Using All Four Cognitive Functions as a Writer

My heart is so full as I write this. So many things going on in the world right now—both good and bad. It makes me reflect, not for the first time, on the tremendous gift given to writers in the simple fact that we have a place to put not just our feelings, but every other aspect of our cognitive experiences as humans.

(Right after I write this opening paragraph, a doe and her fawn gallop across my front yard, right out my office window, and my heart grows a little fuller with the good stuff. 🙂 Ahem…)

We often think of writing as an act of either imagination and/or logic. But because becoming a balanced writer is about nothing less than becoming a balanced human, it should be no surprise that the best writing makes use of everything. Specifically, today, I’m thinking of “everything” as the cognitive functions in the Jungian sense.

Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs system of personality typing, which was derived from C.G. Jung’s theory of four cognitive functions, two perceiving (Sensing and Intuition) and two judging (Feeling and Thinking), which he further divided into introverted and extroverted varieties. As someone who loves systems, patterns, and abstract theories, I’ve long found Jung’s concept of cognitive functions to be helpful in understanding the way I think—and, of course, the way I approach writing.

À la Myers-Briggs nomenclature, I type as an INTJ—or someone who favors Intuition and Thinking as my go-to power plays. This means that, for me, Feeling and Sensing are often neglected. I have spent many years working on better developing both of my weaker functions, not just for their own sakes, but because Intuition–Sensing and Thinking–Feeling form inherent polarities. One cannot operate without the other. Where my Sensing is weak, there must be a corresponding weak spot in my Intuition. Where my Feeling is underdeveloped, there will be a blind spot in my Thinking as well.

Quite some time ago, Victoria Nelson (@ledinvictory) tweeted me a request:

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.

Although I’m always keen to discuss cognitive functions, I never got around to the article mostly because I felt it might only be of interest to fellow INTJs—and even though INTJs are disproportionately represented amongst writers, we’re still one of the least common personalities, supposedly making up only around 2% of the population. (If an article specifically on activating Te to get stuff done sounds appealing, whether you’re an INTJ or not, let me know in the comments. If there’s enough interest, we’ll finally make it happen.)

However, the more work I do on all my functions, the more pertinent I find their contributions to my creative life. So today, I thought I’d share some thoughts on developing all four of your cognitive functions. This is important no matter your type, no matter if you’re into Jungian functions, and no matter if you have a clue or a care what Jungian functions are.

We’re going to explore the four basic functions all humans use in perceiving (taking in information) and judging (activating and using that information). All four are crucial pieces in bringing to life stories of deep emotion, logic, verisimilitude, and vibrancy. Once we’re skilled at identifying how they work within our experiences of life, we can also better use them to find exactly the right “place” to “put” our own personal experiences within our writing.

How to Improve All 4 of Your Cognitive Functions as a Writer

Let me start with the disclaimer that although I’m a big fan of Jung’s cognitive-function theories, I often find the simplified approach of Myers-Briggs (and particularly its tests) to be a limited approach. That said, Myers-Briggs is a simplified entry point into the deeper understanding of the functions. If all you know about Myers-Briggs is your “letters,” I would encourage looking deeper into an understanding of not just the four main functions, but particularly the nuances of their introverted and extroverted versions.

That said, for simplicity’s sake and to make the information more useful to those who may not be interested in personality typology, today I’m just going to be talking about the four functions as broad categories without further defining them as introverted or extroverted.

1. Intuition

Intuition encompasses many definitions, most of them abstract—which is appropriate, since Intuition is decidedly an abstract function. When we speak of a sixth sense or a gut instinct, we’re often speaking of Intuition. I believe it is also deeply integrated with imagination, particularly visual imagination (as I’ve discussed recently). It can also be a viscerally physical experience, linked to emotions and Feeling.

For me, Intuition (as my dominant function) is inextricably linked to imagination—to the “dreamzoning” I often talk about. I will sometimes say, with delight, that my head is haunted. I don’t make things up; they just come to me—images, personalities, symbols, color, music, and light cobbled together like night dreams from my unconscious.

