Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Value of Studying Personalities for Writers

by Lynn Blackburn @LynnHBlackburn

Are you a personality geek?

I kind of am.

I’m not to the point that I would claim to know and understand all the variants of all the different types out there, but I may get a little bit too excited when I read a description and have that “Oh, my word! How did they know I do that?” moment. 

I realize some people are more drawn to this particular type of nerdiness than others (ahem, because of their personalities!) but specifically for writers, there are a few reasons I think it would be worth your while to spend a little time thinking about the different personality types.

1. To know thyself. 

The better you know how you’re wired, the more effective you’ll be as a writer. 

If you’re an extroverted writer (yes, I know you’re out there) you need to be sure to plan time to interact with other writers, and lots of other friends, even when you’re up against a deadline. It isn’t wasting time for you to do this. It’s critical to your ability to concentrate and refuel your creativity. 

Maybe you’re an HSP—a highly sensitive person. The nervous system of HSPs is particularly sensitive to noise, violence, textures, crowds, lights and other assaults to the senses. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a concert or a noisy birthday party, but if you know you’re an HSP you’ll know not to try to do anything creative until you’ve had time to recover. 

Some personality types are great at planning but lousy at executing. Some are great at starting projects, but lousy at finishing. Some procrastinate until the last possible moment. None of these things are inherently bad, but if you know this about yourself you can take the steps you need to in order to successfully complete your manuscripts.

Your personality type can also give you insight into how you handle criticism and rejection, which is important because there’s no avoiding either of those. 

2. To know thy characters.

As much fun as it is to learn about personalities for our own purposes, it becomes even more important when we want to write believable characters who will act and think in ways completely different from us. Speaking for myself here, if all my characters acted the way I do, my stories would be boring. 

“Oh, let’s watch this character as she stays at home and overthinks yet another tense conversation that happened two weeks ago but once again she won’t do anything about it because she avoids conflict at all costs. The End.”


If I want to write a good story, I need at least a few characters who take risks, mouth off, and love to party. And the best way for me to write those characters in a way that rings true is to have some understanding of their core personalities. 

I’ve found some wonderful ideas to create conflict and to stress my poor characters out just by reading the descriptions listed on some Myers-Briggs and Enneagram sites. “Oh, this type of person might panic when forced to make a decision that is guaranteed to disappoint someone else. Perfect.”Oh, wait, that was me again. But you get the idea. 

At our very core, we long to be known.But many of us are walking around completely confused about ourselves! How could we possibly hope to understand and know anyone else or write about someone who acts in ways we can't make any sense of? 

Please understand, I don’t claim to understand everything about myself. I know my Myers Briggs type. I know I’m an HSP (highly sensitive person) and that I’m an introvert. But please don’t ask me about the Enneagram because I’m still confused by that one. Am I a two? A nine? A six? Who knows? And that's okay. Personality tests aren't the gospel. They expand our way of understanding ourselves and those around us, and that is always a good idea.

If you’d like to do some exploring into different personalities, I’ve read two books fairly recently that can get you started. 

Linked Quick Guide to Personalities by Linda Gilden and Linda Goldfarbis a great read and a great introduction the way understanding personality types is beneficial for all relationships. There's also a guide specifically written for educators which I haven't had a chance to read yet, but it's on my list. 

Reading People by Anne Bogel gives a broad look at multiple personality frameworks. This book isn’t intended to necessarily help you nail down your own type, but rather to give you an overview into how understanding a multitude of personality types can help you better understand yourself and those around you. I learned about a few types of personality frameworks that I’d been previously unfamiliar with, and I now understand my Myers-Briggs assessment better than ever. 

So how about you? Do you find personality types interesting or would you rather read an old phonebook? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Grace and peace,


Lynn H. Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her new Dive Team Investigations series kicked off in March of 2018 with Beneath the Surface. The second book in the series, In Too Deep, releases in November of 2018 with the third book to follow in 2019. She is also the author of Hidden Legacy and Covert Justice which won the 2016 Selah Award for Mystery and Suspense and the 2016 Carol Award for Short Novel. You can follow her real life happily ever after at WWW.LYNNHBLACKBURN.COM and on FACEBOOKTWITTERPINTEREST, and INSTAGRAM.


  1. There can be so many variances in those tests, but I've always gleaned a good trait or two from them. I have to admit I find it hard to stick to a "book" personality type, probably because I'm ADD. So I grab bits from my friends or acquaintances, taking care that those are only one or two from any one person.

    1. I don't know if any of my characters are ever just one type, either. But I find it a fascinating way to expand my thinking about how a character would think or act in a situation - especially when their way is so different from my own! I took a class from Angie Hunt one time where she said whenever she got stuck, it was often because she didn't know her characters well enough. When that happened, she'd go see about their Myers-Briggs type and it would open up a whole new level of understanding and then she could keep going. I think I took that class at my very first Blue Ridge in 2010 and I've never forgotten it. :) And goodness, yes to not taking more than a couple of traits from any one person! Every character is a little bit of this one, a little bit of that one! :) I hope I get to see you in May. :)

  2. I'm that nerd that loves personality type quizzes and can never remember what my Myers-Briggs label is . . . I have to ask my daughter. I think I waffle between INFJ and INFP according to my Pinterest board. BUT! Just reading your post gave me a great insight into one of my characters that I'm having trouble with! Thanks! :)

  3. I am glad we all have unique personalities. God gives us all different gifts and that is a good thing. :-)