If you know anything about the INFP personality type, you know that INFPs are one of the most creative types out there. I have many INFP clients and, in my experience, they really are super creative. INFPs have these magical brains that come up with all sorts of cool stuff. As creative writers, they tend to pair striking imagery and poetic phrasing with deeply perceptive insights about human nature.
However, even though the INFP personality type has this incredible talent for creativity, they are also one of the types that suffer the most from self-doubt, and who also struggle the most with shame around the creative process itself. Almost every INFP I’ve ever worked with has expressed to me, at one time or another, that they believe they’re “doing it wrong.” They almost always feel like they’re not organized enough, they jump around too much, or they can’t stick with one thing all the way through. And almost every INFP feels that all of these things are flaws they need to work on so that they can become better writers.
This simply isn’t true. What’s really going on is that INFP writers are highly intuitive, and so they tend to work in a circular pattern. This is because the flow of their thoughts is web-based, NOT linear. This means that when they generate ideas and then work with those ideas in their mind, they put them all together in a big web, like a spider’s web, where every point is connected to every other point in a grand design.
This makes perfect sense to an INFP writer inside their own mind, but it’s really, really hard to explain to other people. So, most INFPs have only experienced constant frustration when they try to communicate with others about their working style and creative process. Added to that is the fact that we live in a society where our schools, our workplaces, our government, and most of our social events, are all arranged according to a linear pattern—in other words, a straight line. INFPS don’t do well with straight lines. So, not only do they not fit into the existing paradigm, but they also can’t communicate what does actually work for them.
This is where creative shame comes into the picture.
Because INFP writers experience this situation over and over again—where they don’t fit in and at the same time it’s impossible to express how they work to others—they end up internalizing a deep sense of shame about how different they are. I’ve worked with many INFPs who have told me that they got through school or various jobs by pretending to do things the “normal way,” but then actually did things in their offbeat INFP way behind-the-scenes and never let anyone be the wiser.
When you have to pretend to be something you aren’t, sometimes for years and years, it wears on your soul. It makes you feel like you’re less than, nearly all the time. It also causes you to second guess what comes naturally to you. So, when an INFP writer finally begins writing their novel, instead of experimenting in ways that feel right to them (and INFPs love to experiment) they are more likely to read a bunch of different writing guides and try to adhere to a linear way of doing things that will never work for them. And when they run into a big fat brick wall with this, they won’t see it as feedback that the method is not a match for them. Instead, that old shame of “I’m weird and too different and not good enough” will be triggered and they’ll assume that something is wrong with them as a writer.
The best way that INFPs can get past this is to learn more about their intuitive nature and embrace it. INFPs are incredibly inspired by beauty, and also by pathos, and these two elements can be used for creative activation any time an INFP writer is in need of it. Instead of learning more about the writing rules and reading more writing guides, an INFP writer would do better to seek out art, music, and nature.
INFP writers also highly benefit from giving themselves permission to freely express themselves on the page. Authenticity is a deeply held, non-negotiable, personal value for the INFP personality type and they need to satisfy this need for being authentic as much as possible. It can be extremely helpful for INFP writers to write like no one is watching. That is, create a protected space for their writing—like a private journal or even a locked drawer—where they can be sure that no one will see their writing before they’re ready to share it.
Above all, the most healing balm for the INFP writer’s soul is to practice self-acceptance. This will lead them to finding others who accept them for who they really are, who truly appreciate the wild and magical mind of the INFP, and who wouldn’t have it any other way.
INFP writers, you are amazing. Keep being yourself and the rest of the pieces will all fall into place.
Lauren Sapala is the author of The INFJ Writer, The INFJ Revolution, and the creator of Intuitive Writing, an online video course for INFJ and INFP writers who struggle with traditional writing methods. You can get a free copy of her book on creative marketing for writers by signing up for her newsletter HERE.