Strengthening Your Intuition:

Whether Intuition is a natural strength for you or not, how can you further develop it to aid you in writing?

Honestly, writing itself is a great intuitive exercise. Daydreaming, dreamzoning—whatever you want to call it—is a intrinsically fun exercise for most writers. Start paying attention to the mental images and symbols that pop up for you, even when you’re not actively using your imagination. “Follow” the pictures; see where they take you when they spontaneously move. And listen to your feelings, your physical reactions. When you get a “zing” or a shiver up your spine, it usually means your Intuition is signalling you’ve found something.

More than that, concentrate on identifying patterns. You know the feeling you get when you just know something? That’s your Intuition identifying patterns before you’re even conscious of them. This is the “story sense” most of us hone all our lives. Whether in regard to our own stories or someone else’s, we often just know when something isn’t working—even when we can’t yet logically identify what. Learning to read your Intuition and interpret its sub-linguistic hints is tremendously powerful in helping you write stronger stories.

2. Sensing

Sensing is the other half of the perceiving polarity, which means it necessarily works hand-in-hand with Intuition. And yet, Sensing is Intuition’s opposite. Whereas Intuition is abstract, Sensing is concrete. Whereas Intuition is most accessible in dreams, Sensing interfaces with the physical world.

At first glance, Intuition might seem more useful to writers. But without a strong relationship with the senses, a writer’s Intuition will become ungrounded. It will lack the verisimilitude of real-world observations and understandings. The patterns we think we’re identifying intuitively or our instinctive “knowing” will lack accuracy, simply because it lacks sensual data.

Strengthening Your Sensing:

As an INTJ, Sensing is my weakest function, my “baby” function. Unlike people whose Sensing is naturally more mature and developed, I’ve had to work hard to make sure I’m not over-relying on my Intuition at my Sensing’s expense. And how do I this? I work on noticing. What do I see, smell, hear, touch, and taste? What are people really saying, versus the subtext I naturally want to intuit?

Mindfulness and presence are wonderful tools, as is just about any kind of physical activity or new experience. It’s so easy for writers to live entirely in our inner worlds. Not only are most of us naturally “head” people, but we spend much of our time inside at our desks seeing only what is on the screens and in our imaginations. In order for our Intuition to create worlds out of nothing, we have to feed it gobs of sensory information. Go outside, get into your body, talk to people, exercise, eat, reach, listen, sniff, notice.

3. Thinking

As a cognitive function, Thinking specifically refers to how we may use a logical metric to interpret or “judge” the neutral information we’ve gathered via our perceiving functions of Intuition and Sensing. Thinking isn’t so much the “chatter” in the front of our brains, which we commonly reference as “thoughts,” and more the system through which we organize and validate information into what we consider sensible and actionable ideas.

Writers often have a polarized relationship with Thinking. On the one hand we often consider ourselves “Thinkers”—people who enjoy ideas, who are comfortable inside our own heads, and who pursue writing as the art of thinking clearly.

And yet, writers can also grow frustrated with Thinking when we view it as too orderly and logical to coexist with the chaotic freedom of true creativity.

Still, skillful Thinking is what allows writers to employ the principles of story theory and to communicate in ways universal enough to resonate with other humans.

Strengthening Your Thinking:

There are many ways to strengthen Thinking—not least trying to write a coherent novel. Logically processing and mastering complex systems such as story structure, not to mention employing the systemic and causal logic necessary to piece together any working plotline, is a fantastic way to strengthen your Thinking.

More than that, you can learn to analyze your own thoughts as a way of identifying your own metrics. This will allow you to increase your mental precision by strengthening those metrics that are truly logical, while weeding out others that prove faulty or prone to unreasonable leaps. In observing your own thoughts, try to understand why you reach certain conclusions.

Ask yourself: What facts brought you to this understanding? Where did you employ Intuition—and how can you prove or disprove your own theories by seeking additional sensory or factual data? Debate yourself as rigorously as you would an ideological challenger.

