How to Get Stuff Done as a Writer.” Truth is stranger than fiction…

  13. *sigh* I can so identify with this. Combine Ni with ADD and you’ve got a real recipe for frustration.

    For me, the single biggest trick to learning the secret of PIC (Pants In Chair) was NaNoWriMo. In the 10 years or so before I started NaNoWriMo I managed 1.6 novels. In the 10 Novembers that I did NaNoWriMo, I accomplished more than 500,000 words. I’m sure if I were to total up all of my non-November writing, I’d have well over a million words.

    I could go point by point and give personal examples and lessons learned on each of them. Instead, I’m just to step back, point to your article and tell everyone else here, “What she said!”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      NaNo has been so great for this for so many people. Although I’ve never participated, I think it’s potentially a *great* event for INTJs, if only because it forces us to gain actual experience in writing a book versus just the theory of what that experience might be like.

      • As you said in your article, I have a tendency to rehearse each scene in my head. Before I write it, I generally know the tone, pacing, and more importantly, how each relationship changes before I write it. I usually even know the thematic progression of the dialog, planning it out in the same way many writers plan out a fight scene blow by blow, to figure out how it flows as well as how the action ties into it.

        NaNoWriMo forced me to pare that down to a minimum. Since my scenes tend to average about 1,000 words, to get 50,000 in a month, I had to plan out 50 scenes and the general direction of the relationship shifts for the main relationships before November even started.

        Even so, getting 1,667 every day with a family and a full-time job (during the holidays no less!) was pretty brutal.

  14. M.L. Bulll says

    At the moment, I really don’t have any tricks to get things done as a writer, other than trying to clear out everything for my college courses as soon as possible, which usually isn’t until late afternoon, even though I wake early at 7:30 a.m. practically every morning. After I wake I have my “prayer session” for about 30 mins to an hour, and then read some bible verses. But most of the time, I tend to kind of procrastinate on getting myself together, and with my nephew being over for the summer, that can take up time too, particularly making breakfast for him. (The kid eats more than a bowl of cereal. Lol..) Anyway, my mom, older sister, and I alternate on looking after him, but basically it’s whoever gets up first, which is usually me.

    I don’t tend to write until evening or night, especially if I end up being the one cooking dinner, doing the dishes, or both, and I know how my Dad always looks for something to eat after he comes home from work. (You know how most men are. Lol…) At the moment, dinner is always on me or my sister because my Mom works really late and we usually don’t see her until the next morning. But yeah, that’s pretty much my life every day. I’m really not worrying about keeping a schedule right now, but I’ve got plans to start changing things up after the summer semester’s over. Perhaps it would help a little if I don’t procrastinate with getting myself ready for the day.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds like you’ve done a good job prioritizing your day. Writing has to find the right slot, and it doesn’t always take precedence.

  15. Your suggestion that we face our fear every day is powerful, and the road to solving many problems. There’s a lot to learn on the writing end of being an author and its alluring to spend many hours becoming a better author. That’s important work, but it’s also an endless voyage.

    I’m definitely struggling with the “building a platform” phase of the author business. Not to mention the trivial step of either sending a book out to agents/publishers or jumping into self-publishing. All of these steps are in a master plan, but it’s so easy to say – “nope, I need to do more world-building” or “nope, this book is too flawed” or “nope, let’s go bath in story structure” or …

    A valuable post for even as distant a type as an INTP.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      INTPs and INTJs are an interesting pairing, since they have almost as much in common as they don’t. As I mentioned earlier in the comments, one of my brothers is an INTP. My relationship with him is like looking in a dark mirror–so much the same, yet so completely opposite.

  16. BK Jackson says

    So me. I tested INTJ decades ago but haven’t kept up with it. I remember being confused when I tested INTJ because what I read about the type then made it sound like this type was comprised of all science and math people—which I’m definitely not. I never really associated INTJ with creatives before—but it makes sense when described with the introversion/perception angle.

    I have not learned work-arounds yet. I get stuck in analysis paralysis big time. I write historical fiction, and I like complicated plots. I get stuck researching (lately I’ve even gone to the extreme of wanting to somehow figure out how to create a research database so that I can easily retrieve historical info. Talk about a time-sucking task that would ensure I never get any writing done!). When you’re writing historical you want to make sure you understand the politics of the time, societal customs, geography, etc. You can literally stay trapped in research forever. But the paralysis doesn’t end there. I get so many cool ideas when I brainstorm on a story—what if the character did this? And then I start thinking about their relatives, and wondering what life was like for them and what if they experienced THIS (whatever). I tie myself up in knots thinking about possibilities!

