Monday, September 24, 2007

Five writerly strengths

I was tagged on Saturday by Canterbury Soul with this meme, to list my five strengths as a writer. As if to ensure that "timeliness and punctuality" are off of that list, I was tagged twice more today, once by Sognatrice and once by Taffiny. I figured I should post now, before I get tagged again.

I guess I just tend to think of myself as a decent overall writer. I don't think I spend a lot of time analyzing my strengths and weaknesses. So this list is kind of hard to compile. This is more or less the five things I can most easily come up with at this instant in time, as they occur to me. Some of these may not even be strengths, or, being strengths, may not be ones I possess. But writing "I have no idea" seems like a cop-out, so...

1. I think I am good at providing an interesting perspective on what might otherwise be a common event. I seem to have a knack for either zooming in close on a detail that someone else might have overlooked or dismissed, or examining the whole thing from afar as an outsider. I can usually find a kernel of beauty in a random street encounter or an overheard conversation, and carry that kernel back home with me.

2. To whatever extent that my sense of humor carries over into my writing, I think that would qualify as a strength. I have found that it is usually fairly easy to make people laugh in person, where my inflection, body language, etc. can come to my aid, but that being funny on paper requires a different set of skills. So, yeah, that.

3. I tend to know when my writing is not working. I don't always know how to fix it, but I think I can read back something of mine and decide very quickly if it does what I wanted it to or not. Although being able to fix it would probably be a better strength. Still, recognizing when I am being clunky with words is something that I think I, uh... I should point out here that I sometimes just leave things clunky. Not everything that comes from my fingertips has to be good.

4. When someone has read something of mine for critique or input, I think I am pretty open to the ideas they present. Even though sometimes I do not take the suggestion, figuring out why exactly it feels wrong to me can be a tremendous aid in clarifying to myself what exactly I am hoping to accomplish with the piece. And then there are the nice moments when the suggestion is something that I might not have thought of that fits perfectly and opens a door in the writing. Those times are pretty great. But, wait. How is this a strength? Maybe it isn't, unless I count picking good people to read my stuff as a strength.

5. I have always been a voracious reader. There is nothing in the world that can better prepare you to pick up a pen. People go on and on about technique and craft, and some will tell you that doing this or that will make you a better writer. To my mind, the only things which can guarantee improvement in this area are reading a lot, and writing a lot. Any other method is, at best, subjective.

I tag no one, as usual, but if you have a whack, let me know in the comments and I'll gladly come have a look. Then I will steal your answers and update this post.

Also, as a side note: I have lots to tell you, gentle Blogreader. I am behind on my posting, but will probably be writing a lot this week to tell you of some developments and some future plans for this blog. So keep checking back...


Taffiny said...

bit of a tease there at the end, weren't you.

1. I really like this, a marvelous ability you have.
2. yes funny in print is good, I didn't know you also do physical comedy.
3. Recognizing what isn't working seems a very good skill indeed.
4. Of course being able to pick good people to read your stuff is a strength (as is being able to get them to read it, having found them). And you listen to them (but don't make them masters of your universe, sounds good.
5. reading and writing. They say that in all the writing books I have read. Best way to become a good writer, read good works, and write, write, write. Both forever. Sadly I only ever found one book on writing that said that you could improve your writing by reading many books on writing. Best for me to switch over to novels then.

I am glad you did the meme, I enjoyed your answers.
And I am learning things by seeing what strengths you all possess. (and how you all assess)

Michelle | Bleeding Espresso said...

Aw, for all your hemming and hawing, you really turned this meme out. Was that enough clich├ęs for you in one sentence?

As a reader of yours, I completely agree with your assessment, particularly on the first two points, and as Taffiny wrote--taking criticism well but not being a slave to it is so very important, so that's a good thing too.

And yes, knowing your writing isn't working is also key--know when to hold 'em, when to fold 'em sort of thing. Man that man is a genius.

As for reading, completely with you there. I think even without actually studying techniques (which would obviously help too) a lot of what is good writing just sinks into your brain--reminds me a lot of learning a foreign language on the fly like I am. The more you listen, the more your brain picks up the subtleties, structure, phrases, and then one day, you're fluent (or you've published a novel)!

OK, well at least I'm hoping that happens.

So glad you played :)

Julia Buckley said...

Interesting stuff Maht, your sense of humour certainly comes across in your blog, I reckon you can definitely count that as a strength.

The Moon Topples said...

Taffiny: Sorry to tease. Just have a lot going on that I haven't been able to post yet, and I thought I would encourage folk to keep checking in. And for my part, I have never actually read a "how to write" book.

Soggy: Did you just call Kenny Rogers a genius? And for the last part, I'm hoping right along with you.

Julia: Thankya. Very nice to see you again.

Unknown said...

A good list Maht. Maybe you could add six: Creating suspense.
I'm looking forward to the posts to come.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

A very interesting set of assessments of your considerable abilities, which I always enjoy and which often make me consider things from new angles.

Your sense of humor seems irrepressible because it does come out in your writing in wonderful ways, even when it was not your main intention to be funny.

I have also observed your ability to find the kernel of beauty, the small detail that is meaningful but usually overlooked.

I think that most writers are also readers. They do seem to fit together like a Chinese puzzle.

The Moon Topples said...

Ver: Sorry for the suspense. I just knew I had a lot to write about and thought I should mention that, since I had a haiku and a meme to do on Monday...

HinSF: You are very kind. Thanks for the lovely comment. Your sense of humor is, of course, worthy of noting as well...

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

I just finished this list and I'm the culprit that tagged Sognatrice. Good list, Maht.
You are right on it with everything you wrote.

Wish I had Kenny's genius... I can't quite seem to cut and paste the right parts. I'm not too great at poker either; always give the hand away as soon as I see it.
My friends don't seem to mind that so much; go figure.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

PS - Having been a Colorado resident (twice?) I think you may appreciate what I have up on my page now... so worth a look; click on the link and check out the scenery, if you get a chance.