4. Feeling

Feeling is often misunderstood. When we discuss our “feelings,” we are often talking simply about our emotions or moods—and we often dismiss both as unworthy of making proper judgments about what we should think or do. But Feeling goes much deeper, joining forces with our Intuition to prompt a powerful and trustworthy, if sometimes unexplored and misunderstood, interpretation of ourselves and our experiences.

As the partner of Thinking in the Judging polarity, Feeling is in many ways generative of thought, rather than the other way around. As someone who has repressed Feeling for most of my life (in part, perhaps, because it is my third function as an INTJ), I continue to realize how out of touch I have become even with being aware of my own Feeling sometimes. But I’ve also come to realize that the earlier I identify the cause of that sinking feeling in my stomach or my inner resistance to something, the less work my Thinking has to do to figure things out on the way to the right conclusion.

Strengthening Your Feeling:

As I mentioned at the start of the article, the world is currently so full of feels—probably no more than usual, but it sure seems unprecedented. As a result, I don’t think it’s just Thinker types who are sometimes tempted to push away the Feeling. But in rejecting overwhelming emotions and sensations, we not only ultimately reject the wonderful emotions as well, we also miss the opportunity to strengthen our ability to make our most powerful, truthful, and often empathetic decisions.

As writers, Feeling is deeply necessary if we are to write stories of emotional truth. Indeed, many of us come to the page as an opportunity for catharsis—a place to put our Feeling when we don’t know what else we can productively do with it. Via our characters, we have the opportunity to explore all our feelings—those that are mature, those that are immature, those that are celebrated, those that are unwanted, those that we long to manifest in our lives, and those that frighten us with their potential consequences.

Story creates for us a simulation in which we can understand the full meaning of our Feeling, as well as how to use it to make responsible judgments out in the real world where our lives and other people’s lives are at stake. We should always be writing that which makes us feel deeply, that which thrills us and scares us, and that which pushes us to face our darkness on our way to becoming better people.

***

Cognitive-function theory says we all favor some functions over others. If you can figure out which functions come naturally to you in both your writing and your life, you will also probably hit upon those you may overemphasize at the expense of the others. This gives you the opportunity to consciously work on enhancing your natural strengths, while also boosting those that are naturally less proficient. The more rounded your cognitive experience becomes, the more rounded you can become as both a writer and a person.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! How do you use these cognitive functions as a writer? Tell me in the comments!

Click the “Play” button to Listen to Audio Version (or subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes).

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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. I’m a type ISTJ, as near as I can tell. In my writing I’ve tried to use the personality types to develop characters, though without much success.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I have to wonder if any of us are truly capable of writing a character whose cognitive functions are different from our own. :p

      • I wonder if you are right! At least, to write such a different character from the inside out.

      • Thank you for this extraordinary post. From the first read through, to the listening of your podcast, one huge eye opener occurred to me. I have been doing myself a disservice, or my writing at least. By refusing to plan … I know; stubborn. The thinking element as well as the glue of a story, the logical movement is compromised and would become simpler if only I took the blockage I have against planning away. The day I stopped work (formal work) I took of my watch and tore up the calender and said ‘never again.’ I think this is what has been making my novel wander and feel wrong. Stopping me from submitting it, because I know something is not quite right. I will find the simplest way to create a plan that works for me and go back to the beginning. Putting up the structure if scaffolding after the fact will be tough. But I know the story is good, I believe in it. It is the lack of tamed direction (planning) that has been wrong all along.
        My Dad used to say, you can’t tap into how someone lives until you walk in his shoes. He was right 100% But first you have to take off your own. Thank you again.

    • I think you need a strong Fe stack in the mix to do that, and a lot of knowledge.

      The stacks determine what really motivates people – some people are sterile – everything is to the books because they want to create order (xSxJs), and others want to explore (xSxPs).

      Others want to see the logic of something (xNTxs), and others understand themselves and others (xNFxs).

      If you understand the stacks and feel people’s energies, you can write convincing characters outside your personality. Ultimately, for someone without Fe, just intellectually ask yourself – if this happened to me, how would I react to connect with the character.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        That may be. Fe’s deep in my shadow, so it may well be that inhabiting other cognitive functions is more difficult for me than for those who have a natural relationship with Fe.

