“If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” – Toni Morrison
To write a book: for some people, it’s the ultimate dream, but for many, in an age of Twitter, Bitmoji, and Instagram, it seems old-fashioned. But thanks to the advent of platforms like CreateSpace and Wattpad, anyone with a computer can write a book and publish it too. According to figures from Bowker (an agency that issues book ISBNs), the number of books published in the United States every year has grown to more than one million, roughly two-thirds of which are self-published. How that has affected the market is another matter, but it’s at least safe to say that as a society, our yearning to write books is anything but waning.
To gauge our community’s enthusiasm for writing in this landscape, we asked readers to agree or disagree with the statement, “You think that someday you will write a book.” Overall, 46% agreed, with Intuitive personality types strongly in the lead.
What makes us want to write? First, we should acknowledge that “writing a book” can mean very different things to different people: a blockbuster bestselling novel, an exhaustive study of a microscopic scientific phenomenon, a modest self-published family history, and everything in between. And different people can have very different motivations for writing.
Let’s explore below what our personality type may reveal about our interest, or lack thereof, in writing a book.
Diplomats and Analysts (59% and 58% agreeing)
“If one is lucky, a solitary fantasy can totally transform one million realities.” – Maya Angelou
Intuitive personality types (58% agreeing) were by far the most likely to harbor dreams and ambitions of writing a book, agreeing at a rate 24% higher than their Observant counterparts. Intuitive types love to ruminate on ideas and imagine new possibilities or alternate realities, so they are certainly well-suited to be authors. Diplomats and Analysts share the Intuitive personality trait and a common purpose for writing: to transform, in one way or another, themselves or their world.
One of the primary aims of storytelling is to give readers the opportunity to see things from the point of view of someone whose experiences and perspectives are different from their own; in so doing, we can achieve greater understanding and, hopefully, a more peaceful and productive world. To pull off such an idealistic feat, it helps to have a great deal of empathy and a keen interest in solidarity – in other words, it helps to be a Diplomat personality.
Turbulent Mediators (63%) were the most likely of all personality types to agree, which is probably no surprise given how many famous authors, like Shakespeare and Tolkien, have been Mediators. Natural storytellers, Mediators are equipped with several useful tools, including a gift for language and an affinity for sophisticated literary devices like metaphors and symbolism.
But even more important is Mediators’ fundamental need to express themselves creatively, to understand themselves and their place in the world. That need is especially pronounced in Turbulent variants, whose powerful emotions and sometimes unstable self-esteem lend even more urgency to these questions.
Analyst personality types, although just as likely as Diplomats to want to write a book someday, are probably motivated differently. Not known for their empathy, Analysts are driven by their Intuitive trait to pursue writing as a logical exercise in theory, experimentation, invention, or strategy.
Diplomats may romanticize the act of writing, but Analyst personalities are more likely to view books as vehicles for disseminating their innovative ideas and grand plans, seeking a more practical route for effecting change. Furthermore, they may not be interested in becoming career authors; rather, these personality types see books as an effective means of establishing themselves as authorities and increasing their currency within their chosen field.
Assertive Commanders (62%) – the personality type with the second-highest rate of agreement – are an excellent example of that attitude. Commanders are strong, results-oriented leaders. Recognizing that they can’t accomplish much on their own, they may write a book in order to reach and mobilize a specific audience.
Will a Commander write the next great novel? Maybe, maybe not. But they’ve got big ideas and they’re hell-bent on making those ideas reality, so you may well see Commanders topping bestseller lists in categories like business, current affairs, and science and technology.
Sentinels and Explorers (34% and 32%)
“The road to hell is paved with works in progress.” – Philip Roth
Sentinels and Explorers were almost equally unlikely to envision themselves writing a book. Observant personality types are highly pragmatic and focused on the here and now. They’re likely aware of just how time-consuming and difficult it can be to create a book, and they’re not terribly interested in searching for hidden meanings or forming abstract connections in the first place. Why mire themselves in half-baked ideas and dozens of rough drafts when more pressing obligations or more exciting experiences await them?
