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What Can Jung’s Archetypes and Orientations Tell Us About Ourselves As Writers?

Updated on July 5, 2020
Natalie Frank profile image

Natalie Frank, a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, specializes in pediatrics, behavioral health and stress and coping in everyday life.

Writer’s write for different reasons. Some are in it for the money, while others long to bring hope and change to the world. Some have a need to be admired or to prove something. Others truly just love the process of creating works that are interesting and skillfully rendered. Obviously context plays into this somewhat as multimillionaires are less likely to be in it for the money than those who are broke. Personality also plays a large role in why we write and who we are as writers.

One of the best known psychologists who focused on personality was Carl Jung. Jung developed a series of archetypes which he conceptualized as models of people, behaviors and personalities. Jung believed that archetypes represented universal patterns that were part of the collective unconscious common to all people.

Jung defined 12 primary types that represent the range of basic human motivation. While believed to be innate with people being characterized by only one or two primary archetypes, which ones surface or dominate may change. Jung organized these archetypes into four categories which he called Cardinal Orientations.

The orientations define the primary motivation and goal for each archetype. They represent what a person is seeking in life and determine how it is they choose to fulfill this purpose. These four life goals also seem relevant to writers’ personalities and what we seek in our writing lives.

The Four Cardinal Orientations and How They Apply to Writers

The four cardinal orientations as described by Jung are Ego, Order, Social, and Freedom. These functions can be applied to different types of writers, how they approach their work and their purpose in writing. By better understanding what writing orientation we have, we can set up our writing life to maximize our preferred structure and make writing decisions more conscious for a more satisfying career.

Ego Writers

Those with this orientation want to leave a mark on the world. The goal of these writers is to create something of substance that they can leave behind. They want their ideas, thoughts, and beliefs to survive long after they do. They are not hoping for fame, but instead believe they have something to say that can positively influence others now and in the future.

These writers are not generally concerned with money, prestige or writing the next best seller. When they do focus on these types of material aspects, they do so in order to make it possible for them to get their perspective out into the world. They may work just enough to make it possible to write but outside work is not an end in itself.

If they market their writing it is to disseminate work that they feel is important. When they go after financial gifts or money it is only to make it possible for them to produce their ideas in a way that allows them to be shared with others. For example, they may need money for the internet or a computer or to take part in a conference where like-minded individuals gather.

Ego writers work to clarify their position on matters they believe to be important and they are concerned with the way they present their positions on things in order to make it more likely that their work will have an impact.

These writers tend to be more solitary than other writers because of the nature of their goals and what is often a sense of pressure to get their work completed not knowing how long they have. They enjoy other people’s company and have fun participating in leisure activities but their life’s work is always at least somewhat at the back of their mind.

The Freedom Writer

The primary goal of the Freedom archetypes is to fulfill their yearning for paradise. The core requirement for reaching paradise is being free from conflict and being directed by others. These individuals are flexible and open to experience are always searching for new ways of doing thing and seek to expand their skills. This type of writer loves writing about new things without anyone dictating what they must focus on.

These individuals are not niche writers. They are the ones who believe that the only way to have an ideal writing life is to have no constraints placed on them. They don’t like hearing about writing rules or trends that they need to follow in order to succeed and their writing isn’t dictated by marketing principles or the desire to go viral.

While these writers want to be successful, have an audience who enjoys reading their work, and earn enough to support their writing, their ultimate goal is to have the freedom to write what they want and be able to seek out new opportunities that will enhance their writing experience.

The Social Writer

Social writers use their work to connect with others. They long for human contact and to be a part of supportive communities including a writing community where there are positive relationships, collaboration and people helping each other out. These writers will never try to get ahead by stabbing someone else in the back or through betrayal. They give their trust easily and assume that others in the communities they belong to are trustworthy as well.

The topics the social writer focuses on are those that facilitate bridges between people. They are the writers who are comfortable sharing their personal experiences, struggles, failures and victories. They strive to use their experiences to relate to others and they enjoy engaging with others who are willing to do the same. With these writers, the process and outcome of writing is all about relationship building.

Order Writers

The goal of Order oriented individuals is to provide structure to the world. Order writers are concerned with making the process of their writing rule and convention based and they often research the trends and guidelines that are likely to contribute to success. They often track progress and outcomes and use research and data analysis to determine which rules actually govern success and which may be more anecdotal but not very effective. They may publish on how certain practices will help people improve at something or succeed in reaching their goals.

These are writers are concerned with social contracts within society and how order is maintained at different levels of society, both locally and globally. They work to effect attitude change through their writing to reinforce an ordered society where individual share common goals to ensure a smooth functioning society. They may or may not be niche writers depending on whether they focus in depth on one are they believe to be the most crucial for maintaining social order or whether they think that there are multiple areas that must be addressed.

These writers are interested in exploring topics such as leadership, deviance, laws, rules, norms, taboos, politics, government, religion, culture, power hierarchies, abuse of power, institutions, industrialization, urbanization and anything that discusses how social order is achieved and maintained and to what ends. They may seek fame and fortune but often this is in order to become an influencer who can help affect change.

Take Away

As writers, we aren’t always ruled by a single orientation where our writing is concerned. While each of us has a dominant function, sometimes one of the other orientations may also guide us. Each of us is a complex organism that has a multitude of different inborn facets that direct our behavior.

We can also make the decision to capitalize on aspects of different orientations consciously and adding them to our writing style. When we do this, it can allow us to widen our writing life, add to our box of tools, and discover new options for expressing ourselves. Increasing the diversity of our personality characteristics with regard to our writing style can also help us connect with other writers through shared facets. Even contrasting characteristics can lead to discussions that can help us deepen our writing insight. Each type can teach and learn from the other types.

Regardless of how similar or different we are in regards to other writers, it’s important to support each other to create a stronger writing community where each of us can create the work we want according to the manner that works best for us. Even though we have different orientations, respecting the diversity in the writing community will enhance the sense of freedom we all have in constructing our writing life.

We can also all use the things we are strongest at to help each other reach our individual goals. For example, working together and discussing issues that apply to the field can generate a body of resources that may make a mark in the world by helping other writers. Those who are freedom oriented may profit from learning to attend to things of a more practical nature, while those who are constantly organized may benefit from more freedom to explore other skills, styles, genres or techniques that will help them grow as writers. Social writers can help the other three types learn the value of forming relationships with other writers, and the other types can help social writers learn to occasionally pull back to disconnect and focus on their own writing needs.

By helping each other learn how to take advantage of skills from each of the different orientations, we can all identify new ways to continue to develop and grow as writers.

© 2019 Natalie Frank


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