Bucks County Writers Workshop

Bucks County Writers Workshop


Traits and Temperaments of Writers

by Jeanette de Richemond

Years ago when I was trying to decide whether to go to graduate school, I took a test (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®) in hopes the results would help me decide what to do. Recently, I took a similar test on-line (www.Keirsey.com). To put it simply, both tests are "temperament" tests. Supposedly, they assess personality traits. Understanding the characteristics of a so-called personality type may provide insight into how these qualities influence one's way of working, communicating, and interacting with others.

My test results of twenty years ago are identical to my test results today. My type is NFP. So what does all this tell me?

NFP is an acronym for Intuitive, Feeling, and Perceptive.* Since artists, inventors, entrepreneurs, and writers are creative, they share these three characteristics, according to experts. (It would be very interesting to examine the lives of well-known writers and see if they fit this profile. Ambrose Bierce, anyone?) According to the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator®, people with these traits:

N - Intuitive
Trust inspiration and inference
Like new ideas and concepts for their own sake
Value imagination and innovation like to learn new skills.
You get bored easily after mastering new skills tend to be general and figurative. You use metaphors and analogies.
Present information through leaps, in a roundabout manner

F- Feeling
Step forward and consider effect of action on others value empathy and harmony and see the exception to the rule.
Naturally like to please others and show appreciation easily
May be seen as overemotional, illogical, and weak
Consider it important to be tactful as well as truthful.
Believe any feeling is valid, whether it makes sense or not
Are motivated by a desire to be appreciated

P- Perceiving
Are happiest leaving their options open
Have a play ethic, that is you enjoy now and finish the job later
Change goals as new information becomes available like adapting to new situations
Are process oriented, with emphasis on how the task is completed
Derive satisfaction from starting projects
See time as a renewable resource and see deadlines as elastic

There's no doubt that creative people tend to have personality traits that set them apart. To be blunt, others may find them "strange" or "weird." If you feel that you don't fit in with the every day world and are different, the bad news is that you're probably right. Do you feel out of place in the staff lunchroom; perhaps you are creative. Do you ponder over a Human Resources questionnaire on quality of life issues; possibly you are creative. Do you feel trapped in an advertising agency; maybe you're creative, too. Do you spend hours trying to put one recalcitrant word down after another to try to create a sentence that sings - especially when you could be drinking lemon water ice flavored with vodka on a friend's deck, playing Twisted Metal Black with your kids, or just taking a nap. You're probably a writer. The good news is that your creativity, and likely your success. lies in what makes you different.

Keeping in mind that we're painting the portrait of the writer in broad brush strokes, it's been said that creative people don't mind the messiness of their work, don't mind not finishing, and don't mind making mistakes. (I confess to all of this. Mind you, this doesn't make me popular at home when I wander off in the middle of stacking the dishwasher.) Creative people, including writers, tend to have the ability to sustain a high level of "ambiguity" which means they don't mind feeling lost at times. They tolerate risks. Consider what you do every other Tuesday night. You put your soul on paper on paper for public scrutiny. I can't think of anything more risky than that.

Remember, these are traits that writers have in common. Just because you don't think you exactly fit the NFP profile doesn't mean you're not a writer. You're just different from some other writers. That may be even better for your creative work. Or your (pardon me) eccentricities may just define the arena for your work.

For example, I forget to tell you that I just found out this morning that I am a peculiar, I meant to say particular, brand of NFP according to the Kiersey profile. My profile says that people like me "seek unity in their lives, unity of body and mind, emotions and intellect, perhaps because they are likely to have a SENSE OF INNER DIVISION threaded through their lives, which comes from their often unhappy childhood." Now anyone who has suffered though my memoir along with me knows that I'm writing about the struggle and achievement of overcoming childhood trauma.

Take a close look at yourself and at your writing habits. Your traits (and you probably already know what they are without taking any tests) determine or inform aspects of your writing habits and process. The combinations are infinite: A perfectionist may have trouble finishing drafts because they aren't "just right." A planner may find it hard to finish projects, and may keep beginning novels without ending them. A disorganized writer may have difficulties putting episodes in a story in sequence. A writer who sees time as elastic may not remember to e-mail finished stories for publication on this web site. Thinking about your relationship with writing can help you understand how you feel about it and how you do it. Then you can play to your strengths.

What did I learn about myself in all this? I discovered that I used the results of the tests that I took twenty years ago to support the decision that I had made in fourth grade. I was going to be a "Writer." In fact, I also interpreted the results of my Graduate Record Exam to mean that I should be a writer. (By the way, I didn't go to graduate school. I figured that you learn to write by writing.)

And today? When I saw NTP as my test results once again, my future was clear. Obviously, I'm stuck with my fourth grade choice. It's time to turn on the computer and start writing.

*You can find out about your traits by taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. You can also take a similar "temperament" test on-line for free at www.Keirsey.com.

HOW TO SPOT AN AMATEUR WRITER AND STOP ACTING LIKE ONE ... Here are some personality traits amateur writers should avoid... Who'd want to be a writer in the first place? ... www.ibizwriters.com/advice22JUN01.htm


The Myers-BriggsTM test is "the most widely used personality inventory in history" with approximately 2,000,000 people a year taking it, according to the test publisher. Many schools use the MBTI® in career counseling.

To be sure, tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) may seem to be little more than sophisticated games. It's been said that that the MBTI® is not valid because it's not scientifically sound. In other words, it's not based on controlled studies in which a test group is compared with a control group. There are, however, "hierarchies of evidence" with rigorous studies at the top as the most trust-worthy and studies based on observation as less scientific. To keep it short and sweet, the (MBTI®) is based on observation studies.

Bucks County Writers Workshop