        • Fe can be very difficult. You basically become an emotion magnet. If the Joker is laughing, you are too. If Aloy is running for her life, you feel your heart beat in your chest. If someone is homicidal in a book, you want to crawl in with them and go murder the person as well.

          If Arthur Morgan is greeted by a spirit deer just before he goes into the after life, you cry. I can’t turn it off ever. . .

          For someone with Fi, like I said, ask yourself the question – how would I feel if a Robotic Trex was running after me, and all I have is a bow in my hand. . .

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            Yes, Fi is the other way around–we feel things from the inside out rather than the outside in. It’s more intense in some ways, but also less… democratic shall we say.

  2. I’m an INFJ-A, the A for Advocate. The most relevant trait of this personality type in this context is they act creatively with imagination, conviction, and sensitivity creating balance.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Some of my favorite qualities. 🙂

    • I love 16 personalities, great website.

      I wonder how many INFJs are A though.

      I can start laughing with Arthur Fleck as he sees the riot he has caused. I can rock out with Jack Black, teaching kids how to appreciate music, and I can feel the depths of horror when I see riots in Minnesota – the people losing their lives, their livelihoods, their businesses.

  3. Jim Sutherland says

    Separate from all the personality types, I would love to see an article on activating Te to get stuff done. Whether someone is an INTJ or not, anything that helps shed light on moving beyond the skeletal structure of world building into flesh and blood story is a huge plus. I have several series in the vault complete with universes to support them, but everytime I sit to create a narrative out of the worlds I’ve created, I just add more depth to the universe.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, although I’d necessarily view the subject through my own Te lens, most of the ideas would probably be applicable regardless of what functions a writer is using. I’ll do some more mulling on this for an article.

      • Nice article! INFP-t. “Mediator.”

        Jung said, “In each of us there is an ʘther whom we do not know. He speaks to us in dreams and tells us how differently he sees us from the way we see ourselves….”

        So much of our decision-making and creativity takes place at the Unconscious level, it’s difficult to really know ourselves, despite having this conscious alphabet soup assignment to these categories. While you’re mulling, perhaps take a look at the conscious/ Unconscious divide: bit.ly/2tnFyhv

  4. Carol Wilson says

    Interesting and helpful post. Thank you. It would also be interesting to read how the types affect critique group interactions. If we understood the perspectives of the “critiquers,” in light of our own strengths and weakness, it could help us know how to apply the varied opinions of our writing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      So true. I’ve found personality typing revolutionary in helping me understand and interact with others.

  5. Aaron Blake says

    Thanks for your advice! I’m also an INTJ, which can be good and bad as a writer. For me, if I put mental effort into it, it’s easy to come up with a fantastic premise and plot, but hard to come up with dialogue. If I don’t think about it, the plot gets sloppy but the dialogue flows from some hidden spring in my brain. For me, that ability to take active control at some points and then turn on the autopilot at others is the key to creating a well-balanced story. As an INTJ, I still have lots of feelings, and sometimes they are very deep. In those times, I like to write down those feelings, and I use that as inspiration for my characters later on when I’m stuck in my Thinking mode.

    Asking for help from other personality types is also important. They can point out the weak spots in the characters, the interaction, and the flow. When my characters have a variety of personality types, it feels more natural to write and read. A sidekick with a very different personality type can create conflict and an opportunity for the protagonist to demonstrate what he/she thinks and values. Thanks again for your insights!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, I’ve often thought that, as an INTJ, my writing has allowed me space for Feeling that I don’t always make for it in the real world.

  6. You did an excellent job highlighting these cognitive functions. As an INFJ (although my Fe to Ti assessment scores are close), I would enjoy reading the INTJ article topic mentioned. One thing that helps me strengthen my Sensing function is to engage in sensory activities. Knitting while listening to an audio book helps me “unwind” while staying engaged in a cognitive way. I also am challenging myself with art journaling this month. My intuition tells me it will build my Sensing and Thinking functions as I study and research nature while learning new creative techniques and incorporating poetry.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, I’ve found that coloring books are something my baby Se enjoys from time to time.

