How Learning My Personality Type Is Helping Me Write My Next Story

I’ve always been proud of my productivity. When I know something needs to get done, I plan without hesitation. I create goals, break them down into smaller tasks, and celebrate little victories. My planner is my savior.

When it came to writing I took the same approach. I planned my ideas down to the tiniest detail. My outlines ran ten pages long because each chapter contained as much information as possible. My character sheets were thorough and their relationships clearly defined.

Then the time came to start the first draft and my fingers wouldn’t budge. My brain hit a brick wall and I’d be sitting there — twenty minutes or more — just staring at the blank screen before me. 

What the hell?

I couldn’t figure out why with this amazing outline in front of me I wasn’t able to write. I spent a month or more planning, plotting, and outlining. The actual writing part should be a piece of cake. Right? Wrong!

This happened more times than I care to admit. I gave up writing fiction for a long time because of it. I just couldn’t seem to get a draft written with a full-fledged outline.

I’d read advice from best-selling authors and aspiring writers alike where they’d all say, “Just start.” 

One of my favorite Stephen King quotes even goes…

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

I’m going to say something you probably shouldn’t say (unpopular opinion?): But the advice of “just start writing” is bullshit. It’s all well and good to tell someone that, but it’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s literally the saying, “Easier said than done.”

I knew the concept of “just start.” I share that advice with people myself. And why not? It’s solid advice. You truly can’t finish something unless you start. But that advice doesn’t help me when I’m sitting with my fingers frozen above my keyboard. 

Because in my mind I’ve already started. I put time and effort into the outline I created. Yes, I know an outline and a draft are two different beasts, but the notion that I could punch out an exceptionally detailed outline but not a draft was bothering me.

Now, I’ve finished manuscripts before. At least five. All written and edited with a detailed outline beside me.

So what changed? Why isn’t this tried and true method working for me anymore?

The older I get and the more I learn about this industry has made me realize a few things:

  1. You cannot expect a process to work for you forever.
  2. It’s hard to put your own writing advice into practice.
  3. The only writing advice that matters is the one that gets you writing.

As a copywriter, I know if I don’t produce a piece of content by the due date I tell my clients to expect it, I’m not doing my job right. I’m putting my business in jeopardy. Since copywriting is still writing, I’ll admit I have off days. There are days I don’t have any inspiration to write a blog or email sequence. But I set my timer for an hour, draft whatever comes to mind, and edit it the next day. Sometimes I find what I wrote wasn’t horrible. Other times I cringe reading it back.

So I ask again, why can’t I do that with fiction writing?

If you’ve made it this far, I applaud you. I realize I spent the first chunk of this post whining and I apologize. Let’s get to the solution, shall we?

While sorting through old files, I found my Myers-Briggs results. Done when I was working for a non-profit, I was reminded that I’m an INFJ-T also known as “The Advocate.” Essentially, I am someone with introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging personality traits. The T stands for Turbulent, which is the opposite of Assertive. I never really dove into the meaning of this until recently. 

I was particularly struck by this paragraph:

People with the Intuitive trait prefer to exercise their imaginations as they seek new ideas and possibilities. They live their day-to-day lives just like any other personality type. But while that’s happening, their minds tend to point inward while at the same time gently focusing somewhere beyond the horizon. Their lives are ones of questioning, wondering, and connecting the dots in the “bigger picture,” and they love the theoretical. They often ask, “What if?” and ponder the possibilities the future might hold. [1]

Further reading led me to discover that INFJ types create more through intuition and feeling rather than observations and thinking. This then brought me to look deeper at the differences between plotters and pantsers. Wouldn’t you know it, but most INFJ personalities are pantsers. 

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about: In the writing community, writers often identify as plotters, pantsers, or plantsers. Plotters detail their story from beginning to end. They know every twist, every turn, every character flaw. Pantsers write “by the seat of their pants.” They are inspired by an idea and write without a plan. Plantsers are a combination. They have a general idea of what they want to write and have some basic outline things down, but if they go off-script they’re okay with it. 

Have I been doing this all wrong? Has having a rock-solid outline disrupted my intuitive feelings when it comes to writing? I’m a planner, yes, but perhaps I’m not a plotter.

With this new knowledge in hand, I plan — LOL — to tackle my next project using the pantser method. I have a few ideas in mind and a lot of “what if’s” brewing. So I am going to “just start.” I don’t know how long I’ll be drafting for or where the story will take me, but I’m excited. This is the first time I’ve been excited about a fictional story in a long time.

