Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Makes a Writer?

I normally try not to borrow content too much, but yesterday, Moonrat did a Myers-Briggs Survey with her readership and I was STUNNED with the results. Let me e’splain…

Affinity for Fellow Writers

It isn’t hard to notice the kinship writers feel with each other. Some even feel compelled to start a band together *cough* We are alike in fundamental ways. We approach the world similarly. We enjoy similar activities. But this has never seemed to me a concrete thing before. I’ve always fancied us a group that is eclectic and hard to pin down. We simply have maybe… a common approach or something…

My Psych Background

I LOVE psychology or I wouldn’t have studied it through two degrees, but I have always held out a little skepticism for any systems of classification. I prefer to look at social influences—predictions of behaviors or outlooks that are situational or perceptual—NOT personality. I am definitely a nurture gal… nature deals us a set of inclinations and abilities, but in my opinion what we do with that package has a broad spectrum of possibilities.

That said, the Myers-Briggs, because it is multi-dimensional, because it can wiggle a little in response to all that nurture stuff, is more appealing than most.

The first time I took the test (in grad school), I got INTJ. My Professor had said that was what he had, so when I said, “me too,” he told me how rare it was. At that time, my I-E ratio (introversion, extroversion) was 55/45—pretty middling, but introverted. The others were all well into their range.

Oddly, though I didn’t take the test again for many years, the next time I took it, it wasn’t the I that had changed, but the T. I’d gone from being a Thinker, to a Feeler… I attribute that to having children. There are several things that changed in my life between those times, but that, and the difficulties worked through with my spouse are the only things that would predict a shift from thinking to feeling (possibly not being a student anymore, but I WAS an academic)… everything else would work the other direction.

So What’s All this Crap Mean?

I-E—Introversion Extroversion: seems pretty self explanatory, but… it says it is actually a means of cognitive functioning… whether a person sort of deals in terms of behavior, action, people and things (extroversion) or reflection and ideas (introversion). It’s a little different twist on how we normally think of these ideas (others oriented, versus solitary)

S-iN—Sensing versus Intuition: these are about information gathering and what we trust. Sensing people like their ‘evidence’ to be present, tangible and concrete. Intuitive trust information that is more theoretical or abstract. (this is the pair that is about PERCEIVING)

T-F—Thinking and Feeling are about decision making. Thinking is more detached and objective, feeling is more through empathy. (This is the pair that is about JUDGING)

P-J—Perceiving and Judging is a distinction for which TYPE of information is dominant in how a person processes—so which of the above pair takes dominance in a person’s personality.

Here is a description of what the 16 combos mean:

Common Personalities

In the general population the sensing feelers have it… the whole column that has SF has 8% or more, with the SFJ’s being the most common types on the board, whether introverted or extroverted. The STJs are right up there, too. Among those 6 personality types you get 64% of the population.

On the other tail are the NTs, not adding to 10% for 4 types. Intuitive thinkers are apparently rare, but also rare are the NFJs.


And this is why I have bothered with all of this… it would have amused me anyway, but what actually happened, was I was stunned, shocked, knocked off my chair in disbelief…

The least common and third least common personalities among the population made up 49% of the people who took Moonrat’s quiz (people, because Moonrat is an editor, who are predominantly WRITERS). Among WRITERS these are the most common personalities, and not just by a little bit.

So writers are introverted… no real surprises there—dealing with reflection and ideas rather than the external world? Sounds about right… Intuitive rather than sensory? Again… this is not surprising that we like the theoretical and abstract better than the concrete… that we are willing to believe without evidence…

We are equally split among thinkers and feelers and I would bet good money there is both a gender split and a genre split here (higher percentage of men thinking, women feeling)—but also I bet the thinkers are our ‘plot wonks’—thrillers, mysteries, where our feelers are the romance and the character driven stuff.

This final summary amused me greatly. Seems maybe, with my world domination plans, I am an INTJ after all…


Nikki said...

I love Myers Briggs! I'm an INFP. Doesn't surprise me to see a higher proportion of Is writing, and I totally agree that I would expect to see Ts writing thrillers and Fs writing character driven stuff.
You will generally tend to find more Is on the internet reading blogs and doing quizzes in general as the Es are off out there talking to real people! :o)

Kassy with a K said...

Of course I loved this one, Tami. I'm an ISFJ and I knew we were common, but I didn't realize we were the MOST common. My roomie, an English major, is an INTJ. Psychology is so fascinating.

Jan Morrison said...

Your Type is
Extraverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiving
Strength of the preferences %
1 62 62 33
This is me - which has been me for a long time but note the extraverted strength - 1% - that means if I'd answered one question differently I would be intraverted but then I knew that. I like being alone and I like being with a crowd. It is the balance that is important to me...not sure where that puts me as a writer but there you have it.

Watery Tart said...

Nikki-I bet you nailed it on why writers online tend to be the I's! Funny to think about, actually. I really LIKE real people, but I am also a hesitant interacter... I prefer people WATCHING to talking, as my brain seems to be set at about the pace I type, rather than the one I talk. (I have a half finished novel with a Nikki as my MC--will get back to it when the trilogy is done!)

Kas, I'm not surprised at all we only have one letter different. I also wouldn't be surprised if, as you age and get more confident, that S shifts to an N, though maybe not...

Jan, I am on that boundary between I and E myself, just fall off the other direction (though I think I get more introverted as I get farther into my writing)

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

ISTJ here. I'm not perceptive at all...a real that probably influenced the test. Apparently Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth are the same. Joy. :)

Mystery Writing is Murder
Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Watery Tart said...

Elizabeth-I think that helps you though--the S gives you the ability to be specific and concrete on all those clues for your mysteries. It seems to me the only genre that that would be absolutely critical, but for mysteries, I think it would be hard to leave a good trail if you didn't think that way (probably why I have trouble when my books have those components)

Anonymous said...

Love it, Mastermind! suits you! what is incomprehensible to me is with all the formulaic and stats-clever people who compiled same, none of them listed 'writer' in any of the categories...Keirsey's tabulation. And I don't believe inventors are extraverts! but loved that you in your mastermmindishtartish way have succeeded where the Myers duo couldn't

Watery Tart said...

I'm going to go with that Mastermind and Writer are synonymous, I think...

And I think I'm with you on the inventors. They seem like an obsessive lot and obsession doesn't seem external unless one is obsessed ABOUT something external... although the E focus can be STUFF instead of only people (it really is more outward/inward than extrovert/introvert) so maybe that is how... as inventors manipulate stuff external to themselves... or some such thing.