Writing superpowers

Two summers ago, Rachele Alpine and I could have been BFF. We were both at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, living in idyllic, isolated Gambier, Ohio, and writing our brains out. BUT. Since we were in different classes, we didn’t really get to know each other. {sad face}

Fortunately, thanks to teh interwebs, we reconnected later. Now I know Rachele is a beloved teacher, a voracious reader, and an all-around great gal.

Big thanks to Rachele for taking time out of her BUSY life (teaching! MFA! book on submission! wedding planning?) to guest post. She really is a super woman.

I have never been a big superhero fan. Yeah, I loved the Spiderman movies, but I think it was more because of Tobey McGuire’s dorky cuteness than anything else. I have two friends who write/illustrate comic books, but besides looking at their work once in awhile, I never really got into the superhero craze.

However, when Kristan posed a question the other day about what writer “superpowers” I wished I had and which ones I already possess, I started to think a lot about superheroes and their special abilities.

First, I thought about fictitious superpowers. You know, the kind that you see in comic books and movies. The powers that a person would never have, but it would be awesome if they did. I ruled out invisibility, because even though it would be kind of cool to creep around without people knowing, there might be some information I’d find out that I didn’t want to know. The same goes with the power to read people’s minds. Some things are just best not knowing. Flying would be fun for about five minutes, but then I’d just get bored and figure all my friends would be asking for rides to places on my back to save money on gas. I think if I could have a fictitious superhero power, it would have to be extreme speed like the Flash. I have so many routine things I do everyday that life would be so much better if I could speed through them and spend time on the more important stuff. Instead of taking forever to blow dry my hair, clean the house, drive to work or exercise, I could do it in a matter of seconds with my super fast speed. I’d be able to focus on things the things I love like writing (hooray!), reading and watching bad reality TV (think of all the episodes of Teen Mom and The Real Housewives I could catch up on if I could speed through the boring every day tasks!).

If we were talking about writing superpowers, I would wish for the power of outlining. I just simply cannot do it. I’m the type of person who likes to sit down and write and write and write. The problem is that I’ll often hit a wall with my writing. I have had to push stories aside and let them simmer before I can go back to them with fresh ideas. My writing often looks like puzzles with pages cut out and spaced out all over the floor so I can work on creating an outline after I get stuck. I admire those who first have the dedication to sit down and write an outline before starting a story (I always want to just start to write) and then use that as their road map. How nice life must be when you know the route your story is going to take. It’s fun to have my characters surprise me, but there’s too often those points where they just stand around and look at me like they’re all expecting me to point them in the right direction. The superpower of outlining would help me do that!

I do have a superpower with writing! I possess the coveted YA writer power of understanding teenagers. I’m surrounded by them eight hours a day as a tenth grade Language Arts teacher and when I go home I’m addicted to bad MTV reality shows. I love teeny bopper movies (I can’t wait for Easy A and never tire of Mean Girls) and have piles of journals from my high school years that I often go back to for inspiration. I feel like when I write, I can easily channel “teen speak” and “teen thought.” I know what they’re thinking, because I hear what they’re thinking in the classroom all day. I know what stresses, upsets, angers and excites them. I may not be a teen anymore, but I’m still a part of that world and it helps me so much with story development.

Writing superpowers really is an interesting concept. I believe we all have one and with a click the power button on a computer, the uncapping of a pen or rip of a fresh sheet of notebook paper, we call this power into action. So what about you? What are the writing superpowers that you have and what are the ones that you wish you could have?

10 responses to “Writing superpowers”

  1. Les Avatar

    I think I’d wish for some kind of super human focus. As it is I’m like a mouse with ADD when it comes to getting work done. Anything shiny… hell even anything NOT shiny… and I’m gone lol.

  2. Sonja Avatar

    I’m with Les. I wish I had the superpower of super focus. I really need to be in a stimulation-free environment in order to write. It was relatively easy to create that situation before I had kids, but not so much now. Children are very rarely quiet, and when they are, it’s usually because they’re doing something extremely destructive to an item you value highly, so that experience usually goes like this: “Oh, it’s so nice and peaceful… Wait a minute, the girls must be destroying something. Crap!”

    As for the writing super power I do have, I like to think that I can write The Funny.

