Friday, April 23, 2021

Myers-Briggs versus Stories

The Myers-Briggs Personality Types get used a lot in the corporate world in the US. If you ever worked for a large corporate enterprise, chances are good you've taken a version of this test. It's where I ran into it the first time many long years ago. It's interesting, but I find it lacking. I prefer the Gallup Clifton Strengths personality information.

It's strictly because the Myers-Briggs is so malleable. Depending on your mood, you can totally change your four letter descriptor. I'm INFP. The dreamy one. Until, as KAK said, I'm not. Turns out, the middle two letters are pretty interchangeable for me. Digging into further, more detailed testing, I straddle the line between INTP, ISTP, or ISFP. I test out 50% between N and S, between T and F. Finding that out explained a lot about me to me. Hooray, right? What does it mean in regard to writing? 

It means that I have a lot more personality quirks to feed before I can toddle off and produce work. I can't just be the dreamy Introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving personality and emotional type I default to.  I have to keep an eye out for that Sensing and Thinking part of my spectrum, too, especially thinking. If you get into the Clifton Strengths testing, you'll find your personality broken into 34 specific traits that are stack ranked. Your top 5 are your home base. Your top 10  are the neighborhood where you're comfortable walking after dark. Part of my top 5 are learner and input  - both big thinking traits. The point to this is to learn how to play to your strengths while writing. While you're working on books and producing content.

The profit of personality tests in corporate America was to help us deal with our coworkers who might operate from a different set of personality letters than we do. Theory held that once we understood that, we'd have better interaction and rapport. As if a personality test could change the fact that Al from marketing is a jerk. 

In writing, I suspect the personality types give each of us particular strengths. Because I'm INFP, I want my characters to speak to me. I want scenes to just come to me (and they usually do). I don't want to have to work too hard at writing which sounds utterly inane, but my particular strength is synthesizing at the threshold of consciousness and trusting that whatever is brewing back there will rise from the deep haunted water of my psyche. Some people have to consciously work through a story and there are times I do as well, but mostly, stories come to my head fully formed. (Except this past year where pretty much nothing has entered my head because health anxiety especially for my father.)

The biggest personality trait that affects my writing is the fact that I'm an all or nothing person. That means I'm all in or I'm all the way out. There' not in between. If I'm going to write a book, there's the door. Hush up. Don't say goodbye, just go. The sooner the better. Then I'll spend the next 72 hours doing nothing by writing and drowning in story. And making tea. INFP means I need to understand a scene emotionally. Until I do, I cannot write it.

Normally, I don't even think about personality types. I don't type my character personalities. I think more in terms of strengths and wounds and build my story arcs around that. 

I'm interested in knowing if you know which combo of letters you are and where you did your first test.


  1. I need to take it again, but it is sooo long

    1. It's been awhile for me, too. Honestly, with the influence of the pandemic, I'm half afraid to retake it.