5 Strengths as a Writer

My dear, talented friend Wanderlust Scarlett has tagged me to talk about my five biggest strengths as a writer. Oh dear.

As fellow writer Jon so astutely observed in Scarlett’s comment section, this will be quite a task for writers as “[e]very writer thinks they’re crap!” Let’s see what we can come up with.

1. Word selection. I’ll never forget when my 10th grade creative writing teacher praised a piece that I had written about giving my dog a bath. He loved that I chose the verb “scurried” and the phrase “dime-sized portion” and told me that I had a knack for choosing the exact right word/phrase at the right time. That has stuck with me, and I’ve made it a personal challenge to pinpoint the precise word I need and not settle for a workable but blah impostor. Thanks Mr. I!

2. Creativity. Yes, I have a vivid imagination, but sticking to the word theme, I like to make up words (particularly if silly puns are involved — hi Scarlett!) or just put them together in a way that no one else has. An example? “Workable but blah” above. It may not be grammatically correct, but I think it works.

My writer’s license is a broad one because I feel that the language is mine to play with, and if it gets my point across, well, a little grammar slide every now and again isn’t going to put in me in Writers’ Purgatory (not for too long, anyway).

By the way, I word-play in Italian now too, at least in speech. Last night I told P he is “ossoso” (oh-SOH-soh) which is my made-up Italian word for “bony.” You see, “osso” is bone, and “oso” is a common adjective ending in Italian (e.g., vento = wind; ventoso = windy). The real Italian word is “ossuto” but doesn’t “ossoso” just roll off your tongue?

3. Unpretentious/honest. I write like I’m talking to you, and I’ve had many people tell me how much they enjoy reading my emails and letters because of this. So I have to think I’m doing something “write.” Hah! Seriously though, these two concepts go together for me personally because being unpretentious *is* honest for me — that’s just the way I am whether I’m writing or not.

One of my favorite college professors, a Virginia Woolf scholar which only made her even cooler in my mind, wrote on one of my papers that “the reader feels like she’s in good hands.” I didn’t really get it at the time, but I knew it was a good thing and I’ve never forgotten it. I always want my readers to feel that, and so that’s what I try to achieve.

4. Organized and logical progression. Who would have thought that going to law school would have made me a better writer? I joke with people that they actually tried to beat all the good writing habits out of me, but of course that’s not (entirely) true. In reality, I learned to deeply analyze issues from every angle, look for holes at every turn, and then exploit tiny cracks in logic and make them seem like huge gaps. I also learned to present arguments one baby step at a time, spelling out for the reader exactly what you want him to know when you want him to know it.

When I put it that way, it almost makes sense that writers take a turn through law school, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because I’m conveniently leaving out the rest, but I do think it helped me to organize my thoughts and present them in a way that makes sense — crucial for any writer.

5. Passion for the written word. I’m blessed to be the kind of person who can do a lot of things pretty well, but in order for me to really succeed at something, I have to enjoy it. Or, to paraphrase Dicky Fox in Jerry Maguire: if my heart’s not in it, my head doesn’t matter.

I have a true passion for expression through words, and this enables me to write better, to *want* to write better every single day. I want to make people think, feel, or otherwise react to what I write, and it fills my heart with joy whenever I succeed. I truly love writing, and I think that shows in the final product.

So there are my five biggest strengths as a writer according to me. What say you, fellow writers? Let’s look on the positive for once instead of dwelling on how hard it is to really make it in this business. I can’t wait to read your strengths.

27 Beans of Wisdom to “5 Strengths as a Writer”
  1. Vesper

    Great list, Sognatrice! I guess you’ve got all the main ingredients to “cook” some beautiful writing… πŸ™‚
    Looking forward to reading more…

  2. Sparky Duck

    Isnt it against the nature of anyone that does any sort of writing beyond checks, that they think there writing sucks?

  3. sognatrice

    Hi Vesper! Thanks, and I look forward to reading more at your site as well πŸ™‚

    Sparky, I think perhaps you’re saying basically what I wrote in the second paragraph of the post? Or the opposite? I’m not really sure, but it is a common understanding that many writers think that they’re crap, just as Jon said.

    Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I don’t think my writing, as a whole, sucks, but everyone has good and bad days in any profession so on some days, it certainly does.

    It’s particularly easy for a writer to let doubts creep in, though, because it’s such a subjective profession anyway; this is why I think it’s a good exercise for those of us who write to sit down and list strengths–for those times when we feel that we’re crap.

  4. The (Mis)Adventures of a Single City Chick

    Okay, I just accepted your meme tag and left my answers on today’s blog entry. What a great idea to take the time to focus on our positive writing strengths, than just the negatives. Thanks for reminding me to celebrate my strengths through this meme. πŸ™‚


  5. sognatrice

    Christina, yeah! I love your answers!

    For those interested, you can find Christina’s post here!