  7. This is my favorite article ever. 😍 You broke it down so nicely!

    I actually hadn’t considered the exact role all of my functions play in my writing, though I’d thought about the top two a fair bit.

    As an INFP, my dominant Fi is pretty much the entire joy of writing for me. Writing is a way to creatively explore and express the things I feel, and the things that are important to me. It enables me to choose plot lines that click best with what I want to say, helps me understand the emotional journeys of my characters, and gives me a deep emotional understanding of all the different elements of my ‘world’.

    Ne is my brainstormer. It’s like Ni, except not really. 😂 Where Ni strives (I think) to _see_ and define, Ne strives to explore and compare. It presents me with a myriad of creative options to choose from, enables me to draw connections and parallels between different regions of my stories, and creates a web of intuitive associations between my work and the work of others that helps me learn by comparison.

    Si tries its best to make my writing more grounded, supplying me with memories of sensory experiences to draw from, sometimes enabling me to take a ‘snap’ of a sensation and freeze it for later. It gets drowned out a lot, but it tries, poor soul.

    Te usually pokes its head up in the editing stages. It helps me decide which lines to cut, which words aren’t serving their intended purpose, which plot lines need to be condensed or combined to more clearly and accurately serve the picture of the whole. It’s the housekeeper, I guess. It cleans up after my other functions are done having fun. 😎

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Where Ni strives (I think) to _see_ and define, Ne strives to explore and compare.”

      This is an interesting comparison–and a true one, I think.

  8. This is wonderful! One of the things I love most about reading is encountering other people’s minds! And the different strengths and emphases are so much of the flavor and zest. (I always think, rightly or wrongly, that I have a sense of whether a writer uses Ne or Ni — Ne seems sparkling, Ni seems piercing. I’m sure I’m often wrong about it, but thinking through it is a great pleasure.) It’s very encouraging to me to realize that, while it is important to develop all our cognitive functions, no one needs to be strong at everything. Jane Austen is one of the greatest writers in all of world literature, but I think her Se was very low (one of the reasons I do not agree with the notion that she was an INTJ — to me, the Ne and the Fe are palpable).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, it’s definitely fun to try to figure out what functions an author is using!

  9. Edward Downie says

    Five Factor Personality Theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Five_personality_traits) offers another structure for thinking about personality traits.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, this is the approach of traditional psychology, so definitely offers much of value to writers.

    • I love the big five.

      They’re the outward expression of the motivations you have from your stacks.

      I could write a huge amount about that, and how they relate one to another.

      It’s all about genotypes and phenotypes – one is seen, the other is the unseen motivator.

  10. I love talking about cognitive functions! I’m an INFJ so we both have dominant introverted intuition in common. This is probably why I love creating characters (my extroverted feeling) but struggle with coming up with a structured plot (my lousy introverted thinking). :p

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      There are a *lot* of INXJs running around the writing world!

    • I have the same issue. I’m too afraid to write a novel. I can build worlds, keep editing, but I’m too scared to come up with a full story.

      I guess I’ll have to get use to it – in a year, my game world will be completed, and the stories will be next.

  11. M.L. Bulll says

    🤨I’ve been identified as an INFJ, but it kind of makes sense because I can pick up on other people’s emotions or thoughts like a metal detector quite often, more than others can identify mine. And if I get bad vibes about somebody or something, there’s usually a reason for it every time that I discover later on, though I may not say anything about it and keep it to myself because I believe in giving things, and especially people the benefit of the doubt. I’m not quick to call anyone my friends and never have been, including those I go to church with, as the term “friend” has a deeper meaning to me than most. (So, yes, I’m a bit of a loner. 🙄) Regardless, I believe in being kind to other people, but things can change if my buttons are pushed too much. (Lol… :p) I also analyze things a lot, but sometimes too much and it’s all in my head.

