The dark side of NaNoWriMo was a topic that came up between me and a fellow intuitive writer last week. This writer told me that he had been at a meeting of his regular writing group, listening to his colleagues detail their plans for NaNoWriMo—the outlines, the list of steps, the character traits decided upon in advance—and he had felt awful. And as he listened to them talk, he felt worse and worse. It started out as a slow, but growing discomfort, and by the time a few minutes had passed he was consumed with self-doubt and worry.
He had the distinct feeling, he told me, that NaNoWriMo wasn’t something for him. But he felt horrible about this, like it said something about him as a writer. Wasn’t NaNoWriMo something all writers should try? Wasn’t it all about busting through procrastination, sitting your butt in the chair, and just getting it done?
Well, for some writers it is. But for others, it really isn’t. And it has nothing to do with your worth as a writer.
Intuitive writers—who are mostly INFJ and INFP writers—tend to write slowly, for one thing. The process of working with the pieces of a story as they surface within you, recognizing the pieces, watching them ripen, and then pulling them out of your creative consciousness when the time is right, is a process that is extremely personal and intimate, and usually unfolds slowly, as you build a trusting relationship with the characters.
Trying to bulldoze your way through 50,000 words in 30 days can be effective, in the way that bootcamp is effective. It will break you down, completely, and when you come out the other side you will have something you didn’t before: the knowledge that you CAN do this particular thing. You CAN run 10 miles without stopping or write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you are a person with a type-A personality who thrives on schedules and to-do lists and productivity and likes to push yourself through obstacles with the “no pain, no gain” mentality, then NaNoWriMo can really work for you, in the way that a military bootcamp really works for some people.
However, that method can also shut down intuitive writers, very quickly. Because it is forcing them to push out a story that is not yet ripe. It is forcing them to choose productivity over patience, and to use rational writing methods over intuitive writing. Because, and I can guarantee you this, there is no way you can put your intuition on a schedule.
So, when intuitive writers have this experience with NaNoWriMo, of looking around at other writers and seeing that this is something they “should” be excited about and that “should” work for them, and then it just doesn’t, that’s when the worry and shame set in. These worry and shame feelings are very familiar to intuitive writers. Most INFJ and INFP writers grew up in homes where they were the only intuitive person in the household, or with parents who were intuitive themselves but shut down their gifts long ago and so had a negative reaction to those same gifts showing up in their child. Most INFJ and INFP writers grew up seeing the difference between themselves and other people very distinctly, not knowing the reason for this difference, and then, as children so often do, coming to the conclusion that something was wrong with them, that they were flawed in some way that could never be repaired, or even explained.
One of the most challenging pieces of this puzzle for INFJ and INFP writers is that, because the vortex of worry and shame is so very familiar to them, they usually do not realize that this is even happening within them. It feels like normal reality. It’s not that XYZ doesn’t work for them, it’s that they are wrong, and if they could make themselves right then XYZ would work for them just like it works for everyone else. It can be a long time, if ever, that they realize that nothing is wrong with them. They have always been right and perfect and whole. It’s just that they are different. XYZ was never meant to work for them. They were always meant to walk a different path.
In all my years of coaching INFJ and INFP writers, I have found that one of the most effective ways to move past this all-pervasive sense of worry and shame around their creativity is to find other people like them. Whether that comes in the form of the coaching relationship, or they join another kind of community made up of other INFJ and INFP writers. However it shows up, having someone who is like you in your corner and can mirror your experience back to you and validate it, is priceless. Once this support piece is in place for INFJ and INFP writers, the entire writing experience changes for them, and it changes very fast. They may still be working with a writing speed that is slower than the mainstream, and they may still be wrestling with their characters and the intense process of “receiving” a story instead of “pushing” a story out, but the relationship they have with their writing has completely pivoted from struggle and worry and shame, to excitement, joy, and feeling in love with their own creativity all over again.
I talk about all of this in-depth in my third video in the video series I’m doing on intuitive writing and how it works for INFJ and INFP writers. You can check it out here:
You can see the first two videos in the series if you follow that link too. If you’re an INFJ or an INFP writer, I do urge you to check them out. There’s a TON of good information to get you kickstarted on the intuitive writing process. I’ll be teaching an online course in November on intuitive writing and registration opens on Oct 30, so if this is something that’s speaking to you, make sure to sign up for my mailing list so you’ll get the announcement as soon as registration opens for the course, because space in the class will be limited.
Until then, follow your heart, and your intuition. The more you listen to that inner voice, the easier it will get.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Revolution, a guide to identifying and dissolving the roadblocks that hold back INFJs, INFPs, HSPs, and empaths from finding and living their life purpose, and The INFJ Writer, a writing guide made specifically for sensitive intuitive writers.