Author of The INFJ Writer Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type
Lauren Sapala is a writer, writing coach, author of The INFJ Writer, is obsessed with all literature, and my newfound best friend.
*Are you originally from the west coast ?
I’m originally from Michigan, but moved to Seattle right after college. After a few years there I took off for San Francisco. I had never visited the west coast at all before moving to Seattle, and I had never been to California before I moved to San Francisco. I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl!
I hear you! Me too!
*When did you decide to be a writer?
Wow, this might be the toughest question I’ve ever been asked about writing! I don’t think I ever “decided.” I started writing stories and poems from a young age and it was just always something I did. I never had to think about it or choose it. However, I did choose to stop writing, right after my senior year in college when a professor told me I wasn’t very good at it and I should find something else to do with my life.
That’s awesome it feels very natural and instinctive to you, or at least until you encountered a negative influence in college. Sorry to hear that. You’d be surprised how many writers I’ve talked to that had the same experience. I find that very perplexing.
“Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.” -Melinda Haynes
*Who or what influenced you the most in your decision?
There are too many names to list so, in the interest of brevity, I’ll just say: Other writers. Every book I read that spoke to me had a writer behind it who encouraged me to start writing again, and then to keep going.
It’s great to receive encouragement and motivation from other writers isn’t it?
*Besides nonfiction, what else do you write?
I’ve written three memoirs and two novels. The first memoir is scheduled for release in Spring 2017.
Oh nice! Yippee! Another book release! Drop me line and I’ll help you with some promotion if you’d like.
*Why did you decide to become a story coach?
After I started writing again in my mid 20’s I formed a writing group in Seattle and then one in San Francisco. These writing groups were based off of the Alcoholics Anonymous format, meaning: you came and you shared your struggle with writing, but you didn’t have to participate if you didn’t want to, you could always remain just an observer. After the sharing, we settled down to do an hour of silent writing together. I found myself working one-on-one with a lot of the writers in the group, and pretty soon it was eating up so much of my free time that I decided to open a business doing this work.
Nice. I like how those begin. Organically and spontaneously. So glad you started writing again.
*Can you name a few benefits from helping others in their writing?
Holy cow, there are so many benefits I don’t know that I could even begin to cover them all! My first and favorite probably is that I get to hear about and share in other people’s lives. Whatever story someone is writing, it always has everything to do with them. I find human beings to be the most fascinating magical creatures, and the fact that other people trust me enough to let me try to help them with their creative process, and sometimes all their inner emotional “stuff” too, is such an honor.
There’s definitely a rewarding social aspect to helping others. Human beings are definitely fascinating magical creatures! Especially the intuitive, artistic types!
*Tell us about your book, The INFJ Writer.
The INFJ Writer is a writing guide based on the real-world experiences of my writing clients. After a year or two of doing coaching work with writers, I noticed that almost every blocked writer that showed up on my doorstep (that is, in my email inbox) was an INFJ or INFP personality type. These writers were highly sensitive introverts who had A LOT to say about the world but no way to get the words out. I saw immediately that they were the same kind of writers who had shown up to the writing groups I formed based on the AA format—scared, creatively paralyzed idealists who were also thoughtful, compassionate, and invested with a deep sense of purpose and passion about art and writing.
They were intuitive writers. And traditional methods don’t work for intuitive writers, as I had found out through my own personal experience, and as I saw my clients finding out, over and over and over again. Outlining, plotting the entire arc of the story in advance, using checklists for character development—none of this stuff worked for intuitive writers. In fact, it blocked them even more from their own inner creative light. That’s when I knew I had to write The INFJ Writer. It’s for intuitive writers who are experiencing blocks and don’t have the money or the time to hire a coach like myself who specializes in working with intuitive introverts. The book contains exercises in every chapter to get the blocked writer’s creative energy moving again.
Thank you for taking the time to write such a book. Although my personality type if not INFJ, I can relate to all of the points that you make here. We’re not too different!
*What led you to discover your personality type and what bearings did it have on you as a writer?
I had a desk job for a while where I had a ton of free time and unlimited access to the internet. I had always been interested in psychology so I started taking a lot of online personality tests. Most of them were just for fun, but when I read the description of the INFJ personality type it was like my whole world cracked wide open. Suddenly I realized there was a chance that I wasn’t a completely weird alien (which is how I had felt for most of my life). Finding out I was an INFJ bolstered my self esteem in a thousand ways, one of those being that I finally had the confidence to start putting my writing out into the world.
I could never have a desk job, although I’ve been blogging a lot these days, lol! Wow. You’re story sounds strikingly similar to mine. I’ve only discovered my personality type earlier this year after suffering from a long bout of depression and low self-esteem. But when I read Heidi Priebe’s book, The Comprehensive ENFP Survival Guide, It opened up mines of life changing revelations.
*How much does our personality type affect our ability to learn the craft of writing?
