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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

100 Things Challenge (#4): The Overlap of Personality and Creativity

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

100 Things Challenge (#4): The Overlap of Personality and Creativity

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As part of staff development last week at school, we took a personality assessment known as the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. (Take it here.) The KTS classifies into 16 different personalities based on four dimensions: introvert-extrovert, intuitive-sensing, feeling-thinking, judging-perceiving. I always enjoy these kinds of activities. My assessment result was that I am an INFJ: introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging.

We broke into groups with anyone else who had the same result we did. (Only one other person scored as an INFJ, not surprisingly, since we are apparently the rarest type!*) We were given a handout describing what our result meant. Reading this was like reading a description of myself down to very specific, uncanny details.

* Bobby has the exact same type as me except that he is an ENFJ--extroverted where I am introverted.

Some of those uncanny details:

  • "Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities." *shifty look at imaginary friends*

  • "They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done ..." *shifty look at ToME policy documents*

  • "They are usually right, and they usually know it." (My mom once told me that my dad and I both thought we were always right and couldn't figure out why the rest of the world was so stupid.)

  • "... we may see some signs of disarray in an otherwise orderly tendency, such as a consistently messy desk." *shifty look at consistently messy desk*

  • "INFJs are concerned for people's feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone."

  • "... they trust their own instincts above all else. This may result in an INFJ stubborness and tendency to ignore other people's opinions. They believe that they're right." (Yeah. Working on this ...)

  • "INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don't often take time to revel in their accomplishments."

  • "They have strong value systems, and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right."

  • "In the workplace, the INFJ usually shows up in areas where they can be creative and somewhat independent. They have a natural affinity for art, and many excel in the sciences, where they make use of their intuition. INFJs can also be found in service-oriented professions." (This explains the "sideways brain." Also the desire to work in a Level-5 school.)

  • "An INFJ who has gone the route of becoming meticulous about details may be highly critical of other individuals who are not." (I kinda sound like an asshat by this point. Privately, in high-stakes situations [i.e., work, not fandom], I can be critical to the point of nastiness of others--just ask Bobby, who hears about it! I am diplomatic about it to everyone else. Very outside my usual peace-love-and-understanding personality ... or so I thought!)

  • "Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement."

Of course life isn't easy! Apparently, everyone else is so fucking stupid! ;)

I did disagree in two places:

  • "They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress."

    This was certainly true once, but I've worked hard and sometimes painfully to cowboy up, and I think I handle conflict pretty well now; I would not be in the line of work I'm in if I could not. But this is something I had to train myself to do, and I do get ill/depressed/bite my fingers till they're bloody when I'm stressed. That I don't see myself unlearning.

  • "They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks."

    Not true at all, but again, this is something I work with a lot.

In a nutshell, I'm a creative person, prone to being very imaginative and thinking of things in symbolic/abstract/imaginative terms. I'm extremely sensitive to the feelings of others. I'm very critical of others too, but even more so of myself. I am my own worst critic. I am an idealist and live my life according to those ideals.

And I have a messy desk. :)

Keirsey results can tell you things about your social, professional, and personal lives. As uncanny as it was to read what could have been a character study of myself, my next thought was to wonder what it told me about my creative life. If there is a correlation between the kinds of work one is good at and one's Kiersey score, then is there a correlation between one's personality and the kind of creative work one produces?

It seems pretty definite that there's a correlation between personality and creativity. I did a cursory search of PsycInfo and turned up several thousand abstracts on how personality affects one's ability to be creative in various domains (artistic, scientific, social, etc.). Obviously, I didn't look through all of the abstracts; I read a couple dozen and, while I found lots of research correlating different personality traits with a tendency toward creativity, I didn't find anything looking at how different personality types might influence the kind of creativity a person engages in. I'm not talking broad distinctions like artistic versus scientific creativity; that research exists. I'm talking the very granular, i.e., this personality type develops character well, this type structures plots well, this type best wields potent imagery. Assessments exist that measure at least some of these dimensions--the Torrance Tests of Creativity were used in a lot of the studies I reviewed, and they capture information on imagery, storytelling, and humor--but I didn't find any studies looking at whether certain personality traits tend to correlate with, say, an ability to paint a picture in words. Also, some of the dimensions of written creativity--character jumps out at me, of course--aren't measured at all, at least in the assessments I looked at.

