Introverted and Intuitive? Why the Writing Rules Probably Don’t Work for You

Alien GirlI’ve always known that I have great intuition, but I didn’t always know that I was an intuitive.

In fact, I was almost 35 years old before I really grasped what that meant.

It didn’t help that I tried to actively hide almost all of the traits that came from being an intuitive. I was empathetic to a fault. Too sensitive. I let my emotions “get the best of me” at inopportune times. Sarcasm and snark were lost on me and teasing people made me uncomfortable. In short, I seemed to be everything that popular culture implied was uncool and nothing about me fit in. I felt like an alien.

So for years I camouflaged myself. I put on my outgoing extroverted mask at the office and social gatherings, and I kept my interests to myself. I learned the art of small talk. I tried to act like someone else and I second-guessed myself at every turn.

But little by little my façade cracked. The first chink in the armor came when I started writing again and all of my old bottled-up emotions came pouring out. And when I got into personality theory and discovered I was an introvert AND an intuitive, the walls really came tumbling down. Finally, I had proof! I wasn’t crazy. I really was different. And not different from being crazy, but different just from really being different. Then I discovered there were other different people out there too—intuitives and introverts and highly sensitive people. Empaths and artists and lightworkers.

If I hadn’t been born into the age of the internet, I might have assumed I was one in a million. Because in real life, I had only met two or three other people like me, ever.

I started lurking around forums and reading blogs written by other creative souls. Then I started my own. When I jumped into Twitter I was astonished how many there were of us, and how easy it was to find each other. I read through profiles smiling and nodding the whole time. Loves animals….Writer of the dark and weirdEccentric BuddhistPoet with a soul purposeBelieves in Magic. These were my people!

As I learned more about what it meant to be deeply intuitive person, I realized I was also a deeply intuitive writer.

Another ah-ha! moment.

This is why the rules of writing had never worked for me.

Write every day….Always work from an outline….Characters should have motivations that everyone can understand.

Nope, nope, and nope. I struck out on all of those every single time.

Up until this point I had assumed it was because I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Through my research on intuitive personalities I discovered a few things about intuitive writers. Most intuitive writers don’t work with a linear method, for one thing. Meaning they usually write in bits and pieces, all over the place, and then join them up later when they have enough information to put together the pattern.

Intuitive writers channel material from their subconscious mind, which can’t be pressured into producing by using the “write-every-day-or-you’re-not-a-real-writer” whip.

Instead of pressure, intuitive writers need to use tools that help the information they’re looking for float to the surface of their mind where they can access it directly.

Many intuitive writers also instinctively rebel against goal-setting, schedules, or word counts. And they tend to feel stifled if anyone is looking over their shoulder when they’re up to their elbows in a work-in-progress. This is why they don’t tend to do great in critique groups either.

An intuitive writer is not so much interested in following a rational, point-A-to-point-B plot that provides conventional suspense, characterization, and a satisfying ending for the reader.

The intuitive writer is concerned with exploring the depth of an intuition. Their goal is to reveal a poetic image to the reader through the work.

That doesn’t mean that the stories of intuitive writers don’t have plots, just that they’re not plot-driven.

What does drive the work of intuitive writers is the overall feeling of the work, or the energy suffused throughout the story. Think about William Faulkner, or Cormac McCarthy, or Kafka. Each of these writers submerges the reader, not just into a different world, but into an entirely different consciousness. Things happen, the characters follow their plot, but the plot isn’t the point.

The point is the submersion into a different consciousness.

That’s an intuitive writer at work.

When intuitive writers are first getting started on their path they can become very easily discouraged, and they may give up writing altogether. That’s because most of the writing guides, blogs, and rules they come across just don’t work for them. This is the sort of stuff I work on with people when I coach them. How to build their work using the intuition they already know so well, and how to trust it will lead them to where they need to be.

If you’re interested in learning more about coaching and how it can help you as an intuitive writer, contact me at writecitysf@gmail.com. I do free consultations and much of the time just the consultation itself helps the writer more than they thought possible.

If you’re an intuitive writer, know that you’re not crazy. You’re just different. And different is good.

And if you’re interested in learning more about introverted intuitive writers and how we work check out my book:

The INFJ Writer

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17 Comments

  • Reply Colleen 8 July, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    This is so encouraging to me! I am a writer, but also an artist. I’ve been second-guessing myself lately because it’s been a long time since I finished art school, and I rarely think strategically about what I am painting before I start. I am most happy letting intuition pick the color scheme, determine the direction of a line, and compose the organic flow of a painting. I’ve been wondering if I’ve lost my way and needed to brush up on the fundamentals again… But that just seems so boring and soul-stifling. Thank you for showing me a mirror in which I recognize myself and feel energized to continue in what gives me life.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 8 July, 2015 at 1:17 pm

      You are so welcome Colleen. I think because Western culture tends to be very masculine, aggressive and “go-getter” we’re taught from an early age that we need to think strategically if we’re going to be successful. But strategic thinking and highly creative brains don’t always mix well. So happy that you’re feeling energized by this 🙂 Happy painting!

