8 traits a writer has to have
In my work as a writing coach, I see many people struggle with wanting to write something. Many people believe they have lived through difficulty and their story must be told. Or they’ve always had an idea for a book about populating the moon. All of this can work well, if it is told well, stylishly, surprisingly, creatively. I have known great writers and bad writers, burgeoning writers and stuck writers.
You never know who will get to the finish line of a completed, well written book that people want to read. But I have learned to look for the following traits that, on the surface, may seem simplistic, but you’d be surprised how rare they ALL are to come by in one person and, yet, they all have to be there to embark on a work of art or a commercial book:
1. A love of reading
An almost Catholic taste in that the potential author has to want to read everything in hopes of running into new voices, new ways of telling a story, new ideas to spark one’s own ideas further.
2. Patience while not being sure of what you are doing
When you begin a new work, you just don’t know. Your style may change. Your ideas of the characters, even your own character, may change. What you thought was a memoir may turn into a thriller. You have to be open to change, to admitting that you need to re-course, you may need to throw out the first third, you may realize that what you thought motivated you to write the book is something entirely different. You need patience. Patience for bad days where you cannot get anything down, patience for bad chapters that are destined for the rubbish bin. You need to not judge yourselves for getting lost, frustrated, re-routed along the way.
3. An ability, even desire, to keep quiet about your work
Those who discuss it with everyone will find too many opinions, too many questions that are not helpful but throw doubt upon your project, even when these questions are supposedly in your best interest. Ideas gestate, a work gestates, it is a photograph developing in the dark (remember those?). People commenting on the unfinished product are doing you a disservice. Let your work grow within you, not in the public arena.
4. Time to ruminate
That can be driving your car, that can be walking, that can be, as it is for me, sitting in a classical concert. I find a symphony often has the same sweep as a narrative and I let it travel through me to see any uncharted areas I might want to travel in whatever I am working on. It is hard nowadays to get time to ruminate, but ruminate you must.
5. Time alone
Also hard to get nowadays. It doesn’t often look too appetizing but after you have taken the time alone to work on your book or story, you’ll feel wonderful. Suffer through the withdrawal from life, only to find out where your deepest preoccupations and imagination lie.
6. Someone in your life who spurs you on
For some it is a writing coach. For others, it is a spouse who believes in you unwaveringly. For some it is a fellow writer who understands what you are attempting to do.
7. An interest in people and relationships and the surprises therein
You can’t be a novelist if people bore you. You have to, like a watchmaker, be interested in, well, if this happens, then that happens, and not what you thought would happen. The deepest parts of the human psyche have to amuse and fascinate you and be something you want to report on.
8. A love of freedom
To write, you have to be willing to try anything. Rewrite the second world war if that interests you. Try matching up your parent’s infidelity to how jealousy is something your character has a problem with. Whatever it is, you have to be willing to take a chance on a subject and love the free-flying.
There is much more to say on this subject but a blog is a blog. If you have these eight traits alone, mixed with a love of words and story, you’re on your way. Now throw in curiosity, perseverance, a love of variety in sentences, a theme that matters to you, and mix well.
About the author: Gay Walley has published 2 novels, “Strings Attached” and “The Erotic Fire of the Unattainable”, currently becoming a movie. Her play, “Love Genius and a Walk”, is scheduled for Off Broadway 2015. Two more books, “Duet” and “Lost in Montreal” came out in 2014. She teaches writing in New York. Read her eBooks “How to write your first novel” and “The smart guide to business writing” on Bookboon.