Yet it seems to me there would be a connection between the two. I look at my personality score, and the kind of writing I'm best at makes sense. I'm often told that I'm a good character writer; that the people I create for my stories seem real and behave in believable ways. And INFJs have a supposed knack for "intuiting" people, for knowing things about people without necessarily being able to say how. That's certainly true for me; in fact, I was attracted to studying psychology as a way to explain what I observed of human nature. It gave me a vocabulary for talking about what I observed of human behavior. It makes sense to me that this could translate into my writing as well as a kind of reverse engineering of human behavior: beginning with the reason for behavior and drawing out the behaviors themselves from that. Like my latest Silmfic, "Leaves before the Wind," I began with the idea of Maedhros's instability due to a profound sense of failure, grief for Fingon, and guilt over both (to simplify greatly). As I wrote the story, all of his behaviors tied back into that in some way. That seemed to click with people.

Then there's the "liv[ing] in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities." I dislike the accusation that authors place "hidden" or "secret" meanings in literary works; these meanings are there for discovery but require a bit of deeper digging. I do intentionally create layers of meaning in my stories. I like to think the stories remain enjoyable just at the literary level. It is a fun mental exercise for me, though, to create those deeper meanings, and I know many of my readers pick up on them as well.

So it seems, for me anyway, my personality predicts the kind of writing I'm best at. Is this true in general, though? This is where my flist can help me. First of all, take the Keirsey assessment. It takes about 10 minutes to complete. Next, read about your personality type, either on the Keirsey site or here. Is your description accurate? If it is, do you see connections between it and your strengths as a writer or artist?

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • I took it and then the site crashed. I'll try again later.
  • Greetings, fellow INFJ.
    • *waves* Yay, INFJ! I suspected more than a few of my flist would be weirdos ... I mean, rare personalities, like me. ;)
  • That test produced freakishly accurate specifics in relation to all of my worst faults and my dubious virtues as well.

    I am also embarrassed to post it here, But too much of an outward looking attention seeker not to! ENFP

    According to this assessment I am creative to a fault and not much else. Thanks a lot, Dawn. The scariest part is how people in this category relate to certain types of children. This suits Laura and I exactly. Sounds she wrote it:

    Having an ENFP parent can be a fun-filled experience, but may be stressful at times for children with strong Sensing or Judging tendancies. Such children may see the ENFP parent as inconsistent and difficult to understand, as the children are pulled along in the whirlwind life of the ENFP. Sometimes the ENFP will want to be their child's best friend, and at other times they will play the parental authoritarian. But ENFPs are always consistent in their value systems, which they will impress on their children above all else, along with a basic joy of living.

    Another hysterically funny to me accuracy is this: "they may go through several different careers during their lifetime. To onlookers, the ENFP may seem directionless and without purpose, but ENFPs are actually quite consistent, in that they have a strong sense of values which they live with throughout their lives"

    Anyway, back to being a flake and working on projects I cannot seem to finish! Yay, me!

    Edited at 2012-07-29 07:58 pm (UTC)
  • (no subject) -
    • We don't know each other all that well, but I can see the INTJ just in our work together on ToME! :D You had a totally different--and much more rational!--approach to Team 3A than I did. Also interesting that we're only different in one element: You're a T where I'm an F.

      It sounds as if we are some cocksure little things who think we know it all.

      That was the same impression I got of the INFJ results. I was like, "Dang, I sound like a real asshat right now!" Unfortunately, I know that to be true about myself. Not one of my finer qualities (my husband laughed out loud when he reached that point of my personality profile :^|). I definitely tend to have a superiority complex in certain situations (work is one of them), but I'm nice about it. Except to Bobby. He hears me complain about the stupid people we work with all the time. Bad 'gund.

      Problem solving? Maybe... I did major in Economics. :D

      I'd say yes! :D
  • The website is crashing for me too *sigh*. I figure I've given so many contradictory answers that it is whirling around in confusion within cyberspace.

    - Erulisse (one L)
  • Phooey - it wouldn't process my answers. There were a few in there that I could have clicked on BOTH answer choices. Maybe I'm a waffler... I'll try again later.
  • I am not surprised you tested as INFJ. =D Makes sense!

    I'm quite fond of this test and have taken it at fairly regular intervals over many years; it very much appeals to the part of me that likes figuring stuff out. By which I mean, putting stuff into neatly sorted wee boxes!

    I've tested as both INFJ and INTJ (and would possibly be thus classed INXJ by some practitioners, though I've heard it said by others that that's not possible). So if you take your description and Olorime's description and smash them together, there's mine. If it sounds paradoxical and confusing on some points, that's because it is. If pressed to choose one, I'd be more apt to call myself INTJ, although that is partly a conscious choice because I've oscillated enough times to know which mode I function best in.

