by Julie Glover
The last time I was here, I addressed introversion and extroversion and how they relate to whether we're more likely to plot our novel or write by the seat of our pants.
Given the great feedback on that post, I want to continue looking into how the personality traits identified by the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator (MBTI) may impact our writing process.
What's the MBTI?
Just a quick reminder that the MBTI is a thoroughly researched and often used measure that describes personality on the continua of four dichotomies.
The result of the MBTI is a 4-letter code with a description of that personality type. For instance, an INFP (like me) is Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceiving. If you want to know your own code, I highly recommended taking the MBTI itself, as it's the best gauge.
However, you can find a rough version to provide your 4-letter personality type at Human Metrics.
Can the MBTI predict writing process?
The short answer is I don't know. While there are theories and plenty of articles suggesting a link, firm research on this question wasn't readily available. (Despite clicking through many pages of Google results.)
However, having studied and administered the MBTI, the most promising connection could be on the last continuum — judging versus perceiving.
Our common definition of judging and perceiving is not what the test's authors mean. Rather, Judging-Perceiving here describes the structure you use when dealing with the outer world. Essentially, do you prefer to get thing decided and done? Or do you like to leave things open-ended?
The Myers-Briggs Foundation lists this characteristics as identifying Judgers and Perceivers:
- I like to have things decided.
- I appear to be task oriented.
- I like to make lists of things to do.
- I like to get my work done before playing.
- I plan work to avoid rushing just before a deadline.
- Sometimes I focus so much on the goal that I miss new information.
- I like to stay open to respond to whatever happens.
- I appear to be loose and casual. I like to keep plans to a minimum.
- I like to approach work as play or mix work and play.
- I work in bursts of energy.
- I am stimulated by an approaching deadline.
- Sometimes I stay open to new information so long I miss making decisions when they are needed.
Given those descriptions, one might easily surmise that Judgers would be more likely plotters and Perceivers would be more likely pantsers.
What do y'all think?
Again, through the wonder of social media, I posted a question on Facebook to find out if this theory had any support.
I didn't receive nearly as many responses this time, perhaps because I was late getting the question up. But I also suspect that, while many people know whether they're introverts or extraverts, fewer know their J-P designation. In total, I only had 18 responses to work with—hardly a statistical sample.
At this point, the information is anecdotal, but it's still interesting in that there was an imbalance. Judgers tended to be plotters, while Perceivers tended to be pantsers.
My Survey Results
Obviously, more data is needed! I'd love to hear from y'all in the comments.
Does personality play into writing process?
As I've been looking at theories on personality type and writing process, most of it is conjecture. Which is little surprise, since not only are the four dichomoties of the Myers-Brigg Type Indicator on continua, but the whole plotter versus pantser question lies on a continuum as well.
Moreover, what do those terms even mean? Two people who do the exact same thing — for example, outline plot points then free-write each chapter — might differ, with one saying plotter and the other saying pantser. Where you fall on the continuum is largely self-defined. And that's not even addressing other monikers like plontser, plantser, quilter, puzzler, and more.
Even so, I believe personality is a factor. Though maybe the better indication is the whole 4-letter personality type. Perhaps it's ESFPs who are fairly certain pantsers while INTJs are likely plotters, with a lot of good guessing in between.
Since I'm super-curious, I'm hoping to launch an informal study soon to see what connection, if any, there really is between personality type and writing process. If a strong correlation exists, that data could be particularly helpful to writing rookies or experienced-but-frustrated writers who would benefit from changing their approach.
Meanwhile, are you a Judger or a Perceiver? Are you more of a plotter or a pantser? Do you think those are connected?
A long time ago, Julie Glover administered the MBTI in her master's degree internship. While still a fan of personality type, she now writes cozy mysteries, supernatural suspense, and young adult fiction. Be sure to check out Muse Island series, which begins with Mark of the Gods.
While Julie is a perceiver/pantser, her co-writer is more judger/plotter. But they still work well together!