    Overall, I consider myself to be a pretty balanced individual. I enjoy writing, my characters, and exploring “their world” but I also don’t lose touch with the real world, or take everything in life from one perspective. Honestly, I don’t believe it’s a healthy way for anyone to function because you really can’t take everything in life from the same perspective. Everything in life is not the same, or have anything to do with what you may be suggesting. My spirituality is a major thing that keeps my mentality together, as I believe our lives here on earth and everything we own is just temporary anyway. Fantasy and imagination are thrilling and I think sometimes writers can use that as kind of a crutch because they make us feel safe and are a way for us to avoid the chaos, difficulties, and uncertainties of reality, which is understandable. 😢But no matter what we do, reality isn’t going away, and it’s not all scary either. There are some good things about everyday life too. Actually, I think being mentally-balanced between our imagination and reality does more help than hurt. 🥰

    For me, intuition, comes from using my imagination or picturing characters, scenes, etc. I use “thinking” by my story structure/outlining process, as well as when I’m editing. Sometimes I say “what if” questions while I’m putting a plot together, though I don’t write them down a lot of the time. Dialogue is one of my strongest writing points and I tend to use “feeling” and “sensing” through my characters’ emotions, their interactions with other characters, and their contemplation. By reflecting on the real world, I ask questions in my head sometimes like, how would I feel if it were me? Or how would this scene play out in the real world? It helps a lot in making sure that things are believable and make sense. 🤔Sometimes I have to back track and be like, wait, a minute … this wouldn’t happen like this if it were real, especially when it comes to directions of travel or instructions of doing something technical.

    That’s pretty much how I use these cognitive functions as a writer. 😊

  12. roslyn cairns says

    ISFP-A A useful article. Makes me wonder whether writers tend to be I rather than E. I admit to a close balance between J and P. When I find myself struggling with a character outside my comfort zone, I look at my cast of friends and acquaintances to find one close to the personality I am trying to convey. This person then becomes my model for characterisation.
    I must admit i had never thought of developing my traits. I had always considered that ‘I am what I am’. I shall now strive to ‘improve’ my weaker features.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I know of many who are extroverts, but there does seem to be a skew toward introverts, which makes sense both because writing can be a comparatively easy way for us to interact with the world and sharing our thoughts, as well as an activity that is suited to our preference for less stimulation and more integration.

  13. I’m an INTJ. There isn’t a better feeling than plotting going well, when everything starts to click into right places. After that, writing the story often feels anticlimactic.
    That’s why I force myself to write WHILE plotting, always leaving out enough of the plot (after all structure is set and plot points decided) so writing itself builds it, adding new things that continue to click into their places.

  14. I’m glad I found your blog randomly through an algorithm because of my love for personality typing. I’m an (mature/developed) ENTJ who has been trying to write a novel for about a year now. For me the plot, characters and descriptive parts come easy, but dialog and flow from plot point to plot point is difficult. Short stories just come easier because I can let them take me where they take me. I’ve literally started a novel only to wrap it up into a short story without trying.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Plus, with short stories, there is the added satisfaction of being able to finish more things more quickly–a bonus for Te. 😉

  15. I took a number of these in the 1980s and early 90s. If memory serves me I tended to score as a INTP, but I think the P vs J was very close. In most tests the Introvert scored very high, but at one point through a variety of circumstances I wound up President of a 300 person local civic organization and my job was to constantly socialize. That year I actually tested as a mid-“E”, but I’ve got to say I remember it as the most uncomfortable year of my adult life! When pushed to consider higher offices, I ran like a scalded dog and have been a very happy “I” ever since.

    I’m struck by the power of harmonizing the opposites. You had a delightful article on visualization recently, and I think that good visualization, or at least getting good visualization into writing, comes from harmonizing Intuition and Sensing, and maybe Thinking and Feeling. First to imagine the scene, them to bring all our senses and emotions to bear on it. And if we could focus those qualities on understanding each other, it could just be the world would be a better place.

    Or I could be full of it. I usually am!

    Thanks again for the courage and thoughtfulness to create and share articles such as this.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      “Good visualization into writing, comes from harmonizing Intuition and Sensing.”

      Definitely! I have made a concerted effort to be more mindful about noticing details in my real-world surroundings. I absolutely believe it has also enhanced my Intution.