    And I’m a planning maniac in all areas of life. Great fun on one hand, utterly exhausting on the other. I really related to viewing life (and fiction) as a giant chess game. I have not yet published a book. I have several started manuscripts, and 2 finished 1st drafts. The irony was, I plotted meticulously on the first book (or it felt like I did) and still ended up with big story problems I have to solve. Because of that, when I wrote the first book of a different story, I didn’t plot it ahead, but STILL ended up with story problems.

    I have learned to push myself and put visual art out there despite my misgivings (i.e. submit drawings for critique) but have not learned to do this with writing. Sorry for the long comment.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Great fun on one hand, utterly exhausting on the other. ”

      Hah. Totally.

      And, yes, I’ve heard it said there are two kinds of INTJs–the science-y kind and the creative kind. That’s a giant oversimplification, but my brain definitely leans more toward abstraction than the concreteness, of, say, physical engineering.

  17. Elizabeth Hamlin says

    You have chosen one of the most difficult genres. I would balk at it too. I wrote and self-published a novel 5 years ago then gave up writing and substituted reading. I have now retired from work and am having difficulty writing a second novel but have managed to write 20 short stories, each of approximately 1000 words, all of which have been published in a little Australian writers magazine which only accepts Australian submissions. I also recently wrote a 2000 + words story which a paying Australian magazine is interested in provided I strengthen the ending. (I honed my skills on the short pieces so am now publishable to a paying magazine.). So what I suggest is that you try something short and easy to keep your spirits up and send it off to be published and see how you go. Best of luck with whatever you do.

  18. Kevin Colbran says

    Hi, INTJ and INTP are aprox 1% I am an even rarer unicorn INTJ/P. In writing I suffer most from procrastination, Writing a plot is difficult I tend to have ideas write to find an ending (sometimes) I am trying to retro plot which may help. Tied up lately with University (graduated) I have several story lines in progress which is not helpfull Kevin

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Ironically, even though I am endlessly passionate about story structure, plot is the hardest part for me too.

  19. Another great post, K.M. Commenting on one of your previous posts I mentioned that I’m an ISTJ so at least we share the T part. In my previous professional life I was often accused of having analysis paralysis and perhaps this is still true. In your post you mentioned “And once we imagine what will be, it often already feels like it’s done.” I often feel this way in my writing because I’m anxious for it to be done. I know this sounds inconsistent with the idea of analysis paralysis. The other thing that plays into this is that I’m old and I don’t feel that I have the time to outline like you do so I get into the mode of pantsing a story which has it’s downside.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      ISTJs and INTJs share the secondary and tertiary functions of Te and Fi, so your leverage point would be roughly the same as mine–using Extroverted Thinking to move out of your Si-Fi loop and into action.

      Although Si and Ni are *very* different as dominant functions, they can sometimes act surprisingly similar, in that both create deeply subjective systems through which they perceive information. The major different is that Si builds a steady foundation *as* it receives pieces of information, whereas Ni uses the pieces to theorize future patterns.

  20. Staci Ana says

    This is a great post! Although I don’t quite understand all of the personality stuff, it’s really neat to read and definitely helpful.

    I think I sent an email to you, K.M., about how sometimes it gets confusing for me to keep my writing on paper and yet on computer at the same time. I’ve had troubles with this ever since I started writing. As an online homeschooler, I’m used to doing everything with my keyboard and mouse, but sometimes writing feels more personal on paper –if not a bit slow.

    A post about handwriting vs. typing would be very helpful, I think. I know everyone’s different, but it’s just so confusing for me. I’m wondering if anyone else finds it confusing. So… most of your posts are about what I’m writing, but I’m wondering if it makes a difference how I’m writing. With a pencil that can be erased or a pen that is permanent? A keyboard that works well and fast or a sturdy notebook?

    I don’t know. It’s just a thought. Thanks for writing such amazing posts! You’re blog’s AMAZING!

  21. Number Four shook me by the lapels and screamed in my face–which, as an introvert, I found very unpleasant. But I totally see myself stuck in an endless loop of planning and research, using the justifcation that “the more I learn, the better the next thing I write will be!” The problem, of course, is the “next thing I write” keeps getting postponed in favor of MORE info-sucking. If you’re still looking for beta readers for your upcoming theme book, I’d be honored to join the list.

