I could have sworn I’d written a blog post about Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, but somehow when I went to look for it today, it wasn’t there – not on my website or in the file of blog posts I’d written. I am going to correct this oversight right now!

Gretchen Rubin has created an incredible tool to help you figure out the best way to get yourself writing and keep writing.

Naturally, that wasn’t the original intent of her work. She was trying to figure out people – why they do or don’t do what is expected of them. To this end, and after extensive research, she broke people down into four groups, or “tendencies”:

Upholders, Obligers, Questioners, and Rebels.

The basis for these groups is expectations – inner expectations (what you put on yourself) and outer expectations (what others put on you). People with different tendencies react differently to these two types of expectations:

Upholders respond readily to both outer expectations and inner expectations

Questioners question all expectations; they meet an expectation only if they believe it’s justified, so in effect they respond only to inner expectations

Obligers respond readily to outer expectations but struggle to meet inner expectations

Rebels resist all expectations, outer and inner alike


Once you know where you fall into these four categories (you can find out by taking this quiz), you’ll know how to motivate yourself to get your writing done. Here’s a brief summary of what will help those with different tendencies:

If you’re an Upholder, you do really well with all sorts of expectations—inner and outer. It doesn’t take a lot to get you in your chair and working. You decide you want to do it, you’re going to do it. You have a goal, you work really hard to accomplish it. These people have the easiest lot of all.

If you’re a Questioner, you need to have a damned good reason for sitting down to write. You are going to question why you need to do it. If you have a good answer, you are going to be there, writing. If you explore when and where is best for you to write, really explore and thoroughly research it, when that time comes you will be where you have decided you need to be and you will be writing.

If you’re an Obliger, having external motivation is essential. That can be in the form of a scheduled time on your calendar (it doesn’t matter that you put it there!) or a critique group. You need to know that you are living up to someone else’s expectations and you will get those words written.

Finally, if you’re a Rebel, you may need to trick yourself into getting your work done. If someone tells you you need to do it, forget it, it won’t get done. If you tell yourself you need to do it—no go! You need to prove to yourself or someone else that you can do this. You need to make a bet with yourself or be a role model for someone else (a child or another writer) to show them that you can do it. Getting a rebel in the chair and writing can be tricky, but it’s most definitely possible if you know what’s going to push your buttons and get you there.

If all of this is interesting to you, I strongly recommend Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies. It’s a fascinating book and will really help you get yourself in that chair, writing. And it may help with other tasks or habits you may need to start or want to get done.