  16. roslyn cairns says

    I discovered that being an introvert was a preference, not necessarily an inability to be an extrovert. I am a paid up member of introversion (love social isolation) yet at times during my career I have been forced into extroversion and had no problem with it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The concept of the Big Five within traditional psychology shows how we experience introversion and extroversion as a spectrum, which seems to have much to do with how “sensitive” our nervous systems are and therefore how much stimulation we can comfortably tolerate.

  17. I have to admit that as an INTJ I am not terribly well equipped to deal with others’ emotions, which doesn’t fit well with current writing trends. Like Suzanne Toruk’s comment above, I have found the 16 Personalities web site (https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types) a mine of information on how to define characters, and, more to the point, how to not let them do things ‘out of character’, which has been my main problem. Of course, it is a simplification of who people are, but as a way to set up characters and explore them, I have found it very useful.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, I’ve just barely gotten to where I’m comfortable dealing with *my* emotions. :p When other people’s emotions kick up, I start feeling like a cat in a rainstorm!

  18. I’ve been using MBTI to help me develop characters, so interesting to see your blog about using it to help me with my writing. The section on Sensing was especially helpful (INTJ here). Thanks for helping me find ways to address my weaknesses, figure out where the holes are in my writing.

  19. Staci Ana says

    I am an INFP and I find it very hard to work with my antagonist. According to the tests, I look at everyone in a positive light -perhaps too positively- and I’m worried that I’m making my antagonist a bad guy in disguise. I can’t seem to create any character who aren’t like myself and it’s very difficult to make the bad guy, well, bad.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s useful to remember that antagonists don’t always have to be “bad.” They just have to want something that puts them in conflict with the protagonist.

  20. What an excellent article. I’m an INFJ Advocate. I call my style of writing, empathic writing. My characters tend to feel too much. With the help of an editor, I’m learning to work through my character’s quirks. For me, plotting is critical and I’m slowly learning how to do this. I’ve recently come across this book: https://www.amazon.com/Plotting-Your-Novel-Plot-Clock/dp/0578477807/. This technique makes sense to me. Thanks for your insight every week.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      That’s interesting, because making sure my characters were feeling *enough* was something I had to focus on a lot when I first started writing. :p

  21. I never thought of using the Myers Briggs Personality System as a way to write stories, but I see where you are getting at. I type as an INFP in this personality system so my dominant cognitive function is introverted feeling in which I make decisions base on my core principles, which is follow by my secondary function which is extroverted intuition, which helps me gather information through pattern recognition. With that said I am not entirely sure how to go about writing stories using my personality type.

    For the longest time I see writing stories as more of act of imagination (as you mention), and I think I still do, but in recent years I have been thinking of creating some stories with themes base around the problems I have been through and the questions I have been wondering about for a while. Also, I have been thinking I should start writing what I have been daydreaming as perhaps I could possibly use what I have dream up for a future story. In fact, I have been keeping a lot of thoughts in my head for a long time and it’s about time they should be let out on paper. The only problem is my sense of perfection which I am working to let go of.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      At the end of the day, always follow your instincts. Using personality as a tool for writing is really just about recognizing and leveraging your strengths, while strengthening or accommodating your weaknesses. As an INFP, your dominant functions are Feeling and Intuition, which means Sensing and Thinking might be areas to work on.

  22. Anne Andersen says

    Would love an INTJ dedicated post!
    70% of my writing group, who have met every week since 2012, get along as well as we do for that reason.

    And thank you for all you do to help us.

  23. Tristan P. says

    I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to read “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron, but the idea of needing to feed your Intuition sensory information is right in line with an exercise she called the “artist date.” It’s the theory that you need to constantly feed your brain the raw materials it needs to be able to create. It’s an incredibly rewarding exercise.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I actually read that last year–and totally loved it. It was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. Highly recommend it for anyone else who hasn’t read it yet.

