Guest post by annesophie, INFJ
As a budding novelist, I spend a lot of time thinking about my characters’ minds and how they work. It seems fitting that I also take the time to look at my own mind and ask myself, with regard to the cognitive functions, how it goes about creating stories. This is my take on how being an INFJ influences my writing.
Being an INFJ, I find that my preferred method of communication (for my sake and for everyone else’s) is of the written sort. Give me a pencil, paper, and some time and I can organize my thoughts in an eloquent fashion, and even perhaps at a rapid pace. Ask me to speak in front of more than two people and…well, results may vary.
Mix this with a preference for fictional friends over most real ones and you get a socially uncomfortable over-thinker with a penchant for creating fiction.
I am by no means a brilliant author. Not yet, anyway.
A Specification: I am by no means a brilliant novelist. I’m working on it. I write short stories as well, but novel writing…that’s where my heart really is.
Here’s how my cognitive function stack as an INFJ looks in the novel-writing process.
There is hardly an aspect of writing that I enjoy more than creating characters.Because Ni is my dominant function, I find myself interested largely in symbolism (blame Oscar Wilde for my fascination with morally questionable characters) and long term character development. Sometimes, this turns me into an obsessive, nit-picky writer so intent on genuine character growth that by the time I reach the end of the story, I realize my characters are nowhere near to having changed. Thankfully though, that isn’t usually the case. I normally have an idea of where I want a given character to end up and what themes I’d like him to portray, though it’s all fairly flexible. Having too rigid a plan rarely works in my favor; for me, too many preplanned details make for a tethered, far from lively character. I rely on my Fe to bring humanitarian appeal, developing them to be relatable (or at least understandable) to each other and the reader; I take notice of and empathize with others through reading of facial expression, and this tends to come across in my writing. My Ti, when it decides to show up (coffee helps), is useful in checking for character consistency. In the event that my Se decides to surprise me with spontaneous character behavior, trusty Ni usually manages to subconsciously take said behavior and successfully channel it into the long term plan.
When it comes to creating plot lines, my Ni definitely likes to take the helm. Themes. All of the themes. All of them. There is an underlying philosophy discussion for every novel I have written or planned, whether I want there to be one or not. At one point, I made plans for a children’s story involving a cat, and suddenly existentialism and morality (Paradox? It depends, I guess. You decide.) were involved. Perhaps children’s fiction is not in my future. Fe again likes to provide the humanitarian appeal. Fairly strong stuff tends to crop up in my plots —mental breakdowns, casual mentions of murder, and oops, suddenly my characters are in Hell and Dante is patting me on the back (please?). I guess you could say I want an emotional reaction. My Ti is ever the continuity checker, responsible for putting all the elements of my story together, for looking at the entire thing and making sure that each piece of the puzzle is indeed a piece of that particular puzzle and not something like a Scrabble letter. Similarly to how it works in the realm of character building, my Se is the function that likes to shake things up and momentarily pry the story’s trajectory out of my Ni’s death grip. Ni eventually finds its footing and we go along on our merry way once more.
As a writer in general, there are plenty of places my cognitive functions come into play. To briefly list a few:
Ni has a pretty clear idea of where I’ve got to be as a writer in the next ten years, and it also has a linear plan for getting me there. Of course, with this comes the potential to be inflexible, but I’d like to think my Ni usually manifests itself as grit and perseverance instead.
Fe is aware of my audience. I keep talking about humanitarian appeal; included is the concern for not wanting to offend anyone with any of my themes or characters. This is where a little bit of Ti comes in handy.
Ti (and Ni as well) understands that, although I certainly do not want to be offensive, when I’ve got a theme I believe is important, stepping on a few toes to get it across is not a bad thing. Of course, my Ti also likes to make writing first drafts difficult by being concerned about making the wording perfect the first time around.
Se makes it difficult to work with any distractions. Coffee shops are a no-go for me. The most sensory distraction I can handle is some quiet background jazz (I can’t even listen to classical! I play violin and am familiar with a vast amount of classical music, so I get diverted trying to listen to it too intently). I suppose this could be considered a downside, but I don’t mind. It just means I have to make an effort to find someplace quiet every day.
There you have it! There are upsides and downsides to being a writer (the most concerning of the downsides possibly being that I may end up living the life of a poor, starving artist — cardboard box included) and a whole lot of nuance to the craft, and this is how it shakes out for this INFJ.