Both sognatrice at bleeding espresso and the individual voice tagged me for a meme to list my five writing strengths. If you know me at all, you know it would be so much easier if I had been tagged to list the top five reasons why I suck, but! But I’ve been wrestling with this for a week and here’s what I have:
1. I can spell. (Mostly.)
2. I can type. (With two fingers! No joke.)
. . . Okay, fine, I’ll be more serious.
It took me quite a few days to come up with these strengths, all while trying to be honest, to lose my usual negativity, and to not be delusional at the same time. Tough.
Anyway, these are my 5 Writing Strengths—I think:
1. Willingness to revise.
So I went out to lunch with a new coworker this week and I told her I was a writer and she said she always loved writing, but she stopped because she would get comments about how to make her stories better and she never wanted to go back in and revise. Now, if you ask me, revising is the absolute best part of the writing process. Your first draft is raw, and yes I love raw. And yes, thundering out those pages can be the best high ever. But for me nothing is better than going back to the first draft and taking another stab at it. I love carving at the sentences, smoothing, finessing, finding the heart of what I’m trying to say. It could take two revisions, three, nine. I think it’s a strength to always be willing to plunge back in.
If I were to have a trademark in my fiction, a distinct thing that would make a piece of writing seem like mine, I figure it would have to be my all-consuming obsession with first-person voice. I love reading fiction written in first person, and—more—I love writing it. I think I’m pretty decent with voice. In fact, I get so caught up in the “voice” of the manuscripts I’m writing that my characters revolve around it, the world shifts when seen through their eyes. The voice comes alive and a revelation will be made and I’ll say, Oh! She thinks that. And then the story turns into what it was meant to be all along. What I love about first person is its honesty, even when it’s being somewhat dishonest, which is a complication I adore, and also its limited sense of reality. In real life we’re not walking around hearing everyone’s thoughts, knowing what every person in the room is thinking. At least that’s the case in my life. I generally have no idea how other people are seeing me or interpreting a situation. I’m left to float on my own. So I like to be out on my own in fiction too. And speaking of floating, when I’m writing in first person I tend to get carried away and float away on the voice. Sometimes I need to calm myself down (that’s what revision is for). Other times my very best paragraphs emerge. I’ll take that risk.
And yet, even though I have a special affection for first person, I can write in third. (Or second, though, yeah, I know people hate it.) I can move away from myself and write differently. Case in point: the freelance projects. I was putting together a writing resume for a possible new opportunity the other night and so I listed all the children’s, tween, or teen books I wrote, the ones I could remember at least. It came to thirteen. Thirteen! Some are cute—who would have thought I could be cute? Some are girly. Some are snarky. Some mimic other books that came before. Some don’t sound like me at all. I never thought I’d be able to write on assignment, as stubborn as I can be, so this has been a surprise. A good surprise. If I can write some of these things, I think it can only help to expand on my own style. I shouldn’t limit myself—to first person, or anything. I guess this proves I don’t have to.
4. Apparent humor.
Also, I never would have thought I could write funny. I am just so very serious. In grad school, I remember getting annoyed by the cheap laugh some writing could get in a workshop, even when it just wasn’t very good. Funny is easier, I told myself, it’s just unlucky that I can’t be funny. But as I write freelance, the recurring feedback I get from editors or readers is that I’m funny. I didn’t believe it at first, but it kept happening. Maybe it took me a long time to lighten up, but now that I have, I figure it can only be a good thing. What’s wrong with stopping to laugh every once in a while?
5. Blind passion.
It might be an understatement to say I am passionate about being a writer. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid. I’ve never wavered. It’s my dream to end all dreams, and so much is it my dream I have erased all possibility of other dreams: I gave up on a creative career in favor of a day-job existence to keep my creativity all to myself; I work full-time and still go to my writing spot every Saturday and Sunday, even if I’m stuck, as if it’s my second job; I am so single-minded I don’t have a fall-back plan; I don’t want anything else, really, just to stay with E and write. As I admit to this, it probably sounds more like a weakness than a strength. But I believe this passion only makes me a better writer. It means that, no matter how I doubt myself and rant here about wanting to give up, I won’t, not ever. I’ll be writing for the rest of my life, even if no one’s reading.
That’s my five.
So now I’ll tag some writers. Get mad at me if you want for calling you out. Ignore me if you’re so inclined. Or, maybe give it a try:
Oslowe at Low Odysseys (or on LJ, wherever)
Weltschmerz at Burning Like Water (or on LJ, wherever)
I could tag ten more people, but I’ll try to control myself.
Now that I spent all this time being nice to myself, where’s the meme about 5 Reasons Why I Suck? Sign me up.