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The Psychology Behind Writing: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process (Part 2)

Hello fellow TAA members, thank you for reading this second post of “The Psychology Behind Writing.” With monthly offerings, we’ll get into some of the psychological processes that support our academic writing as well as the ones that derail our writing. And, we will definitely explore strategies for amplifying the positive and mitigating the negative.

Realistic Writers vs. Imaginative Writers

As many of you might know, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is structured with 4 personality scales, each with two “opposite” preferences that rest on a continuum of intensity for that personality scale. The key to remember here is that we all have all 8 preferences available to us (4 scales x 2 preferences), but we tend to have a natural preference for inhabiting one side over the other. One side tends to come more instinctively, we don’t have to think about it as hard, we can be on auto-pilot, we are more practiced with it, and we probably don’t have much anxiety around using it.

For example, it’s very similar to the ways our left and right hands function. For the majority of us, we naturally prefer one hand over the other and we have much more practice using our dominant hand. However, that doesn’t mean we do not use our non-dominant hand to complete tasks or to help our dominant hand complete tasks. We just prefer one over the other and can make do with our non-dominant hand if our dominant hand is not available.

Keep this example in mind as we engage with the first of the 4 personality scales.

MBTI Personality Scale 2: Sensing and Intuition

The second personality scale is Sensing and Intuition which focuses on how one likes to take in information. Folks who prefer Sensing are more facts and details oriented, preferring utility based and known facts that can be used in the here and now. Folks who prefer Intuition are geared toward meaning-making and associations, theories and concepts, possibilities and the future.

When it comes to writing, folks who prefer sensing tend to be more realistic in their writing whereas folks who prefer intuition tend to be more imaginative:

Sensing and Intuition

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. If left to your own devices, which is your preferred approach to writing? Not how you have been trained or molded into as a writer, but your natural approach? If you find that you are 50/50, for the purposes of this exercise, chose one to be 51% and the other will be 49%.
  2. Does your discipline tend to value realistic writing from facts, instructions, and mechanics or imaginative writing from concepts, complexities, and new approaches?
  3. Do the answers to questions 1 and 2 match up? If yes, there is alignment in your natural approach to writing and the expectations and conventions allowed for in your discipline. Yes!

If the answers do not align, a writing challenge may be present, and not to worry.

Writing Challenge Tip

Keep the following formula in mind: Notice —> Name —> Unhook.

If you are getting stuck in your writing, first notice it, then identify where you might be getting stuck. For example: Ah! This journal (or editor) values and features Realistic writers…they like to focus on facts, reporting, and mechanics. I’m naturally an Imaginative writer and it comes easily for me to think and write more broadly about theories, concepts and implications.

Now that you’ve identified the differences, you have the capacity to make a choice.

  1. Continue as is and stay hooked to the frustration of writing for a journal that emphasizes your non-dominant way of taking in and organizing information, OR
  2. UNHOOK by choosing a journal (or editor) that honors your natural and preferred writing approach, OR
  3. Decide to experiment with Realistic writing as a non-dominant style knowing that you will need to schedule more time because it will require more attention, effort, and time to carry out, just like when you write your signature with your non-dominant hand.

In any of these three decision points, YOU consciously chose a path forward and anticipate outcomes, instead of unconsciously becoming mired in the writing process with unpleasant feelings and negative self-beliefs.

Last Month’s Topic: The Psychology Behind Writing: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process (Part 1)

Next Month’s Topic: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process – Analytical Writers vs. Personal Writers

Reference: MBTI Tasks of a College Student. Center for the Application of Psychological Type. Gainesville, FL.

Michelle Rivera-Clonch, PhD. is a scholar-practitioner psychologist who also co-founded Writing in Depth: An Academic Writing Retreat at Hope Springs Institute in 2011. In June 2023, she presented at the TAA Virtual Conference and subsequently was invited to contribute to the Association’s blog; to which she excitedly agreed. Her book A Depth Psychological Study of the Peace Symbol: Jung, Politics and Culture was published this summer by Routledge.


Read the third post in this series, The Psychology Behind Writing: Tap into Your Natural Personality to Assist Your Academic Writing Process.