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.
This fear of inspiration dying is very real for INFJ and INFP writers, and it hits us so hard because so many of us have gone through periods in our past when we weren’t writing for long stretches of time and we felt like failures because of it. I’ve also noticed that much of the time an INFJ or INFP writer equates being a successful writer with writing a lot—whether that adds up in word count or in some sort of daily writing schedule. If we’re writing every day, or we’re producing a lot of words every week, some part of our constant anxiety about our creative output is soothed, at least for a little while.
However, I’ve worked with enough INFJ and INFP writers—who I refer to as intuitive writers—over enough years now that I can tell you that the amount of days you spend writing every week, and/or the amount of words you produce, doesn’t really tell you anything about what kind of progress you’re making with your work, especially if you’re writing fiction. For INFJ and INFP writers, it’s about connection, not productivity. It’s about the deep and intimate bond you have with your characters, the relationship you have with your story. It’s not at all about if you produce a certain number of words in a certain amount of time.
With my INFP client I explained it like this: Intuitive writers have a very special temperament, a sort of built-in set of psychic skills, that allows us to open portals to other worlds. I say this literally, I’m not using metaphor here. I actually do believe that intuitive writers are basically working with magic when we sit down to write. There is something inside of us that enables us to function as a conduit between this reality, and other, sometimes very different, realities. We are able to go there and bring things from those other worlds back here. And we do this using emotion and intuition. It is NOT a mental process.
On top of this, each intuitive writer has his or her own unique creative cycle, and this cycle ebbs and flows in a constant rhythm that has its own seasons. We cannot control it. We cannot push it harder or make it go faster. We cannot fit it into a box that says we must write every day or we must use outlines or write in linear order or use any other external checklist that was created by someone else. Opening a portal to a different reality, and being present and aware enough to keep the portal open, is a delicate process that requires flexibility, patience, and trust.
When my INFP client started to worry that maybe his output on his current creative project might die down, I asked him if he could feel the portal—if it was still open to that other world—and if he could feel the emotional bond with his characters. He didn’t even have to think about it. Of course, he said. Yes, he could always feel it. Even when he wasn’t writing, it was there. He only had to be still and quiet and “put out his feelers,” as he called it, and he knew the connection with his characters and their world was strong and intact.
For an INFJ or INFP writer, THAT is the true writing work, keeping the emotional connection strong with your characters, keeping the portal to their world open. Maybe you won’t all the time be fully immersed in that world like you are when you’re actually writing, but even when you’re not writing, you can take a peek through the portal and glimpse the goings-on there. You can feel your heart swell with curiosity and joy that you have such a connection. You miss your characters and it feels just as sweet and sad as it does when you miss a real person in your real life who means so very much to you.
So, if you are an intuitive writer, and you’re worried that you’re not writing enough, or you’re not writing as fast as everyone else, or you haven’t written in a while, take a moment to pause and FEEL the portal you have open into whatever other world it is that you’re exploring. Feel the magic of that connection and the gift you’ve been given of being one of the few people on the planet who can actually do this kind of work.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer, The INFJ Revolution, and the creator of Intuitive Writing, a six-step online video course for INFJ and INFP writers who struggle with writing. She is also currently offering a free copy of her book on creative marketing for INFJ and INFP writers to anyone who signs up for her newsletter. SIGN UP HERE to get your free copy of Firefly Magic: Heart Powered Marketing for Highly Sensitive Writers.