Teaching on temperament or personality differences has been around for more than 2,000 years. Hippocrates categorized the 4 temperaments as choleric, melancholy, sanguine, and phlegmatic. In more recent times, Dr. Gary Smalley illustrated these same traits using animals such as the lion, otter, golden retriever, and beaver.
How is this relevant to your writing?
If you write fiction, understanding the 4 personality types can help you develop believable, well-rounded characters who behave consistently according to their personality.
If you write profile articles, advance knowledge of your subjects’ temperament will assist you in framing questions that will put them at ease. The result will be efficient interviews generating more useful information.
Knowing your own personality type will also enable you to be more effective in the writing process. For example:
You’re a take-charge type of person. In a critique group, you may not be sensitive to the feelings of the other writers because you’re task-oriented and you want other writers to be forthright with you. While contracts might stymie the Sanguine, you’re comfortable with the business side of writing.
You probably enjoy implementing detailed plans for your writing. You’re a “plotter” in that you outline your novel so you know exactly where it’s going and how you’ll get there. Research is a joy. But perfectionism can get in the way of creativity because it’s difficult for you to turn off your internal editor.
The writing process can be especially lonely, so being part of a writing or critique group and attending conferences are critical because they provide that all-important social contact. While the Melancholy is a “plotter,” you’re probably a “pantser” in that you write “by the seat of your pants”—not quite sure what twists and turns your novel will take, but enjoying the adventure!
You’re a peacemaker, so during critique groups you’re especially sensitive to the feelings of the other writers. While the Sanguine wears her emotions on her sleeve, you are less open about your feelings. You trust the experts in your writing life and don’t often question the advice of your agent or editor.
Temperament and personality tests are more than just fun exercises. These assessments can be a valuable tool in your writer’s toolbox. Knowledge of personality types can help you better understand yourself, relate to others, and be more successful in your writing!