I’ll be sure to update you guys with how it’s going.

And I also recommend finding out your personality type. If you feel like the process you’ve been using has been slipping from your grasp perhaps you need to try something new. If your process works every single time, then keep it up. I’m not here to tell you to try something that won’t work for you. I’m here to tell you that if something isn’t working, maybe you need to look deeper into yourself to find out why.

Do you know your Myers-Briggs personality type? Do you swear by outlines or do you switch up your process project to project?

(A)Sexual Perspective: Alone But Not Lonely

I love film and television. Like books, there’s so much you can learn and experience through them. We connect with characters dealing with similar struggles. We escape into these fictional worlds where we feel strong and capable. Entertainment is a powerful tool.

But when you’re asexual, connecting with sexually-motivated characters and plotlines is hard. As someone who doesn’t feel sexual attraction towards any gender, it’s difficult to understand why sex and relationships always seem to be the ultimate goal in stories. 

I believe the best way to teach is by using a universal tool. What’s more universal than film and television? And we are in need of more asexual voices sharing their stories and experiences. 

With that said, every other week — in between my regular posts — I’ll be publishing my thoughts on a specific movie or show and how they correlate to my experience as an ace.

I want to note that the opinions and experiences revealed in these essays are mine and mine alone. There are many asexual stories out there and they are all different. I highly recommend checking out the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN) website for more.

If you’re interested in learning more about asexuality, comment below or send me a message. It’s time to amplify the asexual conversation. 


Alone But Not Lonely

In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, I rewatched Hulu’s Four Weddings and a Funeral. I was in the mood for something that would put a smile on my face. Based on the 1994 film written and directed by Richard Curtis, this 10-episode series was modernized by writer/actress Mindy Kaling. Kaling wanted to revolutionize romantic comedies. She wanted to show her love for them by adding substance and diversity. Her love letter succeeded. The show follows four American friends living in London where they deal with career and romantic obstacles. A delightful reinvention, it elevated the stagnant status quo of rom-coms but still keep the tropes we know and love. Every single character had hopes, dreams, and fears. Full of classic one-liners and zings Kaling is known for, the series is definitely worth a watch.

During the season finale, Kash (Nikesh Patel) and his ex-fiance, Ainsley (Rebecca Rittenhouse) are walking through the streets at night. It’s the first time since the show’s premiere that these characters are cordial. They spend the better part of the series at odds after Kash calls off their wedding in the first episode. Curiosity and guilt bring Ainsley to the theater where Kash is a lead, fulfilling a lifelong dream he’s had. As they awkwardly catch up, she asks how he’s doing. Kash replies, “Things are good. I mean, I’m single and desperately lonely.”

The show had me until that one line. 

It’s the kind of dialogue we often hear in romantic comedies. Characters ache and moan about their single life. About being lonely. They fear they’ll never find someone. Never be happy. Even if everything else in their life is going great, if they aren’t in a relationship, their life has no meaning. 

Cue eye roll.

Now, I loved the series. It was sweet, funny, poignant, and romantic. Exactly what you want out of a rom-com. Mindy Kaling brought her quirky touch to a recycled storyline. By centering it on the four friends, she promotes growth and maturity.

But I hate that line.

I despise any movie, television show, or book painting loneliness as a fate worse than death. It implants a dangerous and harmful mindset.

Brene Brown writes in her bestselling book, Daring Greatly, “We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives, and without it there is suffering.” I don’t think Brown means solely romantic connections here. She means basic and simple human connection. Is romance a form of connection? Of course. But to suggest that without romance in our lives, we’re bound to suffer, is not how asexuals like me view the world. And the type of language used in these romantic films and other entertainment is not the message we want to give our younger generations.

In the most recent publication about asexuality, Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex, author Angela Chen says, “So long as there is no romantic partner in the picture, others will think the picture incomplete.”

I understand for a storyline to have merit the hero or heroine must end up with the love interest. What if they don’t? Is it really so bad if the main character ends up alone? Because let’s be realistic. Loneliness happens. To all of us. When my allosexual (anyone who feels sexual attraction for other people; allo for short) friends are single, they complain they’re “alone.” I want to remind them that, in fact, they’re not. Yes, they’re single. But single doesn’t mean they are alone. We’re never completely alone. Are we alone in the sense that we’re by ourselves? Sure. Can we eat at a restaurant alone? Yes. But in terms of being lonely, we never are.