    In terms of writing, characters are definitely my focus. I love invading their poor brains and watching them respond to the tribulations I seem to effortlessly contrive for them. I'm told I write best in first person, that my dialogue is a strong point, etc. I'm also very concerned with technical details being accurate, and I can't get on with writing a scene if there are details behind it I haven't figured out yet. My muses tend to be quite pedantic and vaguely sardonic.
    • it very much appeals to the part of me that likes figuring stuff out.

      Yes! Me too! I love taking assessments like this. I've loathed the training that has gone with it--in part because we don't get planning time during the summer session, so it taxes this introvert to have to be "on" for my students all day and then "on" after school as well for groupwork; eight hours is a bit much for me with no break from other human beings--but I loved this particular activity.

      If it sounds paradoxical and confusing on some points, that's because it is.

      For many years, I thought myself a paradox. In high school, my best subjects were science and English. My mom used to tell me that my brain was in sideways because, according to the left-right-brain theory of pop psychology, you should be one or the other. I was both and often torn because of it. I love word-wrangling but also enjoy writing policy and designing websites. This test actually helped me to make sense of how both can coexist without feeling "weird," which is itself weird to me! :D I feel pretty weird on just about a daily basis, given that I don't interact with a lot of creative types at my school.

      watching them respond to the tribulations I seem to effortlessly contrive for them.

      Okay, this made me laugh out loud! :D

      It sounds like a version of what I've termed the Characters in a Room style of plotting that I've used in stories like AMC: throw a bunch of characters together in a room and see what happens.

      Interesting, INTJ is leading on this post so far! I think INFJ is in second. Both are rare personality types. Not in fandom, apparently! :)
  • Another one with the website crashing at results, but I do know that I'm nearly tied between INFJ and INTJ on the Meyers-Briggs scale (I know the tests are not identical, but based on one another, so there would probably be a great deal of overlap concerning results. In fact I noticed that most questions were phrased differently, but essentially asked the same things).

    In terms of INFJ we probably agree in a great deal of things - I find it very hard to recognize strengths in my writing anywhere (aka perfectionism, hi!), but characterization and description have often been remarked on positively, and I know at least one person who keeps pointing out the emotional impact that my writing conveys, so that would tie in neatly with the INFJ intuition when it comes out to play. The instinctual aspect is true as well - it's not inhibition when I say I can't point out what works in my writing, because I tend to follow gut feeling from a general idea/concept and then build that - plot-based writing is never going to work out for me, nor is planning ahead in detail because then I either get bogged down in perfecting those or lose interest - or both.

    (And not related to writing - you really don't want to seriously argue with me on an emotionally/ideologically charged matter - I go pig-stubborn and start being a little sh*t - certain male family members have the talent to bring that out in me, and it's not pretty when it happens. And then I get physically sick, because stress - same with my thyroid problems, which may have been caused by either a misplaced flu or stress, and I'm quite sure that the latter is more likely.)

    INTJs are also mentioned having strong intuitions, as per the IN type, although they seem to exercise it more with regard what works in a practical way, which isn't me so much, I tend to use it for understanding social situations, where I'm quite challenged without it. They value intelligence, knowledge and competence, check (one of the main reasons I tend to beat myself up verbally, because I'm not living up to these ideals), gathering info and making associations - yep. Creative ones with regards to story ideas, mine often are what Stephen King calls a "hilarious stew" in On Writing, composed of a lot of very disparate elements. Being a leader, not so much, and while I really like organization, I'm really bad at implementing it myself... just look at my spur-of-the-moment fic documents. ;)

    Okay, enough ramble. This was a really fascinating entry to read and to reply to. Thanks, Dawn. :)
    • Okay, I was so hoping you'd reply to this! \0/ You're the writer whose style reminds me the most of my own, so I wondered if we weren't similar in our results. Interesting that we are.

      The instinctual aspect is true as well - it's not inhibition when I say I can't point out what works in my writing, because I tend to follow gut feeling from a general idea/concept and then build that

      Yes! Writing for me is an almost hypnotic state ... when done properly anyway. ;) I've ended up in rooms with no clue how I got there. (This was obviously before I started working at a desktop computer; notebooks are far easier to carry from room to room. ;) I'll freak Bobby out because he'll come in while I'm writing, and I'll talk to him while typing my story at the same time. I don't do prewriting. Sometimes I'll write a very basic skeleton of what needs to happen in a long story just to keep myself minimally focused, else the story might end up somewhere and with someone totally different from what I intended. Sometimes (like with AMC) I let that happen deliberately. The most prewriting I'll do is to think intensely about a scene and write lines for it in my mind. Never on paper--that ruins it.

      you really don't want to seriously argue with me on an emotionally/ideologically charged matter - I go pig-stubborn and start being a little sh*t - certain male family members have the talent to bring that out in me, and it's not pretty when it happens.