  6. Taffiny

    1. very good, I don’t have it.
    2. I enjoy language and taking liberties with it too.
    3. I believe my writing is honest, but in my story writing, I do try to be more than I am, prettier, smarter, et cetera. Your answer here is good for me, as it gives me an issue to think over.
    I love that line- the reader knowing she is in good hands. It is wonderful that you are able to do that. And seem to do it so naturally.
    4. Sounds like a great skill to have.
    5. Passion yes. Your passion seems wonderfully functional.

  7. sognatrice

    Taffiny, thanks so much for your lovely comments, and I’m happy to have made you think. Have you done this meme yet? I have to check….

  8. Jon M

    Some good thoughts here Sognatrice! I suppose what I meant about the ‘crap’ thing was that as a writer, you learn to become so critical that you can stop believing in your work. Anyone who sits back after the first draft and thinks,’Yeah, that’s perfect.’ is going to be disappointed when they submit it.
    I liked this cos it was a positive meme! πŸ™‚

  9. Wanderlust Scarlett

    LOVE this list, it’s very good. You are clever, humorous, kind and it DOES feel like the reader is in good hands; although I hadn’t ever thought of it that way before.

    You nailed every single one; great stuff.

    Thanks for playing!
    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  10. The Moon Topples

    Soggy: A nice list. I myself found completing this meme somewhat excruciating, but you make it sound as daunting as a walk on a fine day. For this I curse you.

    At any rate, I have completed your bidding and completed the meme myself. What I should have done was just pasted your answers in so my readers would think me clever, but instead it’s just dreary old me.

    My word-verification thingie reads “sxydrb,” which I think means “sexy/drab.” Or possibly “Sexy Dr. B.”

  11. Greg

    It is a blessing to recognize one’s own strengths as a writer.

  12. nova

    Oh wow. Thank you for tagging me. You’re right… this will be a hard one. It’s so much easier to come up with 5 weaknesses! But I’ll give it a try…

    Your list is wonderful.

  13. susan

    Great list. I really like the concept of focusing on the good instead of the negative like so many people(including myself) tend to do.

    And I agree with all your points to boot!

  14. sognatrice

    Jon, thanks! I completely understood what you meant by the “crap” comment, and I agree with you about the first draft–if only we could all turn out perfection on the first go around. But then that wouldn’t be much fun, would it?

    Scarlett, glad you liked the list and also the comment of that professor so long ago–I never would’ve put it that way either, so I’m glad she did πŸ™‚

    MoonT, I knew if enough of us tagged you, you’d get on it. You have wonderful, witty answers as always, and everyone should read them. Here.

    And if you find out who Sexy Dr. B is, please let me know.

    Greg, it wasn’t the easiest exercise, but I do think it’s valuable–feel free to play along!

    Nova, you’re a wonderful writer; if you would step back and look at yourself objectively (easy peasy!) you’d find this exercise actually quite easy πŸ™‚

    Susan, yeah! I hope you’ll give it a go too πŸ™‚

  15. Gil

    When is your book coming out? Maybe, IMUS will be back on the air and you will be one of his guests.

  16. sognatrice

    Gil, not sure Imus and I would get along so well, but my grandmother used to love him. No publication date in sight, I’m afraid πŸ™

  17. colleen

    I used to love the essay part of tests in school. True or False was liking playing mind roulette.

    These are fun to read and to see myself in others. I think many of us are expressing similar answers said in our own unique writing styles.

    I’ve always felt writing was really talking on paper and that I’m not a writer as much as a talker and story teller using the written word.

    But oh, I do love words. My kind of chess playing.

  18. sognatrice

    Colleen, oh I hate true/false–mostly because I could always find something that wasn’t exactly true (or at least make an argument to that effect) and everything couldn’t possibly always be false, right? Ugh.

    I agree with you–it’s great to read everyone else’s answers to this. Gets me thinking more about my habits, strengths, weaknesses, where I can improve, etc. A great, great meme all around.

    Thanks for coming by πŸ™‚

  19. jessica

    Hi there. I put up my meme on my blog. Thanks again, it was a great exercise!

  20. sognatrice

    Great list Jessica! And here it is:

    5 strengths as a writer

    Thanks for playing πŸ™‚

  21. Confessions of Cleopantha

    You are a lovely writer and you did so well on your top 5. Good on you!

  22. sognatrice

    Thanks Cleopantha πŸ™‚ Right back at you!

  23. nova

    I did it at last! Thanks again for tagging me. Took me long enough, huh?

  24. sognatrice

    Nova, yeah! Great list πŸ™‚

  25. exskindiver

    i read this list, sognatrice and then i wish.

  26. sognatrice

    No need to wish…just do and be and dobedobedo! Sorry, couldn’t resist πŸ˜‰

  27. 09.08.2011

    I love this! Especially the first one, “Word selection.” My 10th-grade English teacher, as well, taught me about this. I’ll never forget him explaining that, when writing poetry, “I thirst” conveys so much of a stronger emotion than “I’m thirsty.” πŸ™‚



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