We have access to friends and family within arms reach. All you have to do is pick up the phone. Call. Text. FaceTime. If you feel lonely and want to talk to someone, scroll through your contacts. Select a person you know you have great conversations with and see if they’re available. If not, don’t fret. Try someone else. Stop thinking you’re alone. The idea of ending up desperately alone stems from society’s pressure on finding a life partner. This someone is your person and they mean the world to you. But to think your life has no meaning because you haven’t found someone and you’re afraid to end up alone is the seed society has planted in us. If romantic comedies have taught us one thing, it’s there’s someone for everyone. Right? Possibly. But what about those of us who don’t view others sexually? What about those who don’t want to partake in romantic relationships?

This is where asexuals are viewed as strange. Downright weird. Immoral. 

What do you mean you don’t want a relationship? How could you not want to have sex?

I think romance is beautiful. To meet a stranger and grow to love them enough, trust them enough with your most intimate dreams and fantasies. That’s pure magic. I’m awed and inspired by my parents’ love. I watched my sister fall in love with her husband. I’ve gone to weddings of friends and family. I’ve seen love in all forms. As an ace and grayromantic woman, romance and sexual attraction are not at the forefront of my brain. They barely exist. And when I say barely, I mean they’re essentially non-existent. Because of this, I’ve learned to embrace my loneliness. I know there’s a chance I won’t ever find a significant other.

Did you gasp out loud? Did the idea of it make you cringe?

Welcome to romanticism for asexuals.

Julie Sondra Decker points out in her book, The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality that “relationships do not have to include sex or sexual attraction to be categorized as romantic.” It’s possible for asexuals to be in relationships with non-asexuals. Many are. How they approach sex varies from couple to couple, but it’s not an easy conversation to have. Imagine telling your boyfriend/girlfriend that you adore them as a person. You trust them with your heart and soul. Now tell them you’re not sexually attracted to them? Doesn’t go over well, huh? This is what makes dating difficult, especially for aces. When I look back on my past relationships — of which there was only one — I realized it was the friendship I cherished more. After I said yes to being his girlfriend, I felt like I did something wrong. We weren’t together for long. The few dates I went on in college resulted in nothing more than a friendly hug at the end of the night and no second date.

Coming out as asexual made me accept the fact that I may never get married. I may never find a partner. If I do, sexual attraction will not be there. I know this to be true because as ace I don’t feel sexual attraction for anyone. It’s not in my DNA. Physical attraction can be present. I’d be happy to stare at a shirtless Jason Momoa all day. But do I feel a burning desire down there? Nope.

Am I terrified of ending up alone?

No.

What about when I’m older? Who will take care of me? Well, I hope to be fine for a while. I have plenty of time to worry about where I’ll be in my seventies, eighties, and nineties. Angela Chen agrees. “It is still unfair that people worry that not having a romantic partner means they can’t take care of themselves in old age,” she writes. 

Will I ever feel truly lonely? Never.

“In reality, friendships can be among the deepest relationships people have—and that goes for everyone, not just aromantic people,” Julie Sondra Decker writes. The friendships I have fulfill me as any romantic relationship would. What do we want out of a romantic partner? Love. Support. Comfort. Trust. The same things we want out of friends and family. Allos want sex and intimacy from their romantic partners but as an ace, I don’t require that to be happy.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “lonely” as (a) being without company, and (b) cut off from others. 

Take a look at those definitions again. “Being without company” doesn’t mean never without company. “Cut off from others.” COVID-19 forced us into lockdowns that cut us off from our loved ones. If you lived alone, I’m sure it was harder on you than most. But thanks to FaceTime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts we stayed connected. Imagine if this pandemic happened ten or twenty years ago? The technology then wouldn’t compare.

As emotional creatures, we tend to overemphasize our feelings. If you dropped a fork for the third time in two minutes you’re way beyond annoyed. You’re livid. Cursing. Calling yourself an idiot with butterfingers. My dad and sister are famous for this. They make it well known how mad they are that they dropped something. So if we’re not in a relationship when everyone around us seems to be, we’re going to amp up the drama. We’re going to say we’ll never find anyone. We’ll be alone forever. We’re unlovable. I’ve heard plenty of variations and they’re all dramatic. 