      *ahem* Yes, me too. :^D Right down to the male family members ...
  • I didn't take that one-- not willing to risk a crash-- but I've taken others and usually test as an INTJ and occasionally an ISTJ. (Right now, due to the descriptions you linked to, I suspect I'd be the latter, if only barely. But I have definite traits of both and obviously prefer INTJ.)

    Leading… Hate it, but I'll do it if no one else will, and I'll micromanage to boot because obviously people can't be trusted to do their tasks, otherwise they already would have done/be doing them. Group work=pain.

    Writing-wise, one thing I realized some years ago was that, due to my extreme introversion (generally testing out a 100% and never below 90%), I am literally unable to write an extraverted POV character. Aliens, Elves, sorcerers-- no problems. But extraverts?

    Here's the strange thing: INTJs are supposed to plan, plan, plan. I do that everywhere but my writing. Outlines are idea death for me, and I'd rather write letting my characters unfold the story rather than knowing what will happen. (Huh. This probably ties into my dislike of spoilers, but that's a subject for another conversation.) So beats me how that fits.
    • INTJ seems to be leading this post so far, with INFJ in second, interesting since both are rare personalities, each characteristic of only 1-2% of the population.

      Group work=pain.

      Gods yes! My only fond memory of the groupwork required of me for my ed certification was our commiseration on LJ about how much it sucked! :D Actually, although I liked the activity that went with this test, I have loathed the training generally that has gone along with it; it's "team spirit training" and requires working with a randomly chosen group. I and my husband's TA (also an ISTJ ;) are the lone introverts in the group, and in the true style of my INFJ self, I think a significant contingent of the group are idiots. :^| We also don't get a planning period during summer session, so I have to be "on" with my students for six hours, then "on" again with my group after school. Eight hours of that is exhausting for this introvert! I know I don't have to tell you how that feels.

      I also tested at 100% for introversion on this test. That didn't surprise me. I am what I've termed an "outgoing introvert"; I can be very personable and (not to toot my own horn) am great with my students and can do what it takes to motivate and encourage them. But too much of that--like the eight-hour days of having to be "on" socially--and I literally feel like I'm going mad. The best way to describe it is like having something with long claws scratching inside my brain. I get teeth-gnashing mean and very, very weird. Not oh-how-cute-hehehe charmingly eccentric!weird but disturbing talk-of-sharp-objects weird. I'm sure it's a defense mechanism; a way to drive people away when I'm feeling tired and taxed. It doesn't happen often, thankfully. It happened on Thursday, after three straight days of "team spirit training," i.e. 24 hours of work with no break from other people. I was so exhausted and felt like I could sleep for hours, but a half-hour into the drive home, the exhaustion passed, and I felt okay again. It was too much stimulus, not actual physical exhaustion. Not fun. :(

      I think I can write extraverted characters. Actually, I'm not sure. I definitely tend toward characters who are creative/artistic/intellectual/naturalist; even those who are outgoing (like Nelyo) would probably actually score as introverts. Criminy, now you've made me really curious.

      And wanting to do this test for my characters, which I'm not going to do because that'd be a huge misuse of time, right? Right? :D

      I do that everywhere but my writing. Outlines are idea death for me, and I'd rather write letting my characters unfold the story rather than knowing what will happen.

      That's me too. I may have told you that when outlines were required for writing classes, I would write the piece first, then the outline! :D
  • I think that the site has issues processing my stuff LOL, so I took a Myers Briggs test (I've done these in the past for assessment stuff).

    Introvert(33%) iNtuitive(50%) iNtuitive Feeling(75%) Judging(44%)

    Howdy ;c) I've also scored ENFJ (The Givers) sometimes though

    INFJ - The Protectors

    Consequently, INFJs put a tremendous amount of faith into their instincts and intuitions. This is something of a conflict between the inner and outer worlds, and may result in the INFJ not being as organized as other Judging types tend to be. Or we may see some signs of disarray in an otherwise orderly tendency, such as a consistently messy desk.

    This. I am a chaotic person by nature who likes to tackle the day as it comes, or a job, but the past years I had to let go of that for my kid and I live a very structured life now, but oh those scarce free moments I just give free reign to the chaotic me, incl a messy desk hahaha.

    INFJs have uncanny insight into people and situations. They get "feelings" about things and intuitively understand them.


    But this, not so much:
    On the other hand, INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them.

    I am at peace, but yet can see how one can improve themselves, just with no pressure.

    Oh look the site is finally done now (after 45 min)

    ENFP, hahahaha! ENFP - The Inspirers <- w00t!

