The Writer, ah the writer. Is there actually a writer archetype?
“If you can imagine it, it can be done” ~ creator archetype motto (Jung)
The Writer as we know it now, is a sub-archetype of one originally described by Carl Jung: the creative. Along with fellow artists, crafters, inventors, synthesizers and other creative types, the writer shares with these types the desire to express their own creativity, to grow and mature their speciality art and to understand, synthesize and create new ideas from our external world.
Because it’s a Jung archetype, the Creator has made its way into brand marketing as a way to visually storytell to those who relate to the creator archetype. The Creator brand profile meets a lot of what most types of writer are about. Brands which meet the Creator brand archetype include Disney, Adobe, Lego, Pinterest and Etsy. People who example the creator are Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, many actors, and people like Edward de Bono (lateral thinking) and Tony Buzan (mindmapping).
Writers create in words, while other artist types use various mediums. But of course, there are various forms of writing just as there are various artistic mediums.
A list of writer types (missing several) –
Non-Fiction writing, fiction writing – various lengths from short form (short stories, flash fiction), to medium (novellas) or longer (novels, a novel series). Then there’s the various media which sit within each: Non-fiction writers can write books, articles, news reports, blog posts, online website pieces or advertising copy, or biographies of celebrity lives, amongst many others. Fiction can take the form of a novel or a screenplay, genre fiction or literary fiction. Other writers write music, lyrics or poetry. And many writers work around editing other’s work or publishing.
Those are just some examples. But from those listed above come various specialty writing titles. Pick up a passport and look at the job title and you might find:
journalist, web copy editor, novelist, article writer, technical writer, newspaper or periodical writer, instructional writer, ghost writer, biographic writer, poet, musician, lyricist, documentary writer, magazine fiction writer, trans-media writer, copy writer, author, editor, screen writer, fanfic author or freelance writer.
Okay, so there are various creative types, and various writer types, so how do we get an archetype out of that?
The answer is: with difficulty. Search the web and we will find a thousand-billion web posts asking you “What type of writer are you?” or suggesting there are 10/3/12/more types of writer. We also have as many articles (okay, maybe only a thousand-million) telling us the typical personality type of the “writer”. Or maybe two? Plotter or pantser?
Personality type systems used in those articles normally select the most popular (it’s good for character development, I must suggest); the Myers-Briggs typology index.
Statistically, there is some evidence to suggest that many writers do fit into a certain sub-section of the MBTI – that of the Introverted Intuition users, with either a thinking or feeling preference. The fact that types like the INTJ and INFJs are the least common across the general population (falling into under 2% of humanity), but are very common in writers, might give us one reason why writers as an overall group are often misunderstood by most around us, and a general reason why the portrayal of writers sometimes uses old stereotypes.
To many writers having an INT or INF preference would make complete sense – writing as a task requires a lot of alone time, thinking and musing over things. Of course it’s an easy mesh with the introverts amongst us, who require to spend a lot of time alone, and actually derive our energy from this thinking time and work.
But there are certain writing jobs which require extroversion. Journalism and other writing practises require a lot of social skills, editing and publishing, and advertising – all may offer scope for the extroverted personalities.
Our modern writing and publishing industries, certainly nowadays, require a lot of other skills and applicable personalitites for success – in the MBTI scheme of things, most writers now need to be relatively at ease in the judgement (or organisation) quarter, as most of us can’t afford to spend a year or more producing just one novel anymore. We also need to get over any hermit-like persuasions of the fully introvert-natured and get out there to promote our own work through book launches and social media.
Stereotypes of the Creative or Writer
The writers who were previously portrayed in our movies and some books do not show much of the reality of the business anymore. Created out of an older and very different world, those writers are based on authors who could develop a co-dependency with alcohol or drugs, or had personality or medical disorders which meant they didn’t write for years, yet still produced work which was admired, and somehow still retained enough wealth to pay the bills.
The depressive drug-addicted artist or writer is still, sadly, very much a meme of today, although writers are less likely to admit to alcohol problems, but as coffee addicts we can be quite boastful (including me). Coffee cups with witty writer quotes are a mainstay as Christmas gifts for writers.
There may be some truth to coffee (or chocolate) as a tool of the trade, but the stereotype of the depressive or quirky writer who must work naked in the bath are slowly dwindling with time and even in many of our movies featuring writer characters.
Because of the incredible success of a very few authors (like JK Rowling) there is also some public expectation of the successful author having a glamourous lifestyle complete with red-carpet treatment, entourages, public appearances and beautiful houses all over the world. This is far from the truth of 99.9999% of writer’s real lives, even those able to make a living from writing.
Writing is hard work, both mentally and physically, and often has to be slotted around other work and domestic commitments.
So, what of the Writer as an Archetype? Let’s turn to Motivation.
Writers are too large a sub-section of the workforce or craft/creative types to really identify any sort of archetype, other than the few personality types we more generally may fit. Even then, a lot of writers work out of areas which fit more extroverted personalities than full on introverts, and the publishing industry demands a lot from any writer.
Instead, I am going to propose that there can be several writing archetypes regardless of their personality types, or writing or job titles, and these can fit both within the fictional, non-fictional, genre or literary, web or online or digital publishing or print publishing industries, or even as solely a diarist or journalist with no thought towards making our writing public.
These archetypes are defined by the motivation of what makes a person become a writer, and how they may present that motivation. Writing as a career is not singular, however. A Journalist may also be a novelist, an advocate for one cause, may also be an educator or even a seller as their earning job. Many writers will flow amongst these archetypes, and work with several different types of writing.
9 Writer Archetypes (Motivations)
1. The Advocate
Other names or associations: rebel, reformers, political writers
The advocate fits with several personality type systems. The INFJ in Myers-Briggs is an advocate type. The Enneagram suggests that Type 1’s are advocate-reformers.
These are writer types who pick up a pen with an advanced motivation above that of the chronicler or informer. They want to affect change in areas where they see a social or human injustice or issue.
When they have chosen a cause they believe in, the advocate writer will join – or even lead – the cause or group fighting to win advocacy. The advocate writer will be skilled in persuasive writing techniques, research for statistics and facts which support his arguments, and socially capable.
Advocate Goal: to affect change for the good or a group (of people, the environment or other areas which ultimately affect our living conditions or future).
2. The Analyst and Collator
Other names or associations: Collator, curator, librarian, researcher
This is the person who takes the news and analyses it, or takes a theme or universal question of humanity, and derives all the nuances from it, to report on the options. However, he remains quite neutral in his responses, meaning that if an analyst takes up fiction as a median, you will find that his stories leave you as a reader to make up your own mind as towards right or wrong, helped by the story presented, often from both sides.
The analyst is full of questions, loves research, probably enjoys things like spreadsheets and other tools which allows him to form his analysis. He has a lot of structure in his day, is organised with his data, and enjoys collecting and catergorising on many different topics.
I am partially an analyst type myself, and previously worked as an I.T. and Business Analyst. You can witness the analyst in myself by the ginormous amounts of research data I collect, collate and often share. Only some of it will ever form a background for my own fiction.
Analyst Goal: to know and share
3. The Artist-Author or Hobbyist Author
Other names or associations: hobbyist, crafter, journaler, chronicler, one-book author.
The Artist-Author considers writing as a hobby. It’s still extremely important, even for their own mental health, but they are not worried about earning or money. They write for the joy of writing, and of being read, and any money or success which comes is “gravy” or a bonus.
The Artist-Author may combine with many of these archetypes as well, or may be a path towards others including the Professional. They may be as knowledgeable about the craft of writing, and as skilled as any others.
According to the Enneagram Typology the Artist is Found at Type 4, and is individualistic, idealistic, and romantic. This may be, but is not always, the disorganised writer, and the writer who doesn’t complete their work, or is frustrated and demotivated by finding little readership for their life-time’s work.
The Artist-Author may write for themselves or others, but the main identifier is the “author” part – any work produced will not sit in a desk drawer somewhere, it will be published and shared somehow, in the hope it will find a readership. Kathryn Rusch calls this the One-Book author – they may have one book, or a series inside them, but their primary focus is getting published, and they do not have a long-term career focus as a writer.
Artist-Author Goal: to enjoy the writing process for themselves, and as an author, to share their writing.
4. The Chronicler or Columnist
Other names or associations: observer, philosopher, historian, blogger, folk story-teller
The chronicler observes and judges the human condition. Publically, nowadays you may find many of them working as newspaper columnists, often with a humorous bent. Orally-skilled chroniclers have late-night radio shows often allowing chat-time with callers in, discussing recent news and thoughts.
In non-fiction terms, the chronicler is found in writing our History or Philosophical texts, or as a documenter of our common folk, fairy or mythological tales which were once passed down orally. Or as a biographer or creative non-fiction diarist or journalist. Nowadays social media allows the chronicler their own public presentation via blogs and online posts. Opinions combined with some facts are tools of trade. Because of the relationship to commentary on the human condition, in fiction the novelist chronicler can write with genre or literary fiction domains.
The Enneagram says the Observer is found as a Type 5 – which is a combination of the chronicler and the informer, excellent at investigations and research but also can be emotionally distant.
Chronicler Goal: to comment on the human condition
5. The Educator or Teacher
Other names or associations: text book writer, how to manual writer, non-fiction, blogger, marketing
The educator writes knowledge to help others learn. In this space we now find a lot of internet marketers or bloggers who choose to build their personal brand and expertise by teaching instead of direct selling. Ebooks in the non-fiction ranks do well as how-to’s or instructions for how to do something.
Educator Goal: to teach and help others learn
6. The Entertainer or Story-Teller
Other names or associations: oral story-teller, fiction writer, novelist, short story writer, screen-writer, game writer
This writer archetype is there mainly to entertain. Novels, short stories, stage plays, screen plays, radio plays, animation writers, movies, television dramas or comedies, video or computer games, poetry, flash fiction, fan-fic, and the rest – all are medians which fit within the scope of the entertainer writer.
Of course, many writers in this archetype also fit other archetypes, such as the chronicler, advocate or educator, and these ficitonal works may include themes or commentary on real-life subjects.
Story-Teller Goals: to entertain, to provide a form of escape from parts of our real lives.
7. The Informer or Reporter
Other names and associations: reporter, journalist, documenter, interviewer.
This is the literal journalist or reporter from our news, periodicals, newspapers, television news, sports reporters or entertainment reporters.
The informer has to have a reasonably extroverted or people-orientated personality, be a good listener, and many times, a good speaker, able to think on-their-feet, and at ease in external environments, in crowds and one-to-one with people. They may, in the MBTI typology index, be high in a sensing preference.
The informer’s writing trade is built on the journalistic questions – who, what, where, why and how. Very good journalists and interviewers may find work as documentary or chat show hosts.
Informer Goal: to inform the facts
8. The Professional-Author or Career Writer
Other names and associations: the entreprenuer, the Ebook Author
Unlike the Artist-Author, the Professional-Author writes to earn a living in writing. This may be as a fulltime writer, or supported by another money-earning job, but with the objective to make a helpful income from writing.
The Professional Author may be a fiction writer, say a novelist, and may be either traditionally published with contracts with a publishing company, or publish as a self-publisher. In non-fiction, a lot of professional-authors make a living with educator books or courses, writing for online, or periodicals etc. To ensure income earnings, they may well research and target specific trends and needs for their writing.
Many professional authors can combine with the Seller or Persuasive Writer Archetype, or work across multiple genres and types of writing. Some make a living anonymously (one example being the ghost writer) or with multiple pseudonyms or pen names per different genres. Like any business, the professional-author will need work-orientated skillsets such as organisation and task management.
Professional-Authors are invested in writing. They may have accepted a contract and payment from a publishing company, or they invest their own money and time in tools, websites, software and hiring sub-contractors to offer products from their writing. The Career Writer is in writing for the long-haul and has many books or writing products inside of them.
Professional-Author Goal: to build a long-term career and earn money from writing.
9. The Seller or Persuader
Other names or associations: marketer, advertiser, political speech writer, debater, merchant
The Seller is somebody who takes the skills of an advocate, but not necessarily for a cause. Their persuasive skills target people to get them to take action, but are often sitting within the advertising or public-relations industry. The persuader or seller as writer requires social skills, and an observer personality, and many combine with other visual arts skills.
Persuasive writing techniques are a standard on many nation’s educational curriculums, involving using emotive writing to stir up emotions and reactions in readers. In product or merchandising these writing persuasions are combined with product and visual imagery work to invoke certain reactions and desires.
Seller Goal: Persuader goal – to call a reader to take an action; Seller goal – to call a reader to spend money on a product
Recognising the Writer
- Writers (like other creative artists) require long periods working alone. There are relevant settings and tools making a writer easily distinguished from other working archetypes –
- a study or office, typewriters or personal computers, notebooks, pens and pencils, and (hopefully) a large library of reading and reference books. Note that some writers work in cafes or libraries – they are spottable with the normal tools listed here, and possibly sound-reducing headphones
- comfortable dress whilst alone and writing – some writers boast of staying in pajamas all day
- Writers need rituals. These may be easy to spot: such as having to write first thing or early in the morning, or during their normal work lunch times (yes, many writers have other jobs to bring in an income)
- Writers are always “on” writing – even if a writer appears to be sitting on a park bench watching people, they will be writing something in their heads. This can make them appear distracted or not in the moment or get them judged as “a dreamer” or “over-thinker”. Some consequences at home may be that a writer in a middle of a writing project may not pay a great lot of attention to areas of domesticity such as household chores. Family members may feel unattended to, or not understand why a parent needs to have some time alone.
- Procrastination and hitting writer blocks are part of the writer life, and long periods of not writing are required to sort out ideas or resolve issues that have come out of the writing project (for fictional work anyway). This can be frustrating for everybody, and is one of the past reasons behind the “tortured artist” stereotype.
- A Writer’s core goal is to create something of enduring value, and to realise a vision. A writer may write for themself, but most have an audience in mind – they want to be heard.
- Consequently a writer’s greatest fear is not to be heard, to fail, or produce a work that is mediocre and of poor standard. Fear of failure (no matter of what amount, and who judges it) is the most paralysing fear of any writer, and stops many from pursuing their dreams or completing work. Even a weakness like perfectionism can be brought in to give an excuse as to incomplete work, to save the writer from judgement of failure.
- As you can see from the above, one of the biggest traits and struggles for the vast majority of writer types is found inside himself. There is a constant psychological struggle and juggle with motivation towards writing, that is very much an archetypal characteristic of many.
- Elizabeth Gilbert and other famous authors and creativity mentors say that writing is co-creative ie. writers aren’t totally alone. Many writers do believe or act on having another “being” as part of the process – whether it’s God, the universe, or a often-missing “Muse”
- Successful writers nowadays use skills relevant to any business – they schedule, organise, plan, meet deadlines, set to dos or tasks, delegate, seek advice and continuously develop and train their own skills, craft and knowledge of the industries they work within. If they don’t have a boss or manager to set some of these, the solitary writer will set them himself.
- Another mighty form of procrastination comes right out of a typical creator personality – creators have a center for self-improvement and are always trying to improve both themselves and the world around them (to create a better world). For writers this leads to many who constantly study the craft of writing, attend lots of workshops or courses, participate in lots of writer’s groups etc, but do not deliver any completed writing.
- Another drive of the creator / writer is a need to be authentic. Taken to extremes the authenticity need can find some writers taking no responsibility for their creations or how those creations may affect others. Essentially, a writer or creator is non-conformist. The subjects of “personal license”, “freedom to write” and even “hate writing” form around this authenticity. This can lead with clashes from other archetypes such as the Teachers, Politicians or Judges who are more concerned with how things are meant to be, rather than how one person thinks they should be. Being authentic to yourself is not necessarily authentic or accepted by general society. The anonymity of the internet has given many opinionated writers who do not agree with common social philosophies an outlet to publish their words without repercussions.
