Two kinds of writer – which kind are you?

I’ve met and chatted with scores of authors and been to dozens of writing conferences and residentials in the course of my career and it strikes me that there are two kinds of writers.

Some writers start from the dreaming, intuitive mind, which creates spaces and populates them with an easy natural flow, and they don’t try to take control of the idea until it’s virtually fully formed in their imagination.

This can be a long process – it sets its own pace, and the author’s task is to watch and wait, and be willing to explore all the paths that open up, and see where they might lead.

This way of writing is rooted in a long period of gestation, when nothing appears to be happening and nothing seems to be achieved, but once the writing stage is reached it tends to come quickly and relatively easily.

Other writers work in a more methodical way, starting with a basic idea and building it up one block at a time. For this kind of writer, fixed work-times and word-counts can be a useful tool, keeping them focused on the task from beginning to end, and the writing progresses at a steady pace.

Either way works, depending upon the writer’s personality. You can find out more about your own natural style by doing the Myers Briggs Personality Types Indicator test.

Culturally, we value the practical, rational approach and mistrust the intuitive, which can mean that the more intuitive type of writer may undervalue the patient pondering stage which is part of their own process.

I write for those writers, to honour and celebrate their way of writing, where that long period of daydreaming, rambling, chatting, reading is as much a practical part of the work as sitting at the computer, producing words.

Which kind of writer are you? Is your process a slow daydreaming and a rapid writing, or a steady progress from start to finish?



10 thoughts on “Two kinds of writer – which kind are you?”

  1. Yes, I think we’re all a mix, Brian, and certainly the contemplation and actual writing is always the process. I think I’m probably right at the end of the scale, because word counts/timers and timetables are complete anathema to me!

  2. My writing needs slow day dreaming, expeditions, mood boards, a note book of ideas, lots of conversations in my head etc. I don’t write very quickly because I prefer to do only 2 or 3 drafts at most. I usually get close to the end, then put it to one side for ages, before taking the plunge and finishing. I’m hoping with experience the writing process will be less arduous, but I couldn’t write a thing without intuition and dreams.

    1. I don’t think it gets less arduous! But you seem to be settled in your own process Josie – I think it must feel fabulous to come back fresh after a break and plunge into writing the ending. I usually speed up steadily as i near the finish post.

  3. I’m definitely the slow type. I can’t bear to sit in front of the blank screen unless I have some idea of what I want to write, and even then, I may only write a paragraph every other day. I sometimes feel like I should be doing more, but I can’t force it. Even after I have written the rough draft it takes me just as long to rewrite, tweak and edit. It’s nice to know I’m not the only slow poke.

    1. The funny thing is, even us slow pokes seem to get the job done! I achieve the same kind of output whether I chain myself to the computer or slope off and just show up to type when I feel like it, because I hate sitting down before I’m ready so much that I simply can’t bring myself to produce anything worth reading. It makes me grumpy, and everything works better when I’m feeling more mellow.

  4. I’m about three parts intuition. My answer to every writing problem is to go and do something else and let my subconcious do the work. At the end of most scenes, I leave it for a while, or work on something else, until the next actions of the characters have drifted into place. Often, when I come back to it, I know immediately what’s ‘going to happen next’ even though I haven’t consciously thought about it.
    But there’s usually a point about three parts through a book when I need to start drawing a plan of the book, in order to get a grip on it, and to ensure that the story-arc is in place.

    1. ‘The next actions of the characters have drifted into place…’ oh, that’s it, exactly! And I find the same thing, that I tend to have a firmer plan the further I get into the story, and by the end I know exactly how it’s all going to pan out.

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