Why INFJs Have Trouble Writing


According to various sources on the internet, INFJs love to practice creative writing more than anything else. Now, I know that information found online can go either way on the spectrum of accuracy, but I’m inclined to agree with this statement. I’m an INFJ myself, and I actually have a couple other INFJ writer friends, so I bring some personal experience to this. But that’s not the only reason I feel this way. I also own a blog. And as the author of that blog I can see the search terms people use when they stumble across my posts. Every single day I get some form of “INFJ” paired with “trouble writing” or “difficulty writing” or “have a hard time writing.”

There is definitely an INFJ population out there searching for answers as to why we have such a tough time getting our creative thoughts down on the page. And creative writing means so much to those INFJs that they’re searching doggedly for those answers.

I personally struggled for years before I was able to complete a story, and for much of that time I wasn’t writing anything at all. And—being the INFJ that I am—I’ve always been intensely interested in the reasons behind my writing roadblocks. Because I still struggle to write, even though it’s the one thing in the whole world that I’m most passionate about. But after reading a huge amount of information on introverts and INFJs, I’ve identified a few obstacles in my path. And even if you’re not an INFJ you might find yourself stopped cold in your creativity by some of these things as well.

We Sit on the Sidelines
Extroverts jump into new situations to get hands-on experience. In contrast, when introverts need to learn something new, they prefer to sit on the sidelines and watch others until their brains have analyzed the situation and gotten a handle on it. With the quiet intensity of a crouching panther, INFJs can take this watch-and-wait attitude to a whole new ridiculous level before they actually spring.

For example: I knew I wanted to be a writer in 1996. Instead of actually writing, I read books by the bushel, pumped every person I came into contact with for stories, got a degree in literature, worked in a bookstore, and then finally started writing my first novel in 2006—ten years later. I don’t regret any of those experiences I had along the way, but if I had started writing way back when I could have saved myself a lot of hand-wringing over whether or not my writing dream would ever come true.

We Think in Images
INFJs negotiate the world primarily through our intuition. We communicate this externally by saying we have a “feeling” or a “hunch” about someone’s character or the way a situation might unfold, but what happens on the inside is that we “see” things in sudden flashes of insight. These flashes manifest in images that follow one another rapidly through our brain, with each image containing data embedded in it. That’s why it’s sometimes so hard to explain our gut feelings to others.

For example: When I got to the end of writing my second novel, I kept seeing images in my mind of a giant bull, and then a harpy, and then a lace shawl. These images came on very strongly, and repeated themselves in a cycle. When I was younger, and had less experience with myself and with writing, I dismissed these “mind-pictures” as strange or irrelevant. But in this instance, I sat down and wrote, letting the images take me where they would. It turned out that my story ended with the villain transforming into a monstrous creature that was half Minotaur and half Harpy. And guess what this monster was wearing when the hero took it down? A blood-spattered lace shawl. Weird, yes. But definitely creative.

Go Deep or Go Home
It’s nearly impossible for INFJs to think about anything in a shallow way. This also applies to most introverts. If we’re interested in it, we’re analyzing it. And if we’re an INFJ, we are then following each separate thread of our analysis forward into the future, and backward into the past. We have a talent for forecasting. Computing dozens of different possible outcomes, and then juggling all of them simultaneously in the forefront of our brain, comes to us as naturally as breathing. Translating this to written form is tricky, to say the least.

For example: Writing a simple conversation between two of my characters can take up pages and pages in my first sloppy draft. In my mind, each handful of words they exchange contains a deep well of back story, unspoken feeling, and subconscious psychological motive. I can get easily caught up in trying to convey all of it to the reader, and then lose the thread of the actual plot of my story. But that’s what sloppy first drafts are for, to get everything down in one place first so we can come back later and do revisions to polish it up.

If you’re an INFJ, an introvert, or just a writer who struggles to make real headway in your writing, the answer lies in the simple practice right in front of you. You have to write. Even if you cringe while you’re doing it, or you’re disappointed because it’s not matching up to what’s inside your head, or you can’t find the perfect words, you have to press on. The more you write, the better you’ll get to know yourself and your writing practice. Your trust in the process and your own creativity will grow.

