Every year around NaNoWriMo time, I see writers become more focused on their style of writing. Are they plotters? Or are they pantsers? The distinction between the two seems obvious. Plotters plot. And pantsers fly by the seat of their pants. In other words, they don’t plan anything. They make it up as they go along.
However, once we begin to look more deeply at what it means to be a pantser, the issue becomes a bit more complicated. Because the truth is, “making it up as you go along” doesn’t really explain what’s happening during the creative process for pantsers.
I work with a lot of writers who have a big problem. They have a million ideas for stories and lots of different characters running through their head at any given moment, and they start so many different projects with the wildest of hopes and a fiery burst of enthusiasm. But they never finish anything. These writers have a drawerful of unfinished stories (or a folder on their laptop) and every time they think about all the stories they’ve started—or thought about starting—and never finished, it instantly triggers a tidal wave of shame and self-loathing.
Almost all of these writers have assumptions and theories about why they are this way. They get bored too easily, they’re too “ADD” with projects, they can’t follow through, they’re spacey or flaky or scattered. And the very worst: they just aren’t cut out to be writers.
Every November I get tons of emails from INFJ and INFP writers asking if NaNoWriMo is a good fit for them. And the answer is always yes and no. No, because intuitive writers tend to write slowly. We need time to go into the deepest depths with our characters and our stories, and 30 days isn’t much time. There’s also the issue of feeling pressured, which doesn’t work well for many introverts, and aiming to write 50k words in one month is definitely a fair amount of pressure.
However, NaNoWriMo can also be beneficial to intuitive writers because it pushes us to actually get going, and we intuitive writers tend to spend a lot of time up in our heads, planning and thinking and dreaming, but not actually DOING. It’s the doing part that can be the most difficult for us. So, with something like NaNoWriMo, we’re kind of forced to jump into the cold water, get used to it, and start swimming.
The mythology about writers who love writing runs rampant in the online world. Many successful authors give interviews where they say they can’t live without writing, they have to write or they’ll go mad, and they live for those precious hours when they can sit down, in solitude and seclusion, and write themselves into the blissful creative zone for hours on end.
While I don’t doubt that these kinds of writers exist, there is also another reality for writers that is rarely acknowledged. Specifically, a lot of writers don’t enjoy writing. At all.
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: