What sort of people are writers?


There are many articles available online about writing. About genre, style, spelling, grammar and so on. But what about the writer? What kind of people are writers and how are they different from others? Let’s explore.

The personality traits of the writer

Studies have jumbled up the successful writers of all domains to find out what they all have in common. The findings are summarized in the Piirto Piiramid of Talent Development (drawn by Jane Piirtoin 1993).

writers model

  • Androgyny
  • creativity
  • imagination
  • insight
  • intuition
  • introversion
  • openness to experience
  • over-excitability
  • motivation
  • perceptiveness
  • persistence
  • preference for complexity
  • resilience
  • risk taking
  • self-discipline
  • self efficacy
  • tolerance for ambiguity
  • volition (will power)

How do writers differ from other creative professions?

Traits that may be less present in other creative fields are

  1. Ambition (going hand in hand with envy)

    Many writers have a desire to be the best in their field. The best writer in history and the most famous writer alive. This may also produce feelings of anxiety because creative writing requires the author to put a piece of himself into the work. Envy can paralyze or motivate. For successful writers, it is often a motivation. Friendships between writers are usually not long lived, as they become sensitive to criticism and jealousy.

  2. Concern with philosophical matters

    Ethics and morality are matters that consume many writers. They spend hours contemplating the different perspectives and aspects. There is a distinct search for truth and find the truth beautiful no matter how harsh it may be.

  3. Frankness

    Something that attracts writers is the ability to say what they think. Writers are usually leaning towards liberal (left wing) and great enthusiasts of openness and honesty, even for unpopular opinions. They value the freedom of expression more than anything.

  4. Psychopathology

    Writers often exhibition features of manic-depression and schizophrenia but with exceptional strength of ego and intelligence that mental patients do not possess. Creative writers are clearly deviant from the general population, being both sicker and healthier than the average. Without a doubt, they are emotional people. Nearly 40% has been treated for an affective illness at some point.

  5. Depression

    Depression and suicide are significant part of the writer population.
    The writers dive in the deep pits of themselves and humanity as they explore concepts from inside out. They carve out pieces of their soul and knit it into their words, leaving themselves vulnerable and exposed. Memoirs often testify the hardships authors have endured and the extensive processing they do on their personal traumas. Writers are often prone to be self-abusive and self-destructive even as they enrich the lives of their readers. They have a higher mortality rate, higher suicide rates, generally a shorter lifespan.

  6. Empathy

    Writers, simply put, feel for the world. Perhaps a little too much as psychopathology and depression show. They take on the world, the big concept as well as the little details. Writers require a strong sense of self, to keep from being pulled under.

  7. sense of humor

    The writer sees humor in melodrama and sentimentality. Discrepant events make for sharp minds. The sense of humor writers share most of all, is verbal. Sly, wry, off-color, colorful, team-written humor.

The dark side of creativity

Dysmorphic rumination is repetitive thought focused on why, how, what if and what now. These thoughts are absorbing and compelling. Such ruminations regarding the self are linked with decreased problem-solving and increased depression as well as poor goal achievement and neuroticism. There is a negative correlation with forgiveness (positive with revenge).

Good moods score well in the early phases of creativity, namely generating ideas. Negative moods score better in the later stages. Studies have attempted to prove whether good moods are helpful in all creativity stages but come back with mixed results. Some say a good mood inhibits creativity, others found higher creativity rates. The large body of studies lean towards the power of negative moods, since authors are usually highly emotional, this mood compels them to write.

Effect of writing on mood

Studies have shown writing generally improves the mood. It intensifies good moods and betters bad moods, regardless of the type of writing task put to the subjects. Professional writers report stable moods, their mood being the same before and after writing, however they also report an overall positive mood when writing. Subjects being asked to write about a personal trauma or an imaginary trauma, have shown that exploration of thoughts and feelings could potentially enhance self-regulation. Subjects who were strictly kept to neutral topics, reported no positive benefit of writing. Participants who benefit the  most from writing are those who write the most intensely and for the longest amount of time.

Source: The psychology of creative writing by S. Kaufman & J. Kaufman. Cambridge university press. 2009