Telling personal stories and confessional writing are part of the INFP writing style. When I started this blog, like every other writer, I wrote about my own experiences. Connecting the personal with something bigger has always felt authentic to me.
But as I have written more and learned more, I have learned something about the limits of confessional writing and the fact that how we understand it as INFP writers can either block us or help us move forward.
You might have heard people say that writing is like having a conversation with someone.
That is true, but not completely true. While writing can be like having a conversation with someone, mostly it is a one-sided conversation. In your piece of writing, you do not get a chance to build rapport, you cannot gauge how safe it is to reveal something to someone, nor do you always get to explain the context that has helped form your opinion.
A conversation is two people dancing together. It unfolds gradually.
In writing, you are the only one moving. You are transmitting things that may be misconstrued or misunderstood, depending on who is on the receiving end. Unlike a conversation, you cannot clarify things when they are partly understood. Unlike a conversation, which is more fluid, writing can become solidified, sometimes congealed.
As an INFP writer, you do not have to confess everything or tell things that are too personal for your writing to be authentic.
That’s something I used to get confused about when I first started writing. If I don’t share something personal, does it mean I am not being authentic?
What I know now is that if something is very personal, you do not have to use it. Most of the time, what we are trying to convey is the essence of what we have learned. We can block ourselves by thinking that we have to tell a specific personal story in order to be a truthful writer. But readers don’t know all about who you are, where you come from, what your experiences have been. They cannot always put that story into the context of your entire experience.
So, if a story feels too close to you and it feels like too much of a risk to tell it, maybe it is because it is a precious part of you that should not be shared with everyone. It might need to be heard only by a friend or a loved one.
While the personal is political many times and confessional writing is a big part of the INFP writing style, you are likely not the kind of person who can let it all hang out, who won’t be affected by reactions to your work and life. Writing, in the end, is smaller and less complicated than life.
If you are blocking yourself by trying to use all of your life in the service of your writing, the best thing to do is to stop. You can share what you are comfortable sharing. You don’t need to share anything that feels too much.
The resistance you feel probably comes from a healthy place. You are setting boundaries within which you write.
What do you think? Do you sometimes try to confess too much? Does that block you? How will understanding the difference between sharing and over-sharing help you move forward?
If you enjoyed this piece, please share online or with someone who might enjoy it as well. Thank you!