- As can be seen above, the shadow side to a creator archetype can be quite large. Creatives (writers included) can feel almost like God (they create, after all), they can get lost in their creations and lose touch with other’s around them, or with reality, appearing insensitive to other’s needs or social graces. Those creators who don’t form working rituals and skills to complete work may muddle through multiple projects, long periods of procrastination and not complete anything. Driven creators may be over-eager, impulsive and untrustworthy. The real shadow side to a Writer or Creator character type may well be a true Villain.
Note – if you’ve come to this post and are a new writer yourself, and may not have a complete understanding of some common tropes of the writer, but want to create a recognisable writer character – go to here: 26 Obvious Signs You’re a Writer (The Write Life) – this is a graphics-intensive – using gifs – post which is comedic but rings true for many of us as writers.
My own favourites have to be Stephen King’s Misery, featuring best selling romance novelist Paul Sheldon, held captive by a ribald and psychotic fan, Annie Wilkes, which should terrorise any writer about fandoms. If you want to know more about writer fandoms and the repercussions, take a read of the F for Fans post in this series.
Recently we’ve had Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell featuring a nerdy introverted Cath, who is a bestseller fanfic author of stories published on the web which are fan-fiction based on a fictional clone of the Harry Potter books. Cath, as young adult genre dictates, eventually learns that real life can be better than her fanfic built fictional world.
Dr John Watson as sidekick to Sherlock Holmes, is also the narrator / writer of the tales, and his voice is very much of the bemused writer.
Instead of listing some good movies, here’s a link list to movie lists etc. Many are based on real life writers, showing a plethora of different writing careers and motivations.
Other Names, Associates and Origins
- Other names: other titles are given above
- Associations: musician, artist, other creatives; Jung: creator archetype
- What the Writer is not: a scribe. Historically, there used to be a time where people who could hand letter and “write” were called scribes. In essence a scribe did the work of a common day printer or copyist – they either scribed down histories dictated to them, or copied already scribed documents. They were documenters or recorders, but not writers in the creative way we now see writers as being.
- Shadows: addict (drugs, or addiction to work or creativity); psychological shadow – writer’s block; impulsive over-eager insensitive and creator turned villain with a God complex.
If you are interested in reading more on some subjects from this post, I recommend the following links –
- Writers according to Myers-Briggs
- 6 Personality Types Who Will Succeed as Writers | A. Victoria Mixon, Editor (especially good if you want to have a writer character and set them up for failure)
- Personality Type for Writers: What Writers Must Know – Visionary Fiction Alliance – more about Myers Brigg types and Jung
- The Type Writer – Personality Type and the Written Word – this types a few well known authors, but also links to Judith Searle’s article suggesting that certain Enneagram types fit with specific genres.
- What’s Your Writing Personality? – Helping Writers Become Authors – this article links writers with the 4 Temperments.
- 26 Obvious Signs You’re a Writer (The Write Life) – this is a graphics-intensive – using gifs – post which is comedic but rings true for many of us as writers.
- The INFP Writing Personality: Elegant Persuasion | Write with Personality – in 2009 Andrea Wenger wrote a series of posts on different Myers-Briggs types as writers. There is no index to all the posts, but if you scroll down to the bottom of this example you will find links to the others, and here is the category filter which will also locate personality posts published currently.
- Writing Types based on Myers-Briggs– 2012 posts at Thinking Through your Fingers
- The Myers-Briggs Types of 101 Famous Authors [Book Riot]
- A Writer’s Taxonomy | L.Z. Marie and Writer’s Hierarchy of Needs | L.Z. Marie are of interest in personality and traits
- The Business Rusch: A Career Versus Publication (one-book versus career writers)
- Know Your Goals: Artist-Author or Professional-Author? – Jami Gold
- The Creator Archetype
- Addictive Personalities –
- How Top Brands Use The Creator Brand Archetype to Get Customers
- BRANDALITY Archetype Creator – Brand Strategy by Kaye Putnam – a good infographic here
Part of 2016’s Character Archetype Series (A-Z) @ Hunter is Writing.