Just because Sentinel personality types don’t spend time imagining themselves composing a book, however, doesn’t mean that they won’t eventually do so. Because Sentinels are so committed to effective, efficient processes and systems, they often want to share them with others. A book may be the logical next step.
The self-help shelf is no doubt packed with Sentinel authors, people who didn’t necessarily set out in life to devise a ten-step program for financial security or to become an authority on how to declutter your home, but who, out of a sincere desire to create order and help others, have gone on to do just that.
For Explorer personalities, the sheer time and effort that writing a book requires is likely a major deterrent – they’re just not comfortable with that kind of commitment. Action-oriented and eager to try new things, Explorers may also feel that writing about something can never be as authentic or visceral as getting out there and experiencing it for themselves.
Assertive Adventurers (27%), despite being artistic types, were the least likely personality type to want to write a book. Adventurers are interested in personal growth and pushing boundaries through exploration and experimentation. But they tend to be focused inward and don’t necessarily feel compelled to share their personal discoveries with others, especially by means of a medium as tedious as writing. By the time they’ve found meaning in one experience, they’re ready to move on to the next one, and setting long-term goals is never easy for Adventurer personalities.
Constant Improvement and Social Engagement (51% and 49% agreeing)
“[Writers] are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway
The Turbulent members of the Constant Improvement and Social Engagement Strategies were 6% more likely than their Assertive counterparts to see themselves writing a book. Turbulent personality types are perfectionists driven to work hard to achieve success. As a craft that demands a constant willingness to revise and refine, writing provides Turbulent types with a creative, productive outlet for their perfectionistic energy. The writing process does involve a risk of getting too wrapped up in negative emotions like frustration and anxiety, but Turbulent personalities are drawn to it nonetheless.
Many writers, like Hemingway, were famously Turbulent, which may reflect two tendencies. Turbulent types are more likely to experience periods of intense inspiration – staying up all night feverishly churning out pages.
In addition, people with Turbulent Identities may end up leading more interesting lives, punctuated by the kinds of passionate love affairs and bitter fights that make for great reading. And although it may not always feel comfortable to do so, sharing the extremes of their inner experiences may help Turbulent personality types comprehend them.
Although Introversion and Extraversion had virtually no impact on our readers’ responses, Constant Improvers probably do have a slight advantage as authors, because, as Introverted personalities, they are content to work in solitude, a condition of writing that many people struggle with. When Extraverted Social Engagers think about writing a book, they almost certainly dream of making the bestseller list or winning a major award. Even if it’s just a fantasy, it’s too tempting not to think about the social opportunities that writing a book could open up.
People Mastery and Confident Individualism (45% and 42%)
“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” – George Orwell
In general, the Assertive personality types belonging to the People Mastery and Confident Individualism Strategies are cool, collected, and self-assured, and they tend not to push themselves as hard as Turbulent types when it comes to achieving goals – in other words, they represent the opposite of the image of writing and writers that Orwell offers above.
Assertive personalities approach the prospect of writing a book with a realistic understanding of their time, energy, and writing skills. A highly motivated People Master (like an Assertive Commander) or Confident Individualist who has a message that they feel a deep need to communicate could certainly be capable of meeting the challenge, but for most, this level of motivation is lacking. People Masters would rather influence people face-to-face than slog away in solitude, and Confident Individualists feel little need to share their work or their life experiences with the rest of the world.
“Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it.” – William Zinsser
For many of us, the notion of writing a book is too daunting or simply not relevant to what we want to accomplish in life. But for some personality types, especially Intuitive and Turbulent types who spend a lot of time in their heads, questioning and analyzing and dreaming, the urge to write a book cannot be ignored.
Whatever your reasons for wanting to write, be they lofty, romantic, or pragmatic, it’s helpful to understand that writing is ultimately an “act of ego”: it’s you, carving out solitary time to explore and solidify your ideas, your discoveries, your opinions, and your identity. If you’ve decided that a writer’s life is for you, then make the most of that act and that time every day, and keep going!