Discover Your "Tendency" to Unlock Your Writing Productivity

By Sue Campbell

How are you at following through on expectations? Either those you put on yourself or those other have of you? More to the point for our purposes, how are you at getting your writing and your author marketing done?

I recently discovered something that has made all the difference for me in terms of understand how different people meet or don’t meet their writing and marketing goals.

It’s a framework developed by Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project and many other books (no she’s not a client — I wish!) that looks at your innate style of getting things done. It’s called The Four Tendencies (and yes, it’s also a book).

The four tendencies are:

Upholder - Upholders folks have little to no trouble meeting expectations whether external or internal (and sometimes have a lot of trouble understanding why other people can’t).

Obliger - Obligers have seemingly endless power to get things done for others, but struggle to do anything about goals that are only for themselves. (Full disclosure: I am an obliger.)

Rebel - Rebels struggle to meet external expectations and internal expectations. Unless they really want to do something, they are unlikely to do it.

Questioners - Questioners have to know the why before they act. They are good at meeting inner expectations because they’ve already answered their own questions, but they struggle with outer expectations until they get answers.

After the reading the descriptions above, you may already have a sense of which tendency you are, but Rubin offers this quiz to help you find your main tendency. (You can also have a secondary tendency.)

I now ask all of my client to take the quiz so I know how best to support them.

Knowing your tendency is an incredibly powerful piece of information because it allows you to play to your strengths.

Let’s look at how each tendency might approach their writing and marketing efforts.

Upholder writers - These are the writers who seem to be able to knock at manuscript after manuscript and do what their editor tells them to do with little to no difficulty. If a thing “should” be done, they’ll do it. (You’ll not be surprised to learn that Upholders make up only about 19% of the population!) However, one downside is that they might spend time doing things they don’t really need to do because they think they’re supposed to. For my Upholder clients, I simply tell them what marketing strategies to execute and they do it.

Obligers writers - Obliger writers will struggle like hell if they try to go it alone (ask me how I know). Obligers must set up some external accountability if they have any hope of meeting their writing goals. For my obliger clients, I make sure they have a writing group, a professional editor, and regular check-ins with me on their marketing efforts. Obligers will perform beautifully if they know someone cares about what they’re doing. It also helps if Obligers think about their efforts as helping their future self.

Rebels writers - Rebel writers will struggle if they feel like they should be doing something. They don’t want to be told what to do, even by themselves. A far better strategy for Rebels is to remind them of their writing identity. Rebels respond well to being reminded (or reminding themselves) that if you want to be a real writer, you get words on the page and you take steps to build your career. For my rebel clients, I give them a big list of activities they can do whenever they feel like it and remind them that anytime they knock something off that list, they are living in alignment with their values.

Questioner writers - Once questioner writers decide to do something, they have little trouble executing. However, sometimes questioners can get caught in research spirals — whether in their actual writing, or in deciding on a marketing approach. For my questioner clients, I make sure to explain the why and provide data and evidence to support my recommendations.

The bottom line here is: writer, know thyself. Figure out how you work and don’t try a method that doesn’t fit your tendency. (And don’t gnash your teeth wishing you were a different tendency). Do what works for the way you are and your future self will thank you in the form of a body of work and an eager audience.


Sue Campbell