Last week I did an interview for the Art Stuff podcast with Jessica Johannesen. Jessica originally contacted me because she’d read The INFJ Writer and was curious to learn more about how intuitive personality types have their own unique struggles when it comes to creativity. However, as we started talking, the conversation focused on one topic in particular: the specific challenges INFP artists face with creative projects.
This is a topic I’m very familiar with, as fully half of my clients are INFP writers. I see the same problems over and over again when working with INFPs. It’s gotten to the point that when I do an initial consultation call with a new INFP, I pretty much already know what they’re going to tell me.
One of my writer friends sent me a video yesterday that made me drop everything and think about INFJ writers, creativity, and problem-solving for the rest of the day. The video was a TEDx talk from a woman named Jane Kise who is an expert in Jungian type and works with kids who are having trouble learning math. She used real-life examples of different kinds of kids (introverted sensors, extraverted intuitives, introverted intuitives, etc.) solving math problems to show how the different types use different areas of the brain when trying to find the answer to something.
I was engrossed by the entire video, but most especially the part about introverted intuitives and how we learn and figure things out because I couldn’t help but see the connection between how an INFJ child might go about solving a math problem and how an INFJ writer might go about creating a story.
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All my life I’ve gotten into random conversations with people where the subject of our life trajectories comes up, and I always end up feeling kind of weird. This past weekend I hung out with a friend who told me he decided on his career path in high school, diligently researched colleges, applied himself strenuously to his field of study, threw himself at the best internships available, and then went on multiple rounds of job interviews with companies he had also heavily researched, and that’s how he ended up in his current job. He made a choice based on the menu of job options available in our society and then did everything he could to fit into that choice.
What about me? he asked.
This is when I felt that all-too-familiar weird feeling I always get during these discussions.
I was one of those kids that just never really fit in. It wasn’t any one thing that separated me from the herd, it was more like a collection of things. I wasn’t competitive and I didn’t like sports. The latest trends tended to escape me and I usually gave weird answers whenever anyone asked me a question. I also asked weird questions when it was the other way around. During elementary school and then junior high and finally high school, it was always the same. I had friends. People did like me. But there was always something off, something about me that just didn’t fit.
I tried a variety of different strategies to deal with this. I tried being a chameleon and copying what the other kids around me were doing. That didn’t work. I tried swinging all the way to the other end of the spectrum and being totally and extremely weird, and that didn’t work either. So, somewhere around late adolescence/early adulthood I resigned myself to the fact that I was an odd-shaped person in a regular kind of world and I would probably always feel out of place.