|Professional Writers, Personality Types, & Genre Choice Page 1 of 7|
For several decades, the field of composition has been investigating the relationship between literary genre and factors like voice and identity, theoretically speculating about how writers and teachers of writing can best conceptualize genre (cf. Bazerman; Freedman; Brooke and Jacobs). Simultaneously, the field of psychology has been investigating the relationship between personality types, skills, and interests and how those factors apply to decisions like career choices (cf. Chauvin, Miller, Godfrey, and Thomas) and individual differences in language (Pennebaker and King; Li and Chignell). This study seeks to combine these strands of research to see how writers’ personality types relate to their professional choices of genre in order to create vocational, pedagogical, and personal insight into professional writing choices. As writing professionally can seem like a great risk—given that job placement is far from certain— information that will help writers and educators make informed choices is of value.
This study sprang from the observation that many aspiring writers lack direction as to which genres they should pursue professionally. This observation raises questions about successful, professional writers: What led them to choose to write in their respective genres? Did personality play a part? These questions point to a gap in the research that should be filled in order to improve self- and societal understanding of professional writers and to support aspiring writers who need guidance in finding their own genre of choice. However, for this study, cause-and-effect relationships should not be presumed, as such attributions were not the intent of this research; rather, the results should be considered a prompt for future research by scholars and a guide for reflection by writers. The major question of interest in this study is, Are there associations between professional writers’ personality types and the genres in which they write?
Accordingly, data were collected via interviews with and surveys of professional writers. In Phase I of the research study, informal face-to-face interviews with writers representative of different genres were conducted, the purpose of which was to gain an understanding of common perceptions of differences among writers as well as to network with the interviewees in order to widen the number of participants for Phase II. In Phase II, an online survey asking for self-reported personality types and professional genres was extended to many more writers via an emailed web link. The predicted findings were that relationships between personality type and professional genre choice would be found that differentiated writers of different genres.