I’ve worked as a writing coach with INFJ and INFP writers for over seven years now, and I continue to see the same blocks over and over. Every time a writer comes to me with issues around feeling like they can’t get started, they can’t stick with one thing, they can’t follow through with something until the end, we peel back the layers and I always find the same myths about writing and creating—the exact same limiting beliefs—over and over again.
There’s a whole list of these damaging myths that run rampant through the mind of a struggling INFJ or INFP writer, but there is one I hear about more than any other. This myth is so insidious, and it undermines our creative efforts so effectively, because, on the surface, it sounds so reasonable. It seems so sensible and logical that it’s really, really hard for the INFJ or INFP writer to call bullshit on it. And as you read it here, you may even find yourself agreeing with it:
One of the most shame-inducing things about writing for INFJ and INFP writers is how they actually feel when they sit down to write. An INFJ or INFP writer might dream about writing when they’re not writing. They might feel resentful that work, family, kids, and the stresses of daily life all take away from the time they could be spending writing. They might even fantasize about going off to live in a little cabin in the woods, so they can spend all their time writing. But then, when they finally get that precious hour on a Sunday afternoon to sit down to write, they sit down and all they feel is…UGH.
This feeling of UGH manifests in many ways. For some writers, it’s a feeling of frozen numbness. They literally can’t get the words out. For other writers it feels like panic, even terror, and they have no idea why they’re having such an extreme reaction. And for others, the negative self-talk starts up in their brain, maybe only in whispers at first, but it’s sure to grow louder.
It’s shocking how many INFJ and INFP writers report the exact same problems with writing. Every time I take on a new client, I can predict with almost 100% accuracy what they’re going to tell me they’re struggling with, and how much pain they’re going through because of it. These are the top 3 statements I hear from INFJ and INFP writers:
I’m terrified to start writing.
I’m overwhelmed with ideas and unfinished projects.
I feel like an imposter, and like my writing will never be good enough.
The writers who make these statements are intelligent, self-aware people, and they know what the problem is: procrastination and perfectionism. They know that they have a habit of putting off starting the book they’ve been dreaming about for so long. They are fully aware that they have something of value to offer to the world. But this knowledge and awareness doesn’t get them anywhere. They still feel like an imposter, like they couldn’t possibly be a “real writer.” The fear keeps them frozen and undermines any forward momentum.
Perfectionism and procrastination are two of the most common blocks I see in intuitive writers, and of course this isn’t surprising as they’re really two sides of the same coin. The basic difference is that perfectionism happens during the creative project, while procrastination happens before the creative project. No matter when they happen in the process though, they are equally damaging and can set a writer back years, even decades, in their creative development.
There’s a ton of information out there on dealing with both perfectionism and procrastination, ranging from loving self-affirmations to bootcamp instructions to just do it already. But I’ve never seen anything that addresses why this is such a problem for intuitive people, and intuitive writers, specifically. Everything I’ve read on the topic talks about how both perfectionism and procrastination stem from a fear of failure, or a fear of success. And while I do agree with this in general, I think the issue runs much deeper for intuitive people.
Almost every INFJ or INFP writer I’ve ever worked with gets stuck at some point. Their story isn’t flowing the way they think it should, or, their story has “gone dark” and they can’t see the next piece so they have no idea what happens next. This is almost always when the INFJ or INFP writer in question freaks out and tries to push harder on the story—meaning, they try to think their way out of the problem. They try to figure it out mentally. But this never works, and it only makes things worse in the long run.
I actually did a coaching session with a client just this past week who is an INFP writer. When I mentioned that he’d been writing a lot lately and his output seemed to be strong and steady, it made him nervous. He almost didn’t even want to talk about it for fear of “jinxing” it, he said. He’d had periods like this before, and then his inspiration had ebbed and he’d panicked, thinking that his connection with the story was lost forever and he would be doomed to going years without writing again, which was something traumatic he had experienced in the past.