What are my strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
Great question to ask. Sometimes hard to answer. Michelle and I had a great conversation about that recently, which led to this example.
We all struggle in one area or another. We all have gifts. Some aspects of writing come naturally to me, while others have knocked me down more times than I care to count.
Writing Strength: Evoking Emotion
I care a lot. I rescue wasps and spiders that stray into our house, because I wouldn’t want someone to squash me for taking a wrong turn. (I do have a zero-tolerance caterpillar execution policy for my garden, for which I apologize. You may not eat my plant friends.)
I spend a lot of time thinking about how people want to be treated, and how my actions affect them. So naturally, I think about how my characters feel about their experiences, and how their actions affect others.
Stories give us a unique ability to step into the hearts and minds of people who think differently than we do. Reading about an alien living on another planet can help us better understand the person living next door.
Give your readers at least one reason to empathize with the hero AND the villain. You’ll see much more interesting conflict.
Writing Strength: Interviewing
People fascinate me. Everyone has at least one story to tell, and I like to listen. I believe every human on this planet has a unique purpose, even if I have no idea what that purpose is.
I also love to ask questions. I call my grandmother every week and ask things like “What was it like teaching in a 1-room schoolhouse?” I talk to my little nieces and nephews and ask them “What would a race of earth elementals would eat?” (Earth elemental pizza: Jasper sauce, granite meatballs, limestone cheese).
I’ve interviewed people from NASA, WWII vets, and Patrick Rothfuss. I also spend a lot of time listening to trees and plants. You can learn a lot from those who drink sunlight and send their roots into the heart of the earth.
The 3 most important things for interview: Don’t be afraid to ask. Listen. Always close with “Do you have anything to add?”
Writing Weakness: Finishing Projects
Starting comes easy. Seduced by the initial rush of a great idea, I’ll forge ahead with wild abandon. Then a busy schedule or a major plot hole hits me, and I flounder around trying to recapture momentum. I struggle constantly to balance the demands of my life with writing. You can see why I love NaNo – there must be words, no excuses.
Writer Beware: My writing projects get derailed by:
- Unclear goals.
- Getting lost in world building.
- Changing direction again and again.
- Poor time management.
- No designated writing time.
- No accountability.
Sound familiar? I struggle with these on a daily basis.
Writing Weakness: Perfectionism
Fear of failure hits me like a ton of bricks. A thin skin combined with a shark-like inner editor can make writing feel like blood-letting on the page. In “The War of Art,” Steven Pressfield describes the dangers all artists face: fear, self-doubt, ridicule, rejection, and humiliation. And too often we impose these barriers on ourselves.
Writer Beware: My personal perfectionism pitfalls:
- Fear of failure.
- Editing as I go.
- Second-guessing my story as I go.
- Wondering what other people will think.
- Comparing first draft to finished work.
- Thinking “This isn’t as good as …(I thought it would be, my past writing, my favorite author, etc.)
I have learned it is far better to complete an imperfect work than to wait for the perfect words. Accept the mistakes and move on. What’s holding you back?
Celebrate the strengths, work on the weaknesses
I have trained myself over the years to move on in spite of these handicaps. Every day I chip away at another page, another little victory. And I will continue till the work is done.
One of the greatest blessings of my writing life is The Ferrets. They hold my feet to the fire and keep my eyes on the goal. If you want to be a better writer, surround yourself with awesome positive people who will help you work through your writing weaknesses and celebrate your strengths.
How about you?
If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you can relate on some level.
So how do you battle your writing demons? What keeps you writing?