  3. Lee Avatar

    I actually have the ability of focus that Les and Sonja want. Sometimes while writing I’ll be interrupted by a shouting roommate. “Why are you shouting at me?” I ask, and he replies, “Because I’ve been speaking normally and you’ve been ignoring me for ten minutes.”

    I wish I had the ability to follow through on all my ideas. This would be a version of time-bending, probably, combined with super-patience. I would have all the time and patience necessary to complete every short story instead of leaving a trail of half-finished and poorly-loved stories wailing in my wake.

    Speaking of superpowers, I just read a phenomenal novella called “All My Friends are Superheroes,” which deals with all kinds of everyday superpowers and their repercussions. It’s brilliant.

  4. lenny lee Avatar

    hi miss kristan and miss rachele! i been a follower of miss rachele for a while and shes soooo cool. it was nice she did a guest post on your blog. mostly im like miss rachele cause i just write and write and dont think about outlining and when i get stuck i just stop and go have some fun. for my superwriterpower i got a lot of staying on it when i get started and my brothers or my sister gotta say hey lenny you need to stop and go to bed. mostly i stall out on them til someone yells GO TO BED! ha ha. for a superwriterpower i could want i think i could like to be way better at grammar and punctuation so my brother doesnt have to edit out all my stuff all the time and i could do it myself. i got a teacher thats coming to the house and she real good and says im getting lots bettr. :)
    …smiles from lenny

  5. Janet Johnson Avatar

    Love your super power! That would sure be useful as a mom someday, too. What would I choose? Maybe the ability to write faster, without worrying about getting it perfect the first time (as if that’s even possible, anyway).

  6. Sarah Avatar

    For me to pick a superpower, I would have to make a decision and that doesn’t come easy to me. Would actually have to try them all out and then decide and that could take a really long time. Definitely need outlining power, though.
    My superpower? I understand people. I get what they’re on about. And I compensate, looking for the balance and answers that elude them.

  7. Joelle Avatar

    The writing super power that would be great for me is also outlining. I have tried and tried and tried to outline to no avail! Maybe I just have some kind of block against outlining not sure. I usually just sit and start writing for a while then I use my power of story boarding. Not in the traditional sense but more like brainstorming on a white marker board. It’s fun, gets the creative energy moving, I use colored markers and sometimes draw little stick people to represent my characters. Hmmm…perhaps I could make outlining fun by using the colored marker approach.

  8. Rachele Alpine Avatar

    I think that if we all swapped and shared superpowers, we could come out with some pretty awesome writing!

  9. Julia Avatar

    My favorite superhero was always Wonder Woman. And not just because she was outrageously tall and fashion forward. But because she had really cool, super-gadgets. Like bullet deflecting bracelets and a lariat of truth. I would like a lariat of word truth. And maybe a super-sized language magnet. The kind where you turn it on and all the right words come flying over to the page.

  10. Kristan Avatar

    YEP, focus is my big problem too!

    “Children are very rarely quiet, and when they are, it’s usually because they’re doing something extremely destructive to an item you value highly, so that experience usually goes like this: “Oh, it’s so nice and peaceful… Wait a minute, the girls must be destroying something. Crap!””

    LOLOLOL! (Easy for me to laugh when it’s not my stuff…)

    lenny lee-
    Hi! Thanks for coming over from Miss Rachele’s blog. :) If all you’re looking for is Super Grammar, then I think you’re set, because those are rules you can learn and then apply (and you seem very bright!). So if you’ve got the storytelling knack already, and the gift of focus, then I think you’re doing just great!

    Ugh, I need that power too. I’ve learned to *ease up* on my perfectionist tendencies, but I still can’t just power through a scene and tell myself I’ll fix it later. If I don’t even LIKE it now, I won’t LOVE it enough to come back later… :\

    Not everyone’s meant to be an outliner. I’ve finally come to see that. Pantsers often wish they were planners, AND VICE VERSA. The grass is always greener, you know? But embrace your yellow grass and pants your face off! I love the new story. :)

    Oh man, IF we could combine superpowers…!!!

    “And maybe a super-sized language magnet. The kind where you turn it on and all the right words come flying over to the page.”

    Now THAT sounds really useful.