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 8 July, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    It’s good to know that scattered lacework of a novel is not unique. I know that one day I will draw it all together, but it follows no known rules in its present state.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 8 July, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      I love the image of scattered lacework. Beautiful Hilary!

  • Reply Micah 8 July, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Ooh this is sooo good. I have never been able to understand even the concept of being a part of a writing group so that work that isn’t yet finished can be critiqued. I just felt it was wrong for me on a gut level. Reading this is so interesting because although I’ve known for a while I’m an intuitive introvert I’ve never really given much thought to how that might inform my approach to writing, and yet it so does. All the conventional linear guidelines for how writing ought to be done I’ve never followed. Not because I’m particularly rebellious, but just because it felt like such an uninteresting and uninspiring way to write. Really grateful for this blogpost. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 8 July, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      So happy this resonates with you Micah! I was inspired to write it after I realized that almost all of my clients are intuitive introverts. They tend to feel guilty about not following the “guidelines” when that only shuts down their creativity. There is no one-size-fits-all package for any writer, I’ve discovered. Also REALLY happy to hear that you’re following your gut. Right on!

  • Reply Hannah Vanderpool 8 July, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    This is me. I’m trying to find a way to be more productive in my writing while also honoring my personality and its strengths.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 9 July, 2015 at 10:05 am

      I, too, am constantly working toward striking that very same balance. In some ways the life of a creative soul is like one big yoga practice, I think. You find the balance, hold it, and then have to find it all over again.

  • Reply Mari Biella 9 July, 2015 at 4:26 am

    All of this resonated with me, Lauren. I’ve always been turned off by the linear, strategic writing advice I’ve heard, because it always seemed not particularly compatible with actual creativity. Perhaps it works for some people, but not for me. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 9 July, 2015 at 10:06 am

      This must be why I like your blog so much Mari! We are kindred writing souls 🙂

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 9 July, 2015 at 4:32 am

    I’ve never mastered the art of small talk 🙂 Occasionally I go into “actress mode” and fake it but even then I start getting anxious after a while. What a wonderful post, Lauren! It makes me feel SO much better about my writing style (or lack of). Now if only my intuition would help me edit 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 9 July, 2015 at 10:03 am

      I hear that! Editing is my least favorite part by far, probably because I have to rely on the rational half of my brain!

  • Reply Meaghan O'Keeffe 9 July, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Thank you for this post. After writing my first book, through an intuitive process similar to the one you describe, I spent almost two years trying to do it differently, thinking about plot and character: What’s the external conflict? What’s the internal conflict? What’s the climax?
    But what kept happening was everything seemed like a cardboard cutout. I kept dropping stories because the heart wasn’t there. And then I realized that discovery is the only way for me. And the only way for me to discover is just to write. It’s at times painful and messy, but once I surrendered to it I started working on my second novel. And what I realized is, when I’m doing that, the conflict and plot starts to emerge. I can identify it once it’s there, even if it’s only slightly there. And then I can dig deeper and follow the path.
    It’s hard to trust it will come out okay in the end. For me, the hard part is being okay with, “What if the story falls flat?” or “What if the conflict just isn’t there?” But I think that’s just the critic talking.
    Here’s to intuitive introverts!

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 9 July, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Yoga practice is a perfect metaphor!

  • Reply Dara 9 July, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    Wow, Lauren, you nailed it. I’m an INFJ and can relate to all of this. I do see a lot of online representatives of myself but I’m not really a huge fan of social media, so it’s kinda like a catch 22 with me. Thanks for this article, it affirmed exactly where I’m at as a poet and a person.

  • Reply Erika 9 July, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    this is great! I so relate to this post… I definitely used to wonder what was wrong with me a few years ago… I tried writing in schedules and following the typical advice but it doesn’t work/feel good to me. I’ve definitely been doing more of an intuitive thing lately but reading something like this is great reinforcement/external validation! 🙂

  • Reply Judith Post 13 July, 2015 at 4:56 pm

    My writers’ group has both kinds of writers–linear and intuitive–which I consider a plus. We have serious writers and serious people who write (and don’t really care if they get published). We all approach writing from different angles, so I get lots of different kinds of feedback, which is interesting and wonderful.

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