The Surprising Truth about Successful Writers

Avenues of the Mind

For those of you who regularly read this blog you might know that I’m into the Myers Briggs personality type stuff. However, I also know that some people really don’t like it. They either consider it a scam, or they’re bored by it, or they don’t want to be categorized by the “type” of personality they are supposed to be.

Regardless of how you personally feel about the system, it does offer an essential human truth from which everyone can benefit:

Things are going to go a lot better for you in life if you embrace who you are instead of fighting it.

Successful writers already know this.

For instance, I have a friend who is loud, spontaneous, extremely extroverted, and who loves to joke around. He told me the other day that he thinks he needs to “tone down” his personality because he sometimes has trouble fitting in. This was a great eye-opener for me because I’m an introvert. I always feel like I’m the one who has trouble fitting in because I have a hard time talking in groups and when I do say something it’s usually something weird.

I gave my friend the best advice I could. I told him to keep being himself.

When we try to go against our own natural grain it doesn’t work. We might get through a day or two, or maybe even a whole week, of faking being something we are totally not. But sooner or later, the person we really are will leak through again. This holds true for the way we write too.

Instead of devoting our energy to plugging the leaks, things will go much better for us if we direct our energy into embracing the flow.

Of course, we all have the potential to develop different skills and accomplish things we would never have expected out of ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we have to change the core of who we are. Let’s look at my friend again, as an example. He’s never going to be the quiet introvert who can’t wait to get away from the party. But he can work on developing his communication skills so that he has an easier time of knowing when his brazen jokes will be appreciated, and when they won’t.

The more you embrace yourself for who you are—even the parts of yourself that you find highly inconvenient at times—the more success you will experience in developing your creative gifts.

When you acknowledge that you thrive on order and planning, you’ll give yourself the freedom to plot your entire book with index cards and outlines before you begin. Or, you might finally recognize that you’re the exact opposite and that too detailed of a plan only stifles your creative flow.

But most importantly, you will grow increasingly immune to outside opinion about how you should express your own individual creative gift.

The small, still voice inside will become strong and clear.

There’s a guy on Youtube named DaveSuperPowers who talks about personality functions and he’s one of my favorites. He says that each person has a couple of areas in which he or she is just phenomenal. These are our superpowers. In his videos he urges us to “develop the heck out of” our natural talents and not worry so much about the rest. I can’t recommend his videos highly enough. My favorite is the one in which he talks about the shadow side of our personality. Check it out here.

DaveSuperPowers says:

“I don’t care how bad you are at something, if you love it and are spending every waking hour on it, year after year, you are going to become really good at it.”

And that is really the best advice for any writer.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out:

Introverts, Empathy and the Art of Creating Character

Know Your Type, and Then Sit Down to Write

Why INFJs and ENFJs Make Awesome Writing Partners

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14 Comments

  • Reply Dover Whitecliff 1 May, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Awesome post. Had to share it!

  • Reply Kara 1 May, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Love this post! I am into the MBTI, I think it’s spot on. BTW, I am an INFJ.

  • Reply Debbie Zeigler 1 May, 2014 at 11:47 am

    I have been identified as an INFJ, and I can’t tell you how encouraging your blog has been! I now appreciate and and am excited to utilize the strengths of my personality type as a writer. I can actually plan out my day, and still be creative? Awesome!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 1 May, 2014 at 11:57 am

      That’s awesome Debbie! INFJs UNITE!!! 🙂

  • Reply Cami Decker 1 May, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    Cool insights! This reminds me of a book I read called “Now, Discover Your Strengths” by Marcus Buckingham. It’s all about fining out who you are and working with those strengths instead of always worrying about and focusing on weaknesses or challenges.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 2 May, 2014 at 8:29 am

      Oh I will definitely check that title out! I’m always looking for more books on personality and personal growth. Thanks Cami!

  • Reply Phillip McCollum 1 May, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Swimming against the current is exhausting. I agree with your ‘go with the flow’ attitude. 🙂

  • Reply Catherine North 2 May, 2014 at 4:24 am

    I love this post too! I think the MBTI is fascinating and a useful guide to understanding personality. I’m amazed how strongly I identify with the INFP type. I’m slowly learning to embrace it too. 🙂 I also love the advice you gave your friend.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 2 May, 2014 at 8:28 am

      Thanks Catherine 🙂

      I have many INFP friends (San Francisco seems to be a hotspot for them) and I cherish them all. Truly one of my very favorite personality types.

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 2 May, 2014 at 5:14 am

    What a great post, Lauren! It can very difficult for us, especially introverts I believe, to embrace ourselves as we are, especially in a culture that values extroversion over introversion. I know I’m very worn down by the end of my work day, having to “make nice” as I call it, be more interactive with people than I really want to be, keeping my mouth shut when I know my personal opinion would not be welcomed, being accommodating when I really want to bang my head against the wall. I can understand how very extroverted people might have difficulty too. When in groups, us “outliers” tend to stand out, either because we are so quiet or so talkative. But for our own sanity and creativity, we do need to try and embrace who we are. That you have a very outgoing friend who has shared his concerns about his own personality with you is just one example of how all types of personalities can enjoy and appreciate each other.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 2 May, 2014 at 8:27 am

      Thanks Marie! I definitely agree. It’s not just the introverts who struggle with embracing ourselves, but all of the “outliers”. I love that way of putting it!

  • Reply Justin Meckes 2 May, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Hey Lauren,

    I really love the superpower idea. I think people are naturally gifted at certain tasks. For me, I’d love to be able to play more music. Just sit at home strumming a guitar or tickling the ivories, but that’s not my superpower. I don’t worry about it. I focus on writing. Thanks for the post.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 2 May, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Thanks for reading Justin. Interesting that you mention music because I have more than a few writer friends who list music as their other love.

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 2 May, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    I agree that if you really keep on working at something you have every chance of becoming really good at it. I find myself a little more ambivalent about the advice to embrace your personality traits to the full. This is great if they are not self-damaging traits, such as over-impulsiveness or masochism, say. On the whole I feel that insight into our own traits gives us not just the ability to use our nature to its fullest (great advice) but also the opportunity to balance and, as you suggest, temper our behaviour in appropriate circumstances.

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