Justine: Carl Jung and Writing


Carl Jung (courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

While wandering around the internet one day (trying to get caught up on reading the 400 some-odd blog posts I’ve missed over the last few months), I stumbled upon this one by Lauren Sapala.  If you’re familiar with psychology or worked for a large corporation, you might have taken a personality test. One of the more common tests is called the Jung Typology Test (also referred to as the “Myers-Briggs” test, after the mother/daughter team, Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, took the Jung test to the next level). The test divides aspects of your personality into four criteria:

  • Extrovert or Introvert (the source and direction of a person’s energy expression. Do you get mentally recharged by being with a group of people, or by being alone?)
  • Sensing or Intuition (how one perceives and believes information, either directly from the external world – sensing – or from the internal or imaginative world – intuition).
  • Thinking or Feeling (how one processes information. Thinking people use mostly logic. Feeling people make decisions mostly based on emotion)
  • Judging or Perceiving (how a person implements the information he or she has processed. Judging people tend to organize their life and stick to their plans. Perceiving people are inclined to improvise and explore other options)

Sometimes, people are definitely one or the other (like introvert vs. extrovert), but there are also gradations. For example, some people could go either way on whether they’re Thinking or Feeling.

After reading Lauren’s post about how the common rules for writers, like “write every day” and “work from an outline,” don’t necessarily work for INFJ writers (and me), I decided to take the test to see what sort of personality I have.

Yep. You guessed it. INFJ.

An INFJ personality type is actually the most common among writers, yet we’re the least common among the 16 different personality types (we make up about 1% of the population). The first paragraph that described the INFJ individual hit me dead on. It says:

INFJs are distinguished by both their complexity of character and the unusual range and depth of their talents. Strongly humanitarian in outlook, INFJs tend to be idealists, and because of their J preference for closure and completion, they are generally “doers” as well as dreamers. This rare combination of vision and practicality often results in INFJs taking a disproportionate amount of responsibility in the various causes to which so many of them seem to be drawn.

The part about taking on a disproportionate amount of responsibility definitely hit home. I’ve been doing that a lot over the last year as I took on my kids’ Parent Service Organization (PSO) at school. I’m leading the PSO again this year, but trying to be better about balancing PSO responsibilities and writing time.

It’s the writing part that’s been a challenge lately. The mantra most writers tout is the ol’ “write every day” schtick. But that’s definitely not me these days. Lately, I go 3 or 4 days between writing, and I’m trying to figure out if that’s just because I get busy doing other things for my kids’ school (or laundry, which has also suffered greatly of late), or because I need the time in between to ruminate on my story. Or maybe I’m playing the avoidance game. After all, I have been working on this story for 3 years now. Or is it four? (It’s definitely four. *sigh*)

About a month ago, I promised in this post to reveal my strategic six-month plan to finish my manuscript (hopefully in time for the Golden Heart). Here I am a month later and I’ve made marginal progress on my book (wait…outline. I’m not even writing the book yet). I have no plan. And I sit here and wonder, Where does life go? (I suppose the bigger question is where does my life go?)

In that post last month, I promised that nothing but my book would come first. But it’s not. Again, I’m taking on a disproportionate amount of work OTHER THAN MY BOOK. I’m starting to think that being an INFJ sucks.

But I can’t blame everything on a personality test. There has to be a little bit of personal ownership here.

So I’m owning that writing hasn’t been coming first. Nor will it for at least the next two weeks as we implement a few things at school. Which means when I do sit down to work out a plan to get the book done, I’ll basically have 4 months to complete it if I want to meet the GH deadline.

That seems pretty aggressive, but I have to start somewhere.

So! Step 1 of my Plan: Finish my outline by mid-September.

That’s as far as I’m going right now. Because knowing me, something besides writing will require a disproportionate amount of my responsibility.

4 thoughts on “Justine: Carl Jung and Writing

  1. I had a Jungian psychology course for my masters. He also is the Hero’s Journey guy (which I am fascinated by). I’ve done the Myers-Briggs test for work before, to help teams be more productive. And I have used it to define my characters to help me figure out what they would do in certain situations. I’ve never thought to use it to figure out what about my personality is blocking my writing. That is an interesting take on it. Let some other parents do some school stuff and get writing.

    • That’s what everyone is saying, even the other PSO parents. “Let someone else do it.” The good news is I’m sitting at my kitchen table with my CP RIGHT NOW and working on my book!

  2. It’s hard to let go when you know you could do something better/faster/sooner/more effectively (says an INTJ who suffers from similar issues). It’s great to hear you’re making progress in being able to let go of some of the ‘disproportionate responsibility’ so you can focus on your own dreams, at least a little bit :-).

  3. This strikes such a chord. I think one way we can put writing first is by putting it first chronologically — do it first, and then do more if you want, but call it done if you can’t do any more. Super-nice theory. But when I finally get dressed and off to work, I feel I deserve a “little treat” of mindlessness — which leads to the internet, which leads to not-writing.

    Right now, I’m still slightly jet-lagged, which makes it the perfect time to try making writing REALLY first. A five a.m. wake-up time happens naturally right now. (It’s just that I don’t think I can do the eight or nine p.m. bedtime that would naturally follow.) But . . . I could choose. Do I clean house, or do I write for an hour before showering? Both need to be done . . . I know which one is more fun.

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