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Writer Types

You know that Greek guy who famously said, “Know  thyself”? I’m guessing he was NOT a writer.

At any given time, the writer’s head could be occupied by a plethora of personalities — psychopaths, parasol-twirling mademoiselles, mad scientists, country priests, zombies, or Navy Seals. Which turns “knowing thyself” into an exercise in psychotherapy.

I got a late start on this writing gig, and as a result, still feel like I’m on the front end of the learning curve. That curve does not just involve understanding procedure but recognizing personality. It’s not enough for the writer to know how to plot, build worlds, lay down a first draft, and edit; they must know themselves. In other words, growing as a writer is as much about temperament as it is technique.

I’ve recently recognized a peculiar bent in myself. It looks like this:

  • Reading fiction helps me write non-fiction
  • Reading non-fiction helps me write fiction

Not sure if it’s a left-brained / right-brained thing, but reading the opposite of what I’m writing frees my mind. Surely someone has chronicled this phenomenon. Maybe not. Nevertheless, when I’m making up fictional tales, reading factual content works wonders for my creative spark. On the other hand, when I’m writing about real-life details, make-believe keeps me grounded.

This phenomenon is not articulated in the following info-graphic. Nevertheless, I found the Six Types of Writers contained more than enough psychological accuracy. Author Alexei Maxim Russell goes into more detail on his website.


If I were using this graphic to construct a psychological profile of the type of writer I am, it would look something like this:

%35 Space Cadet
%30 Weird Recluse
%15 Ray of Sunshine
%13 Angry Young Man
%5 Greasy Palm
%2 Bitter Failure

My Space Cadet status won’t surprise anyone, nor the Weird Recluse. The saving grace is that the Ray of Sunshine wins out over the Angry Young Man in me.

Either way, it makes “knowing thyself” an interesting exercise for us writer types.

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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • Jessica E. Thomas April 22, 2014, 6:32 AM

    While I don’t claim literary genius, I think I’m a cross between The Weird Recluse and The Bitter Failure. Hee hee.

  • Jay DiNitto April 22, 2014, 6:58 AM

    100% Space Cadet. I might be the recluse but I don’t even approach genius-level and can’t do masterpieces.

  • Jill April 22, 2014, 8:16 AM

    I’m 100% Weird Recluse who sometimes feels like a bitter failure. It’s too bad having a tendency doesn’t actually mean that one is a brilliant genius. Most Weird Recluses aren’t brilliant geniuses, I’m going to posit. In any case, those Rays of Sunshine everybody in publishing wants? No. Don’t get me started. The last time I read an agent quote about how she doesn’t even bother with an author who doesn’t sparkle when she walks in the room, I fumed for minutes.

  • Kat Heckenbach April 22, 2014, 9:20 AM

    I don’t fit into any of these categories. Right now I feel like the author who feels like she’s failed (despite reviews) and is having a very, very hard time moving on to the next project due to total lack of confidence. (I have tried blaming it on busyness, but that’s just not so. Busy or not, if the fire was there, I’d make time. The fire, though, is barely embers with the occasional few-hundred-word spark these days.) I’m not railing against the establishment or feeling bitter–just sad. Tired of feeling pressured to be “the greasy palm” while wanting to go back to actually being “the weird recluse” (not that I was writing brilliance, but at least it felt that way and I was writing period).

  • Bob Avey April 22, 2014, 1:45 PM

    I’m one part space cadet, one part recluse, and one part failure, if that’s possible. It must me. Here I am.

  • D.M. Dutcher April 23, 2014, 2:46 PM

    Whenever I think about writing Christian stuff, 50% angry young man, 50% bitter failure. I alternately want to upend the establishment by writing serious issue-driven SF, and rail against the fact that I’d never get published for doing so unless I go indie.

    Trying to write kid’s fiction is probably like 90% Space Cadet. Very much daydreams and fantasies, and little concern about issues or relevance.

    • R.J. Anderson April 23, 2014, 3:54 PM

      Trying to write kid’s fiction is probably like 90% Space Cadet. Very much daydreams and fantasies, and little concern about issues or relevance.

      On behalf of the many Middle Grade and Young Adult authors who think a great deal about the often serious issues they write about and the ultimate spiritual and emotional relevance of their work, I’d like to register an objection. Writing for kids is by no means easier or even more “fun” than writing for adults, and the stakes are no less high.

      • D.M. Dutcher April 23, 2014, 4:48 PM

        What I meant was that when I try to write it now, I tend to write daydreams and fantasies. I don’t care about addressing relevant issues because it leads to boring work that preaches at children on the Very Important Issues of the day. This is also why I don’t write Christian kids fiction, because that genre is especially bad about preaching at kids.

        • Jill April 24, 2014, 11:43 AM

          It sounds like you have more fun writing kids’ fiction than other types of fiction. Perhaps you should publish your kids’ fiction. I mean, I’d like to see your sci fi. It would probably be interesting. But it sounds like you have more freedom writing for kids.

          • D.M. Dutcher April 24, 2014, 12:58 PM

            Working on it. Thing is R.J. is right too; I should say that for myself, it’s harder to write Christian SF because there’s always so much tension in that particular genre. I came across as snippier than I meant, and I’m sorry R.J.

            Like with Christian SF there’s always trade offs. Have you noticed very little Christian SF talks about aliens? If I wanted to write a story about how a Christian deals with an alien society that has different morals than we do due to biology, would Christians really read it? Or do they really want star wars-ish space opera? Can I put in gay side characters, even if they are chaste or repentant, or would that be something most believers couldn’t deal with?

            There’s just this tension I guess. I couldn’t write secular sf, but kids stories are different. I think you probably know the tension better than I, with Anna and the Dragon.

            • Jill April 24, 2014, 1:57 PM

              Yeah, I understand the tension. I didn’t want to be too telling about the fantasy world of the story just for that reason. To me, that entire book was a spiritual journey, which made it problematic on a lot of levels. I’m stepping away from that kind of story into pure sci fi, where I think there is less tension there, or I imagine it does. I’m currently working on sci fi tech because that’s the kind of sci fi I like (not because it has less tension than using alien cultures).

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