All writers have problems with writing at one time or another, but writers who are also of the INFJ personality type tend to have a very specific set of problems when it comes to writing. INFJ writers don’t always link these problems to their personality type, but each one of them is rooted in their temperament as intuitive, emotionally-centered introverts. Once the connection is made, that’s when the INFJ writer can begin to overcome them.
Here are the 3 biggest writing problems an INFJ writer struggles with:
INFJ writers are emotionally-centered people, which means that we primarily feel our way through situations and relationships. However, with introverted thinking as our tertiary function, most of us also have a strong intellectual bent. We like to be mentally stimulated and challenged, and we are good problem-solvers. But when we get stressed and feel uncertain, that’s when our thinking skills can do us more harm than good.
A stressed-out INFJ will think things to death, and then think about them some more. We get caught in a mental anxiety loop where we go over the same handful of possible outcomes in our mind again and again and again. When we apply this to trying to figure out the plot of our novel, or all the exact details of how we should market ourselves as authors, we end up driving ourselves crazy and getting nowhere.
Solution: When stressed and overwhelmed, pull yourself out of the interior thinking loop by participating in the external, physical world. Do some yoga, go for a hike, or talk to a good friend who knows how to listen (like an ENFJ). When we INFJ writers get lost inside our own heads, the best antidote is to consciously push ourselves to leave the thinking behind and be in the moment with the real world.
Feeling Too Exposed
INFJs are this weird mix of open, accepting, embracing people who want to know all about humanity and every tiny facet of everyone else’s psychological terrain, while at the same time being intensely private, somewhat evasive, and feeling extremely ambivalent about intimacy in all forms. This means that we usually have no problem listening to someone else’s dark secrets with absolutely no judgment, but expressing our own emotions can send us into a spiral of overwhelm, quickly followed by a vulnerability hangover.
One of my clients told me that whenever she is particularly vulnerable with someone else, she usually then has a day where she just wants to hide under the covers in bed and never come out again. I smiled when she told me this because I know exactly what she’s talking about. One time I told a co-worker about my favorite childhood movie and then I couldn’t look him in the eye for weeks afterward. It was the most innocent of confessions, but I still felt totally weird. As an INFJ, I’m used to being the constant listener, not divulging personal things about myself.
This is a particularly tricky issue for INFJ writers because so many of us are drawn to writing memoir. So, we have this strong need to bare our soul on paper and be completely transparent about the most vulnerable parts of our pasts, while at the same time the thought of anyone actually reading our book out in the world sends us into a full-scale freak-out.
Solution: Baby steps. The fear of being vulnerable with others never truly fades away for most INFJ writers, so the way forward is to take things slowly. The practice of sharing little bits of yourself through a blog can be very helpful, as can joining a supportive creative community where you feel genuinely safe and accepted for who you are.
Most INFJ writers are voracious readers. We read widely and constantly and we’ve usually been reading from a young age. So we know quality when we see it. Added to this is the fact that INFJ writers usually are not writing solely to entertain others or make an income from it. Our calling to write is a deep soul calling, and most of us are heavily invested in using our writing as a vehicle to help others, contribute to a more compassionate climate for humanity, or bring beauty and enlightenment to a world struggling with fear and ugliness in so many different forms. This is a tall order, but if you talk to any INFJ writer in depth about their writing, you will almost always find this kind of motive at the bottom of their efforts.
Because we have such lofty goals for our writing, and because we read so much, we inevitably fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to J.K. Rowling, Cheryl Strayed, or Stephen King in any given week. INFJ writers are exacting perfectionists, and most of us believe that if we can’t be an artistic master when it comes to writing, then there might not be any point in doing it at all. This results in us feeling discouraged and disheartened that we’ll ever get to where we want to be as writers.
Solution: Every INFJ writer would do well to remember that we tend to be intense, single-minded people, and because of this intensity and (at times) tunnel vision, we can easily get sucked into all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking. The key for any INFJ writer who is struggling with comparison syndrome is to take a deep breath and take a step back. Moderation is always more powerful than a distorted extreme view of something. Remember that you are only human, you’re doing the best you can, and as long as you’re listening to the voice of your soul guiding you forward day by day, then you’re doing all you can do. Plus, even Stephen King has bad days and probably compares himself to other great writers and feels down about it. It happens to all of us.
If you’re an INFJ writer who falls prey to any of the problems listed above, please know that you’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with you as a writer. You’re just an INFJ writer, and in that case, all of this is actually pretty normal.
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.