    On the area of autism, sure:

    Champions often speak (or write) in the hope of revealing some truth about human experience, or of motivating others with their powerful convictions. Their strong drive to speak out on issues and events, along with their boundless enthusiasm and natural talent with language, makes them the most vivacious and inspiring of all the types.

    Hmmm ok
    Fiercely individualistic, Champions strive toward a kind of personal authenticity, and this intention always to be themselves is usually quite attractive to others. At the same time, Champions have outstanding intuitive powers and can tell what is going on inside of others, reading hidden emotions and giving special significance to words or actions.

    yes and no:
    Champions are good with people and usually have a wide range of personal relationships. They are warm and full of energy with their friends. They are likable and at ease with colleagues, and handle their employees or students with great skill. They are good in public and on the telephone, and are so spontaneous and dramatic that others love to be in their company. Champions are positive, exuberant people, and often their confidence in the goodness of life and of human nature makes good things happen.

    It really depends on my mood and how much I have to balance.

    Oh and this (from the other site):
    ENFPs almost always have a strong need to be liked. Sometimes, especially at a younger age, an ENFP will tend to be "gushy" and insincere, and generally "overdo" in an effort to win acceptance.

    No, not at all.

    Painfully so, but oh well, that's life.
    ENFPs sometimes make serious errors in judgment. They have an amazing ability to intuitively perceive the truth about a person or situation, but when they apply judgment to their perception, they may jump to the wrong conclusions.

    Edited at 2012-07-29 11:44 pm (UTC)
    • Howdy, INFJ!sister! :D

      So far, this post has showed that most of us are INTJ or INFJ--interesting, since only 1-2% of the population fits either.

      Bobby was an ENFJ.

      but the past years I had to let go of that for my kid and I live a very structured life now

      Yes, wow, I hadn't even thought of that. It must be challenging. I've never really thought of myself as unstructured, but I guess I am. I keep a to-do list in Gmail and kinda work on things as the fancy strikes ... or not. My desk is a mess. My very organized TA at work, on the rare occasions when I clean my desk, will say, "Praise Jesus, she cleaned her desk!" :D The sprawl extends throughout my classroom at times. Ms. Karen follows behind me, sweeping it all up and threatening to throw it away. :D

      But this, not so much:

      Now that was what I thought best described me. I am painfully hard on myself, though I've tried in recent years not to be so much.

      Adding after your edit ...

      You and Oshun are ENFP!sisters! :D

      So far, I think we've seen only three personality types on this post. So very interesting ...

      I always found you a very enthusiastic and inspiring person. You have a real knack for cheering on others and making them believe in themselves! :)

      Edited at 2012-07-29 11:49 pm (UTC)
  • I would have imagined that these tests mostly tell you who you think you are (which of course often is not so far from the truth, especially at work), while the fiction you write says something about yourself on a far more profound, but much less direct level.
    But obviously I'm saying this by way of an excuse for not wanting to take the test! Seventy questions like that in ten minutes? *shudders* Not if I can avoid it!
  • You may want to check this out. Those dichotomies aren't always accurate, especially the P/J thing.
    The functions of INFJs (extroverted feeling and introverted intuition) are entirely different from those of INFPs (introverted feeling and extroverted intuition).

    Of course, there are people who discount the Myers-Briggs functions (Fi, Ne, etc.) entirely. And by "people" I mean laypeople who are on a website studying this for fun - I'm not a psychologist and have no idea what, if anything, is in the literature about this.

    You might also want to check out Timeless' analysis of the Enneagram types, which are the best I've seen on any website.

    Edited at 2012-07-30 12:20 pm (UTC)
  • Apparently I am an INFP (Idealist-->Healer) and the description is pretty much dead-on.

    Interesting that it sounds very much like the typical description of an Aquarius-- which I am, as well.

    Apparently, Kierkegaard, Poe, William Blake, Sylvia Plath, Van Gogh, and David Lynch are also INFPs. Maybe this explains why I was a Goth in high school. ;P
  • CRAP!!!

    Okay - the OKCupid test didn't copy. ;-( and what was on there ahead of it is a link to a way cool book company that reproduces medieval books of hours and such. Phenomenal! So my answer in the last post won't make much sense when you open the link.

    My test results came up as a Protector, subset of the Guardians. Maybe I can find it again and get a copy. Dumb thing!
  • I guess among fandom I'm rare! Lol. The Keirsey site wanted me to pay to get my full report, but it classified me as a Guardian, and after reading the wikipedia descriptions I figure it must have scored me as an ISTJ (Inspector). Myers Briggs tells me I'm an ISTP (Crafter). I definitely tick A LOT of the boxes for both!
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