The Meyers Briggs of Writing!

Have you ever wondered how your personality might impact on your writing style?  One place I think about the impact is in the use of an outline.  I have read a number of sites on writing, and many insist that a chapter by chapter outline is one of their first steps.  If you have seen that and think you cannot finish a book without an outline, I am living proof that you can.

I knew my beginning point and my end point when I started.  I had a logical sequence to my storyline and actually each chapter represents a day in the lives of my characters.  I knew which day several significant events would occur, and I knew the major twists that would be revealed throughout the book and at the climax.  But I definitely did not have anything approaching an outline written down. It was all in my head and it was certainly not detailed.

Actually when I was an English student in high school I had one creative writing teacher who insisted on outlines.  I couldn’t do it.  So I would write my short story as soon as she assigned it, and then create an outline from the story I had completed.  Then I’d turn in my outline first, and later the story. Talk about backward.  Or polar opposites. Her way of writing and mine were not a match!

I can remember planning for joint workshops with other presenters who wanted detailed outlines completed, step by excruciating step.  I needed to see the big picture, then fill in the details, get out the major thoughts and then elaborate.  They couldn’t comfortably move on until the finite pieces of every section of the presentation were resolved. I found that this restrained and limited my thought and was totally frustrating. I ‘lost’ creative ideas waiting for their details of the last major thought. They felt my process incomplete, too rapid for them. They felt frustrated when I wanted to move forward without completing the whole section in detail. In one memorable instance, I remember having to work separately with someone and come up with documents on our own to later merge, because our styles were so distinct. Ironically we pretty much reached the same places – but we got there differently and while I had ideas about examples and details in mind, many of them were still ‘floating in my head’ and not written down but they matched my partner’s.  Once we did this we worked things out well because it was not an idea difference, it was a process difference.

This is all to say I am not sure how the creative process works for you, but I am sure my style requires a kind of interaction with my characters during the process.  As I wrote, things changed. Characters I did not expect showed up, fitting the logic of the story but unseen by me in my planning stages, and some of the twists I envisioned turned out slightly differently as they were finally written.

I am an inductive thinker who has learned to think deductively.  The whole for me is bigger than the parts not just the sum total of them, though the parts must logically add up to the whole.  I am intuitive, and like a bit of open-endedness to give room for the story to grow organically.  So if you are more like me, embrace it.  You don’t have to use an outline.  If you love them and they work for you that is great.  If they won’t, just be you.  You need some plan but you don’t have to have it in finite detail to be a ‘writer.’ You just have to do what works for you.  Write On!

About joanneeddy

Writer living in North Carolina. Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace 'living deliberately' in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.
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1 Response to The Meyers Briggs of Writing!

  1. Jo, I’m with you. And I did the same thing for assignments given by obsessive compulsives: write the report, then do the outline. I think they call creative thinkers like us Pantsers as opposed to Plotters because we create by the seat of our pants.


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