As an editor and writing coach I have a lot of conversations with people who are finding their way as writers, authors and story-tellers and because that’s the pond I swim in, I sometimes forget that we are a bit of a breed apart. I’m actually convinced that there is a genetic component to being a writer – there are many writers perched among the branches of my family tree and many of the writers I know share a lot of the same characteristics.
Just for fun, I thought I’d make a list of some of the more common traits a lot of us writers share. If this describes you, let me know:
Many of us remember a childhood where we could lose ourselves for hours in contemplation of other worlds, ideas, perspectives and concepts. We sometimes had a hard time staying focused on the task at hand (some of us still do!), and we created fantastic stories and explanations about the world that had other people shaking their heads. I was lucky that I wasn’t ridiculed for my outlandish creativity as a child but some people suffered repeated putdowns by family members and others who just didn’t “get it.” That dreaminess is actually important: it is highly creative and it helps us as writers to develop the stories, plotlines and characters that make our writing fascinate our readers.
Not just to criticism or the sarcastic comments that may have been launched our way, but we also have a track record of being extremely sensitive to how other people react. We tend to be able to read other people exceedingly well. I sometimes have the experience that I am almost “wearing” other people – I feel as though I can see the world from behind their eyes and with the emotional range from which they operate. A lot of writers I know express a similar kind of understanding of others. When we write, this sensitivity helps us have an inside track on our characters’ motivation and behaviour. It makes our characters believable.
We don’t exactly fit in.
There is something in how we operate that is a little at odds with the rest of the world. I spent years of my life wishing I could be just like everyone else and it’s a great relief now to understand that my unique way of being helps me to more skilfully observe what’s going on around me. We can’t assess, critique or improve a paradigm of which we are a functional part. And we can’t write effectively without that sense of separateness.
We get melancholy.
Many writers have a melodramatic conviction that we are light years behind where we should be and that our skills and abilities are pathetic shadows of what we want them to be. What’s more, our sensitivity to the people and situations around us sometimes makes us grieve very deeply for the pain we feel on their behalf. The combination sometimes blows our circuits. As translators and interpreters of the human experience, we have the gift of being able to feel more than the average bear, and yet there is a learning curve involved in capacitating those feelings so that they are constructive. (Ask me how I know!)
Is there more? You bet! But I’d like to hear what you think – what have you noticed about the writer in you (or the writers around you)? Leave a comment here or drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s kick-start a conversation about how I might be able to help you bring the writer in you out of the closet and into the world where it can serve you in more delightful ways!