The INFP writers I work with report one big problem to me: they can’t stick with one creative project. INFP writers will frequently get a really great idea, start the story, and then a week or two later they find that they’ve lost interest. Then they try to double down on their efforts to stick with it and force themselves through it. But it doesn’t work. They not only end up feeling like they killed off what little interest in the story they still had, but they also feel guilty and ashamed because they “failed” again.
They couldn’t stick with a project to the very end.
However, what most INFP writers don’t know is that it’s not a lack of willpower that’s the problem. The real problem is resulting from the fact that they’re trying to get themselves to work in a way that isn’t natural or right for them. They’re trying to force themselves to follow the mainstream methods for learning and creating that they’ve always been taught to follow. But what no one ever told them is that those mainstream methods absolutely do not work for INFP personality types.
In mainstream society, we are all taught to work in a linear manner, and that means that we basically work in a straight line. Whether we’re studying to pass a test in class, we’re preparing a big presentation for work, or we’re trying to write a novel, the mainstream linear method is the same. You begin at the beginning and follow the steps in order, from A to B to C and so on, until you come to the end and wrap everything up. Also, you stick with one thing, and one thing only, until you’ve finished that one thing. Then, you are allowed to move on to the next thing.
This method works very well for most of the population, because most of the population are achievement-oriented, mentally-centered, extroverts who navigate the world primarily through their five senses. This is not the INFP personality type. In fact, INFPs are wired in a way that is the exact opposite of all these things. INFPs are relationship-oriented, emotionally-centered, introverts who navigate the world through their intuition. So, working in a straight line isn’t just unbearably boring to them, they simply can’t do it. It’s not the way they are built as human beings.
The creative process of an INFP personality type feels best to the INFP in question when it includes a few different projects that are constantly revolving. I find that my INFP clients tend to do best with 3 to 5 creative projects going at any given time. When they lose interest in one, they switch focus to another, and then to another, working in a circle, or a spiral pattern, and listening to their intuition to hear which project is pulling them in to work on it in the moment.
The truth is that INFPs do not have a problem with focus, they just focus in a different way from the mainstream. From a young age this different way of focusing is not understood, acknowledged, or honored, and so they’re taught that the way they are is wrong and they need to change it. It’s a lot like when left-handed people were forced to be right-handed back in the day. They could do it, but it never felt right or natural to them, and they also never felt like they could speak up for themselves and say how wrong it felt, because they were made to feel so ashamed about it.
Once an INFP writer understands that the way they focus on creative projects is just different and not wrong, the shame and the guilt that’s weighing down their creativity falls away and they feel freer and lighter than ever before. They finally have permission to flit between different creative projects like the butterflies they are, and in a way that finally feels good to them. This is when true inspiration opens up and the INFP discovers that they can see projects through to the end and they can finish things. They just need to give themselves more time and space and patience to work through their writing in the way it needs to unfold naturally, without force or pressure from the outside.
Another thing that can really help INFP writers thrive is connecting and getting to know other INFP writers. Most INFP writers don’t know many other INFP writers, if any at all. So, meeting other INFP writers and seeing the similarities between work style and creative style can be a revelation. Once you realize you’re not the only one who has this kind of writing temperament, you don’t feel so alone and you don’t feel like an alien anymore.
If you’re an INFP reading this article, please know that you’re not a bad writer and you’re not broken, you’re not flawed in any way. You are wired in just the way you should be and you have incredible gifts as a writer. The way you do your writing work just doesn’t look the same as the way that most other people do it. And that’s okay.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer and The INFJ Revolution. 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.