  24. bouchami says

    I’ve followed your posts for some time and have always found them worthwhile – in fact your Character Arc book is sitting atop my current TBR pile
    I found this particular article very interesting – as an MBTI practitioner for 25 years, the relevance of personality type to writing style, strengths and development needs (as well as a resource for researching characters) has always fascinated me. My own type preferences are ENTP – so I know I need to pay attention to sensory detail (inferior Sensing) and to sometimes stick to simple chronology rather than leaping about (dominant N) – or at least to work on clear transitions.
    One of my current projects is the creation of a Development Guide for Writers, drawing on my professional experience in adult learning and development. It will include a section on MBTI, based not simply on the questionnaire scores, but the stories, examples and case studies that help determine true type.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      ENTP processes fascinate me–since they mirror my functions’ order (NiTeFiSe), but from the opposite stance (NeTiFeSi).

  25. I.m glad to see another INFP responded. I was a bit concerned that INTJ was something of a writing pre-requisite. I rather like FP the downside I suppose being if it comes to thinking it through or going with gut reaction I’m most likely to do the second one. Very interesting read this, much appreciated.

  26. Elise Loyacano Perl says

    An article on TE to get get stuff done would indeed be very interesting. Thanks for another fun and thoughtful read.

  27. Clifford Farris says

    Your insight extends far byond the four congitive functions you review here. Your bvest quote is, “Becoming a balanced writer is about nothing less than becoming a balanced human.”

    In 1973, an experiment was executed by Santiago Genovés, a Mexican anthropologist. A raft with him and ten other strangers floated from the Canary Islands to Mexico over 101 days to test the connection between violence and sexuality. Before embarking, professionals in over a hundred fields were asked to forecast behaviors during the trip. Included were psychologists, hair dressers, policement, anthropologists, teachers, social workers, and many other. Writers were included.

    Prognostications were compared with reality at the end of the trip. The writers by far made the most accurate projections of the personal interactions. The professional head shrinks were among the least accurate.

    The book “The Acali Experiment: Five Men and Six Women on a Raft Across the Atlantic for 101 Days” is one of the most interesting discussions of people ever written. We writers took the day.
    .
    The more life experiences a writer has, the more material on which they can draw. Yet, none of us can live everything and a willingness to accept any new experiences as they arrive is also important.

    My Meyers-Briggs profiles are an exercise in discontinuity. I am intuitive and thinking is roughly equal tendencies. The same with introverted and extroverted, and so on. This has made me a poor fit anywhere. Nothing is average, only slammed between extremes.

    My intuitions and feelings clashed with my engineering career big time. My engineering attention to details clashes with my novel writing. I hope it makes my stories interesting.

    I am a full-time published (not necessarily successful yet) author and wish I had made this jump decades ago.

    Excellent post. All us writers must take it to heart.

  28. Marianne says

    I used to believe that INTJs were rare, but reading the comments, I have the impression that we are the majority.
    I find it easy to create the whole plot in a logical way, but after I finish to write and I pause my work to reread later, I feel that the story lack emotion. It looks like something robotized.
    I also find it difficult to connect my characters romantically (which made me to eliminate two characters of my novel). It may sound funny, but I felt that those scenes were very similar to the character interpreted by Robin Williams in the movie “Bicentennial Man”.

  29. I did a MB assessment related to work more than a decade ago, and I feel like my category has changed. Plus, I think as a writer, my MB assessment may be different from my work approach. I’d love to learn more about this!

  30. Thank you so much for your wonderful podcasts. I have found them a joy during Coronavirus lockdown and they keep me writing and focussed. I am a great fan.

  31. Greetings from Australia. I have been really enjoying the YouTube “Like stories of old.” Thank you so much for the heads up about the series- you are right they are excellent.

  32. Hello…..hai… feeling so much love to you..I am an intj too. finally found an intj fiction writer. thank god. no wonder you only print 1 book per decade.( no offense, same here, i have done only 2 novels which i deleted though it made me money…eh.. the perfectionist syndrome).

    i am also just mugging up books and making my writing craft perfect for the last 1 year.

  33. Christina Bang says

    Thanks for the very helpful post.I had a lot of writers block just sitting inside, thinking.I recently started walking in the forest/the Hague and suddenly the words were coming so I had to write them in long e-mails to myself.When I was feeling the wind, smelling, seeing the actual 16th century houses I use in my book, it was so much easier.So I guess my weak spot was sensing.

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