  22. BK Jackson says

    Oh, how interesting. I visited this link you provided in another comment above (https://personalityhacker.com/results-infp) except looked at the INTJ section–and it says one of the INTJ strengths is ‘understanding complex ideas’. That is interesting because I feel like I don’t. And it seems that world building in stories ought to be a lot more easy if I understand complex ideas! But I’ll never give up the fight. 😎

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      INTJs are just humans, not machines, so we understand some ideas and not others. I’m good with story theory, but math… not so much. Or even telling my left from my right come to that. :p The other thing to realize is that you may unconsciously be defining “complex ideas” as any idea that is “too complex” for you to understand, when you’re really discounting how complex your brain actually is and how many ideas that may be complex to others are simple to you.

  23. Interesting read, thank you for that! I am always interested in hearing your experiences as an INTJ writer.

    Personally, I have found great use of your take on structure. As a fellow rationalist, I appreciate the way you choose to set up things and your methodic approach to each aspect. I often find myself much more in tune with other rationalists in that regard, whereas I find discussing things with idealists to be very rewarding. I wonder if you have similar experiences?

    As an ENTP I share absolutely no functions with you, and on top of that I am an extrovert with a very strong Ne drive. My brain is constantly at work in the external world, identifying interesting concepts and ideas, finding similarities and identifying patterns as well as new, different ways to use whatever information my brain is processing. I love my brain for what it does, but at the same time, it does present some challenges for me as a writer.

    Literally everything in the world is a potential source of inspiration. Once I allow my mind to work on a story, everything is related. Drinking a cup of coffee brings a hundred questions. Taking a shower another hundred questions. My worlds are growing at insane rates and I get so enthralled in the world building process itself – which often turn into character building since those are closely related in my mind – that I can’t seem to move on.

    Because my Ti is also quite strongly developed, I don’t just briefly consider each new idea… I go on a long and amazing journey into the world of possibilities each new idea presents. It’s hard not to, because it is so interesting!

    I have found my biggest problem is the lack of Te… or really just any function that turns thought into action. My closest one is Fe, which does compel me to share my ideas with others, because bouncing ideas off on others requires me to explain and specify. I am trying hard to convert that into some sort of incentive or even a feeling of commitment, to make me want to actually write things down.

    But I envy your Te function! And like I first mentioned, greatly appreciate the structures you offer up for me to attempt to follow. Thank you!

    Aki

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “I often find myself much more in tune with other rationalists in that regard, whereas I find discussing things with idealists to be very rewarding. I wonder if you have similar experiences?”

      TOTALLY.

      I love ENTPs. We’re so different, and yet I often feel like we have a similar view of the world. There’s a sympathy of perspective that is often surprising given our experiential divergences. Plus, you’re just fun to be around. 😀

  24. William Still Lodge says

    For various reasons, my life has been in a bit of flux lately. I’m needed by partner and kids and what they need and when changes frequently. For some genuinely good reasons I can’t ask them to change their needs, so I have to adjust to a schedule that can change from day to day. So many ideas for how to find time to write assume a regular schedule. What do you do when that’s not possible?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      My first suggestion is simply to give yourself grace. Writing is important, but it is not always the *most* important thing. Sometimes the most important thing we can do for ourselves *as* writers is give ourselves the space and permission to take necessary breaks when other priorities–including simply our own self-care–become necessary.

      However, if you have the inclination to keep writing in the spare minutes, then I would look to do just that. Even just twenty minutes a day adds up. A consistent routine of short writing times can offer the opportunity for surprising productivity in the long run.

  25. A fun thing to do is google famous people by their personality types including authors and their characters. Louise Alcott was ISFJ and her Little Women were Meg ISFJ, Jo INFJ, Amy ESFP and Beth INFP (oh dear, I guess that’s more time wasted when I should have been getting on with the writing).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, that’s always fun! However, many of those results are random and not necessarily posted by people with a strong background in either the person in question or cognitive theory in general. For example, most of the results I’ve seen in Alcott suggest she was an ENFP.

  26. Yet another INTJ’r here. Neither a planner or a pantser. I thought I was a “plantser.” Seems I am a proud Snowflaker. Writing in an upward spiral, fleshing out a story in its framework, noticing blizzards, drifts, and avalanches, [trying to balance time between reading, adding, editing, attending writers groups, using deadlines,] embracing the serendipity. The sun still shines ahead.

    Your posts lift at just the right time. Thanks for putting my INTJness into greater productive context, and ESF and P in my periphery.

  27. Thank you for this! This post is really encouraging as it reaffirms much of what I’ve learned about my own (not) writing habits. For me, starting a YouTube channel and giving myself (gasp!) deadlines has forced me to learn accountability to the people who might be watching. I see a definite improvement in my work ethic.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, just doing this website weekly has been hugely helpful in keeping me on track in my own writing habits. It provides a little bit of accountability.