If you don’t know what personality type you are, but you’re interested to find out you can take the online test here. For those who are INFJ or INFP, you can read about why INFJs and INFPs have such hard time with criticism on their writing here.

And regardless of whether you’re an INFJ, if you’re reading this, the time has come for you to step fully into yourself, and claim confidence in your writing. The only way to do this is to get to know yourself through your practice of writing.

And to do that, you have to write.

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

The INFJ Writer

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  • Reply AR Neal 29 July, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Great post! As an INFJ/INTJ, I concur wholeheartedly! What I find most interesting about trying to get it all out in a first draft is when I get feedback that suggests I’ve put in too much, followed immediately by feedback that suggests it’s just right. I wonder if the second comment is from a fellow introvert 😉

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 29 July, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Thank you so much! And I’ve had the same experience. Some of my readers say “Whoa too much!” But others seems to find it just right.

  • Reply K.M. Alexander 29 July, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Nice post as always. I’m not an INFJ myself, but this was great. I forwarded it onto another friend who is very much in the INFJ camp and struggling with writing their first manuscript.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 29 July, 2013 at 1:06 pm

      Oh I know you’re an extrovert 😉 You’re the one who is always inspiring me to come out of my shell. This blog wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for you!

  • Reply J. Lea Lopez 29 July, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Holy crap, this article is SO spot on! I’m an INFJ and you really nailed it with the series of images thing and the analyzing things both into the past and the future. My mind makes these quick connections that are hard to break down and explain sometimes, which makes it awkward when a situation, a phrase, or an image on TV sends my brain into a split-second journey that ends in me laughing out loud at what seems (to others) like nothing. My husband must think I’m crazy sometimes. 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 July, 2013 at 8:28 am

      The exact same thing happens to me! And yes, people do think I’m crazy sometimes when I laugh out loud at what (to them) seems like nothing. I gave up trying to explain the sequence of my thoughts long ago…

  • Reply Lynn 30 July, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Love your new space here, and as always, your inspiring, thought provoking posts. While reading this, I’d definitely say I was an INFJ, but my test shows me to be ISFJ. Maybe I have some of both qualities.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 July, 2013 at 8:26 pm

      I have a beautiful artist friend who is an ISFJ. You guys are SO creative and have such an eye for beauty. And thank you for the kind words on my new space!

  • Reply Landis 31 July, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Great article. I think you nailed it on the head. We often try to put everything down on the page, that is, we are uncomfortable presenting anything but everything.


  • Reply Micah 31 July, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Man, I smiled and sniggered to myself more than once reading this. I’m an INFJ myself, its so funny and also heartening whenever I stumble across stuff like this. Gives me permission to feel less weird.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 31 July, 2013 at 4:04 pm

      I think I wrote it so that I would feel less weird! That must be an INFJ thing, we always feel like the weirdest person in the room.

  • Reply Kate 31 July, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    🙂 Excellent, thank you. We are a timid lot when it comes to pressing down on the pencil or keys and being brave rather than keeping it inside.

  • Reply sandy 30 August, 2017 at 8:45 am

    I am an INFJ writer. I’ve always written for myself though I’ve been published.
    “Trying” to write is the only thing that slowed me down.
    Because it’s based in the doubt that it won’t be good enough.
    I don’t do this any more. I just let it flow itself onto the page, as if I’m a stenographer and I’m merely capturing the words. My writing improved as soon as I began doing this decades ago. Forcing it won’t work. (Being too evaluative stifles art). What I’ve learned is that my best writing needs little to no editing. AND… if you’re not having fun, the reader likely won’t either. So the INFJ’s penchant for perfectionism… plus our perception that there’s always more to learn, can greatly inhibit compelling writing. And… our need to not have to defend our values etc can inhibit our publishing. Trust that, by being an INFJ, you already ARE qualified to write, and act “as-if”you are, initially, to prime the creative pump.

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