I was once asked to make a list of five strengths I possess as a writer. Here’s what I came up with.
Five Writing Strengths
1. The ability to sit still for long stretches of time
Not everyone can do this, you know. Some people get antsy, restless. After a few minutes of sitting still, they fidget and have to get up and make hot chocolate or call a friend. Writers need to be able to sit still for hours in order to get their work done. Dorothea Brande in her book Becoming a Writer said:
Writing calls on unused muscles and involves solitude and immobility. There is not much to be said for the recommendation, so often heard, to serve an apprenticeship to journalism if you intend to write fiction. But a journalist’s career does teach two lessons which every writer needs to learn—that it is possible to write for long periods without fatigue, and that if one pushes on past the first weariness one finds a reservoir of unsuspected energy—one reaches the famous “second wind.” (71)
I can’t help but think of that famous advice writers hear at conferences and in books—how does one become a successful writer? Apply one’s bottom to chair (unless, of course, one is using a standing desk). I admit that I do head into the other room to grab a handful of nuts now and then, or fix a cup of tea. But I can sit still when need be.
Each person I meet knows something that I don’t—I can always learn something new if I ask the right questions. All it takes is a little curiosity. Whether working for a newspaper or corporate client, finding interest in some aspect of a new industry, person, story, or methodology is a strength—if I myself am interested in it, the way I write about it will probably be more interesting, as well. I value curiosity so highly in writing and in life, I publish a monthly Curiosity Journal, documenting and sharing my discoveries.
3. A Commitment to Lifelong Learning
I’ve abandoned the pursuit of higher education in a formal sense, but Autodidact Ann lives (and reads and researches) on. The more I learn, the more I have to write about. And guess what lifelong learners possess in abundance? Curiosity.
4. Love of Reading
Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are suspiciously interrelated. It might seem that I’m taking one idea and stretching it out to fill space—which might be yet another strength in itself—but I do think they deserve to be singled out. Curiosity often leads to learning and reading, and one often learns via reading. But there are other ways to learn and satisfy curiosity, and there is more than one motivation to read.
Yet (and this is the point) reading inevitably enhances writing—the content may inspire (or not); the writing style may be worth imitating (or not). Either way, reading widely only helps a writer. In his memoir, On Writing, Stephen King says:
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut. (139)
Reading is the creative center of a writer’s life. (142)
Storylines linger, nonfiction facts inform, ideas from texts co-mingle with others in my mind to form something new. A writer who doesn’t read is doomed to compose in a narrow style and draw from a limited library of ideas. I relish a good book, and I believe that makes my writing richer.
Never, never, never give up. Stick with it. Persist. I may not have been born with the greatest writing talent, but I’ve stuck with it. I work to improve and learn from mistakes, forging ahead a little smarter, wiser, and more skillful. As a friend of mine said (I paraphrase), the most successful writers are not necessarily the ones with the greatest talent; they’re the ones who persevere.
What five writing strengths do you possess?
Is your writing life all it can be?
Let this book act as your personal coach, to explore the writing life you already have and the writing life you wish for, and close the gap between the two.
“A genial marriage of practice and theory. For writers new and seasoned. This book is a winner.”
—Phil Gulley, author of Front Porch Tales
Stretch Mark Mama says
Well, since I can think of only one strength, I’ll post it here. I have an amazing ability to Always Have Something To Say. I’m not saying it’s good, mind you. But sometimes people say–“I could never blog–I never have anything to say.”
Well ha ha ha, someone put a cork on my typin’ hands, I’ve got enough words for us all.
Wow! You are an excellent writer and I appreciate your thoughtful answers to this question. For one, it helps me see what areas I DO have as strengths and also, it helps me think of things I need to work on. Perseverance for one. And sitting still for another. If I could just write while I’m walking, that would help.
Stretch Mark Mama: Fun! I love it!
Heather: Thanks for your note. I do have an idea, if you want one–I do sometimes use my MP3 (it has a recording feature) to record my thoughts while on the go…so you *can* write while walking, or at least compose and capture thoughts. Of course, eventually you do have to sit down and transcribe. In the end, it leads to the same issue. 🙂
So good to hear from you. I hope others participate, as well.
This list came at just the right time to provide a little needed encouragement.
I see some of my strengths in your list; although the one that drives me to write is the need to tell stories. As my husband often tells me, with an exasperated look attached, I can turn anything into a story.
That skill does come in handy when entertaining children too!
Love your blog….surfed over here from Heather at Mommy Monk. Blessings on your day!
Great list! Perseverance is my best asset. Motto: Just Don’t Go Away. If you stick around long enough they will eventually publish something. One of my best sales was to a magazine editor who had turned down the exact same article 11 years earlier 🙂
I have a few tips for persevering in writing even when you’re up to your eyeballs with the family’s dirty laundry over at http://www.writerinterrupted.com today (11/29), where I get the honor of being the guest blogger. If you click on “blog” in the left corner it should bring you to “The Passionate Writer.”
Rachel Anne says
Great list…I guess I consider myself to be a “wannabe” writer, so I’m always interested in how the professionals do it.
I’d love to learn more from you…keep it up!
Sue Awes says
I just love the way you say “Ann Kroeker, Writer” to head your blog. I look at that again and again – and would never dare to call myself a writer – and then you wrote, “if you blog, you’re a writer”. I do have to give that some thought.
A friend of mine helped design the simple logo, and part of it was that when it comes to career and ministry pursuits, the main thing I do is write. Yes, I speak; but I speak because I’m a writer.
And yes, I do believe that because you blog, you’re a writer. Plus, I visited your blog. You’re a writer. 🙂