  28. Mary George says

    One of my favorite writing go-to books is “On Writing Well,’ by William Zinsser. Correction – it is my all-time favorite because I think I’ve read it maybe seven or eight times over the last fifteen years. It’s for writers of nonfiction, but one day, I had the honor of telling Mr. Zinsser, in his Manhattan apartment where he invited me and my daughter, that his book was also a gold mine for fiction writers. Not only is it full of warmth and Zinsser humor, i.e., encouragement, but his knack of explaining how to write with form and voice has been invaluable to me. Even as I sit here writing this little blurb I can hear his writing sensibilities, all that precious, glittered advice.
    However.
    One sentence near the end of his book begins with this: “Every morning, when I wake up to the sludge I see appearing on my screen . . .” I shake my head with doubt, that a writer as wise and experienced and gifted as he was still got a slice of humble pie with breakfast. It’s incredible to me, but not a surprise, that he got back to the business of fixing his pages and making them better. It brings a smile to my face. Every. Single. Time.
    The more I read other fine writers’ laments – revising, deleting, tweaking the dialogue, changing the ending, killing your darlings – the better I feel about my own struggles with words and story. I did let him know I found that particular sentence both funny and demoralizingly real. And honestly, now that I’m neck deep into completing a finished product, I have kind and brilliant Mr. Zinsser to thank.

  29. So I had just decided to take a break from my current WIP because I was so frustrated with how much time it was taking to structure, and I’d completely lost interest in writing the damn thing. Literally had not written a word in weeks, only scene outlines and plot point descriptions.

    Then this lovely article comes along and taps me on the shoulder, uttering a polite cough. Suddenly it’s obvious that I, an INTJ, am clearly stuck in a planning loop.

    And just like that, I run off to hammer out a 600 word scene including dialogue and action.

    I think I’ll print this post and tape it to the wall right behind my computer monitor as a constant reminder that planning, while exhilarating and wonderful and satisfying, can be a trap. The real joy is in letting the words flow, the scene unfold and the characters live on the page.

    Thanks for the much-needed wake up call!!

  30. Victoria L Nelson says

    Thank you for the mention! This article and the one about optimizing the four cognitive functions are so true. So, so true. A couple of things really resonated with me:

    “For INTJs, part of the difficulty is that we tend to view life and all its problems as a giant chess game—and we don’t like to make even the first move until we’ve played the game out in our heads and know how it’s going to end.” Oh, my goodness is this true. I liken it to an intuitive-idealist paralysis.

    And “Introverts often find it scary to “extrovert” enough to put a book out there in the world…”

    Your advice here is great. Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned several valuable things that have helped me move past the Ni-Fi loop. They’re quite similar to what you’ve stated here.

    1. I almost have to shut down my criticizing, analyzing “left brain” and let the 1st draft be a 1st draft. Because no matter how much I’ve planned, the 1st draft really isn’t going to be the ideal vision that I have for the book. As obvious as that sounds, it was a tough truth to accept. But I’m about 3/4 of the way through the 2nd draft of my first work of fiction. It was actually really encouraging to see how much poured out of my mind in the 1st draft and ended up being solid work I could use. I think that as an INTJ artist, I tend to distrust my mind to create without an extensive, flawless blueprint, replete with stage direction, choreography and costuming. I’m learning to trust that I am created to write and that I don’t have to overthink it.

    2. With respect to the scary extroverting, I self- published a Christian non-fiction book for women. Totally different writing process. But the idea of publishing so was terrifying. Terrifying! I finally did it anyway. And the funny thing was, I found an audience. I knew it wasn’t going to be the majority. (I refused to write the anecdotal, theologically-fluffy book that the agent I was working with wanted me to write.) But people came around me and supported it so much more than I anticipated. I don’t know why we think the world is going to hate our work. Maybe it’s the idealist in our minds comparing what we create to what we intended to create. Don’t know.

    3. And lastly, one thing that I’ve learned is that we (along with a few others – especially INFPs) can be very, very idealistic. I’ve come to realize that sometimes my [very beautiful, extensive] vision is just too much for my current level of experience. Granted, I’m perfectly happy to push myself. But planning a 12-book fantasy series with three layers of symbolism is a lot to bite off for a first writing project. Instead, I set that aside for the time being and gave myself permission to focus on a stand-alone book – also with three layers of symbolism. But one book. Not twelve.

    Long way of saying, great articles as usual!! Thank you so much for your advice. It’s been incredibly helpful to me in my writing process.

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