Can our temperaments affect our creativity?

I’ve started reading a new book entitled Creative You that basically looks at Myers-Briggs types and then lays out what, in the authors’ opinions, are the strengths and blindspots for each one. (See Patrick Ross’s Artist’s Road blog for a longer piece on the book, including an interview with one of the authors.)

Now, first, a disclaimer. I am not, repeat not, blindly advocating Myers-Briggs typology or any other assessment tool as a be-all and end-all for understanding our personalities and ourselves. Our personalities and everything that goes with them are so complex and textured that a simple assessment tool such as M-B can only begin to help us better understand ourselves. That said, we use M-B a lot at my agency, and I’m very familiar with its strengths and shortcomings.

Now, on to the book. I’m an INFP, in M-B terms. That means that my personality preferences are Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, and Perceptive. My strengths (and I know this from personal observation, as well) are being able to see the big picture, thinking strategically, making sometimes creative leaps of logic to envision what the future could be, among other things. I’m also introverted, which means that I recharge through quality alone-time. (I just made that word up, but it really fits.)

What I’m not good at is detail, rigid structure, gathering facts and using data as the primary guide for making decisions.

People who are intuitives comprise about 30% of the population, with roughly 70% being what is called sensors — people who gather and absorb data and facts and information, and use that as the primary basis for decisions and actions.

The book offers a simple exercise to illustrate the difference between these two. Get a piece of paper and write a description of, first, your childhood home and, second, the environment outside your window.

Take a moment to do this.


What did you write?

If you’re a sensor, you probably described in quite literal terms what that house looked like and what things look like outside your window. How big was the house, for instance, how many rooms did it have, how many stories, how big was the yard, and so forth. Same with what’s outside your window.

If you’re an intuitive, you probably didn’t dwell much on that but rather went further afield and described general impressions. For instance, in describing my childhood home, I spent all of one short sentence about the house and then jumped to the general neighborhood, what it was like to live there, what games I liked to play in the yard, etc. In describing the environment outside my window, I wrote about what it was like to walk down the street, the bike path that’s not far from my office building, the general feel of the area, and so forth. (I was reading the book at work over lunch today.) And no, I wasn’t deliberately trying to stack the deck; these really were the things my mind started to think about.

What’s interesting to me about all this is how it translates to my writing. My drafts tend to go with the big picture, the sweep of a story, the general feel of a scene. And when I’ve shared chapters and scenes with beta readers, the sensors among them always (and I do mean always) come back with the feedback that I don’t have enough detail to make them happy.

How to address this, then, in my writing? Well, I’m trying a couple of tactics. In revising the first draft, I’m not just going through it to make sure the flow and energy of the story are good, I’m also looking for places where I could add more detail because I know that’s my weak spot. What color is the car that my protagonist’s girlfriend drives? Is my protagonist’s partner a neat and tidy person, or is he kind of messy? You know, the things that ideally will make these characters seem more like real people.

I’m also going to a great website called Writer’s Write each day to read the daily writing prompt. Examples of their prompts include what’s in your protagonist’s medicine chest? How would your antagonist describe his body? If your protagonist’s love interest planted a garden, which trees would she choose to plant? How does your protagonist remember things? These have really been wonderful ways of helping me think of my characters and what they’re all about.

At any rate, that’s what I’ve gotten from the book so far. What is your own writing style, and how do you try to work past your blind spots?


1 Comment

Filed under On Writing

One response to “Can our temperaments affect our creativity?

  1. Wow. Thank you for this post. It’s given me some insights that will prove useful. I’m an INFJ. And guess what the editor at my publisher asked me to do with my novel? You guessed it. Add more sensory detail. He was right. It’s much better now that I’ve gone in and made it more concrete and three-dimensional. It never occurred to me that my personality type might have had anything to do with that aspect of my writing. I may have to look for that book. So glad you decided to post the link in the AW blog thread.


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