Hmmm…this is an interesting question. I would say that our personality type doesn’t affect our ability at all, but it does affect the way we view ourselves and how adequately we are measuring up to what we consider “ability.” For instance, most INFP writers do not do well with linear structure. When they’re writing, they tend to write in scattered pieces. There IS an order there, but the order usually has to do with a hidden beautiful pattern that the INFP writer follows almost solely according to intuition. From the outside, it might look like a mess. And many, many INFP writers have internalized the assumptions of mainstream writing culture, which says writers should be very concerned with the coherence of the storyline, even in the very first draft. So the INFP writer will see that he’s writing in pieces and get very down on himself for it, and then the negative self-talk comes in and the INFP writer berates himself for not having any writing “ability.” Well, this writer does have ability. His ability just shows up in a different way (especially in that first draft) than it does for most other people.
I should’ve phrased this question differently, but your response is perfect! I can totally relate to this one.
*How can not knowing our personality type inadvertently affect our writing?
Just like in the world at large, an intuitive who does not know she’s an intuitive will tend to feel crazy or like something is wrong with her most of the time. It’s exactly the same thing in writing. If you write in scattered pieces, or you have a lot of trouble finishing things, or you go through huge amounts of anxiety and emotional turmoil whenever your stories are critiqued, and you don’t know you’re a highly sensitive intuitive writer, the first thing you’ll do is blame yourself. The second thing you’ll do is try to “toughen up” and introduce some sort of harsh discipline into your writing life, which will make you feel worse. Until you learn about your true makeup as a person and an artist—and accept that makeup—you’ll always be caught in this vicious cycle that swings between the inner critic and writer’s block.
This is all very helpful and therapeutic information. Thanks for sharing.
*Have words of encouragement to all the intuitive types?
Almost every intuitive person I’ve ever met undervalues their own intuition and their own strong intelligence. Use that mind that’s so strong in you! Read everything you can about what you are, and learn everything you can about other people and what makes them tick. The more deeply you know yourself, the easier everything becomes.
I love this statement! I find it very uplifting. Do you have any reading recommendations for personality type? How about your book!
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According to Goodreads
After years of coaching writers who struggled with procrastination issues, high sensitivity to criticism, and crippling self doubt, Lauren Sapala realized that almost every one of her clients was an INFJ or INFP. Using the insights gleaned from these clients, as well as her own personal story, Sapala shows us how the experience of the intuitive writer can be radically different from the norm.
INFJ writers don’t think like anyone else, and their highly creative brains take a toll on them that they rarely share with the outside world. The INFJ Writer discusses such topics as:
How an INFJ writer’s physical health is tied to their creative output
Why INFJ writers are more likely to fall prey to addictions
When an INFJ writer should use their natural psychic ability to do their best creative work
Whether looking to start writing again or to finish the novel/memoir they started so long ago, any writer with the self-awareness to identify themselves as highly sensitive and intuitive will benefit from this book that helps them to find their own magic, and to finally use it to build the creative life that actually works for them.
Add this one to your TBR pile!
*I’m an ENFP writer. What 3-5 things would you say to this kind of writer?
Oh, one of my best friends is an ENFP! You guys are truly bubbling fountains of light and inspiration…who can very quickly turn into avenging angels when someone has been unfairly wronged. ENFPs tend to experience a lot of guilt because they are driven so strongly by their curiosity that it makes them sometimes abandon projects they cared about a lot or befriend people who can be unhealthy for them in different ways. ENFPs are very, very hard on themselves inwardly and, like all intuitives, they struggle with giving too much to others and not letting themselves receive.
Oh good, make that two of your best friends are ENFP! Tell her I said hi and give her a big high five! Thanks for sharing this. It all rings so true. Never realized how hard I was on myself either. I’m totally Curious George on steroids.
I always advise ENFPs:
To follow your curiosity wherever it takes you. It doesn’t matter if no one else understands why you’re drawn to that person or thing. If you’re drawn to it, it’s got something for you.
You’re way more intelligent than you give yourself credit for. ENFPs can come off as bouncy and happy and even a little spacey, but under the surface they are extremely astute observers and very quick studies. Science, math, foreign languages—all of these subjects come naturally to ENFPs who find some emotional reason to get invested in them.
It’s okay to work on a bunch of different writing projects at once. And it’s okay to abandon a writing project if the spark is gone for you. ENFPs are true artisans. They’re like sculptors with words—they like to have their hands on many different textures at once. Let yourself play and explore. ENFPs need to do that.
WOW. I love this. I want to print this out and plaster it on my forehead!
*If you could change yourself which personality type would you pick? Or perhaps, what would change in your cognitive stack?
A few years ago I probably would have said that I wished I was an ENTJ or an ENFJ, some type that still had the intuitive piece but perhaps didn’t share the constant companion of introverted anxiety I’ve experienced for so much of my life. But now, in my late 30s, I’m actually pretty happy with what I was born with, anxiety and all.
What a great answer. I love it. Sometimes I want to be an ENFJ, but I would be a completely different bird. Having that “P” Perceiving function is a huge part of my personality. Thank for sharing.
One of my very favorites is from Napoleon Hill:
“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.”
Isn’t that the truth.
*Favorite writing books?
I love, love, LOVE Stephen King’s Memoirs on Writing. That man is a genius.
That he is. Haven’t read it yet but looking forward to it.
Thanks for joining us Lauren!