I’ve become more comfortable telling people when they ask me, “Anyone special in your life, Jess?” that “No. I’m asexual so I may not find anyone, but I’m okay with it. I’m happy whether or not I’m in a relationship.”

The expressions I receive in response range from shock to pity and the occasional, “Oh, you’ll find someone. You’re too sweet to end up alone.”

It’s funny. Even if you tell someone you’re fine with being alone, they can’t accept it. This stems back to society and the pressure it puts on people to fall in love and reproduce. Isn’t that what we’re meant to do? Every other animal on the planet mates. How could a small percentage of people out there not have romantic or sexual feelings?

Unfortunately, asexuals will always have a hard time convincing people that being alone is not the end of the world. It’s hard to change someone’s mind when the idea of something has been drilled into them since they were little. Believe me, I thought for the longest time if I wasn’t married with a couple of kids at a certain age, I failed at life. This is the seed we need to stop planting. It’s not healthy and rom-coms are not helping the cause.

Let’s check in on Kash and his comment. Does he ultimately end up happy, with his lover back in his arms? Of course he does. Would it be a romantic story if he didn’t? Rom-coms are always bound to have those moments where the main character feels all is lost. But from an asexual perspective, describing this moment as him being “desperately lonely” or feeling like life is over is a trope that needs to be reconsidered for future projects. 

Loneliness comes down to mindset. Be sad if you broke up with someone. It’s natural. You need time to heal, but don’t think you’re alone or that your life is over. When you break up with someone, who comes to console you? Friends. Family. Hopefully, they come with wine and chocolate. They give you the love and support you just lost. The next time you feel lonely, grab your phone and reach out to a friend. Chances are, they’ll be there for you. 

You Have to Learn to Pace Yourself

I’ve been thinking a lot about pressure. To be more specific I’ve been thinking a lot about the pressure we put on ourselves.

January is over. The first month of 2021 is gone. Did anyone else feel like January was as long as this pandemic? No? Just me? Ok.

Let me ask you this then: Are you pleased with what you got done in January? Or do you feel like you could’ve done more?

If you’re thinking the latter then this post is for you. You are my people.

Like you, I didn’t get everything I wanted to get done in January. There were moments I had time reveal itself to me but I didn’t take it. Twelve days in, I started to resent myself for not taking the free time I had.

The instant a weight of self-loathing began pressing on my shoulders, I paused everything I was doing and gave myself a pep talk. I took out my journal and literally wrote, “Relax! It’s only the first month of the year.”

After that, I took a few deep breaths and decided to give myself the next day off. I read, I rewatched season 3 of Cobra Kai, and I updated my Spotify playlists. For the rest of the month, I allowed myself to get away with not doing something just because there was time to do it. 

And you know what, it was glorious.

I pride myself on being a productive person. I’m always writing something, plotting something, reorganizing something. Having my own business and working from home gives me the freedom to change my hours as I see fit. Though I usually stick to the same hours, it’s nice to know I have the flexibility to alter them if something comes up.   

I want to share this tweet from author and screenwriter, C. Robert Cargill:

He isn’t kidding. 

In January alone we saw a siege on the Capitol building, a second impeachment, and the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Madam Vice President!!!). Basically, it was a month of roller-coaster emotions. People were scared, excited, hopeful, worried. I myself felt all of those plus some. My mind was so preoccupied with the state of the world, I barely had the creative energy to write.

If you — like me — didn’t get a lot done because you were trying to hold it together, it’s ok.

Personally, the majority of the writing I did during January was journal writing. My goal was to make sure my mental state was in check. The last thing I worried about was a deadline or finishing my plot outline. 

Now, if you were able to write or complete your January to-do list, way to go! Never be ashamed for working hard. Everyone reacts differently to historical moments. Whatever your reaction was to these January events, I’m here to tell you it’s normal.

February is a new month. The Age of Aquarius starts in February. It is a time of rebirth and transition. Let January be known as the month you dipped your toes in the water. February is the month you’ll jump in, swim forward, and never look back.

Let’s go!

If you don’t already I recommend following C. Robert Cargill on Twitter. He posts a lot of inspirational and relatable writing posts.

Fun fact: The title of this post comes from Billy Joel’s song “Pressure.” It’s a great tune that was sung by Jane Levy on Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist in an absolutely hysterical scene. If you’re not watching that show, I highly recommend giving it a go. I’ve never laughed and cried so much.

How did your January go? Did you get everything done that you wanted to? Did you feel more stressed than usual? Comment below.