Most of the time, it feels like I simply wasn’t built to be a writer. I have a hard time focusing and sitting still. I’m impatient. I crave praise. I’m not super observant. I’m not all that original. I’m smart but not clever or witty. I’m kind of lazy. I obsess over words and sentences for hours. I’m not the best plotter. I’m easily distracted by the internet. My wrists ache all the time.
Surely if I were meant to be a writer, this would be easier, right? My personality would be better suited for it?
Well, after years of lamenting my poor compatibility with this thing I love so much, I realized the other day that I never stop to think about — to appreciate — the ways I might actually be a good fit for writing.
• I can stick with something for a long time, well beyond what most reasonable people would tolerate. For example, I ate the same 2 kinds of Lunchables for 5 school years in a row. That’s a LOT of little crackers, circular ham (or turkey), and square cheese.
• I constantly imagine “What if?” What if aliens came and wanted to eat us? What if I could talk to animals? What if a bunch of teens had to fight to death on reality TV? (Okay fine, that last idea wasn’t mine.)
• I constantly wonder how people are feeling about the things that happen to them. The guy on the news who lost his arm to an alligator attack. The family that’s living in a van due to the bad economy. The mother of the con artist who scammed people out of millions of dollars. I want to understand them, their stories. (Truth be told, I want to live their lives, if only for a little while, if only in my head and heart. I want to live a million lives.)
• I process through words. Whether pondering the questions above, or getting through my own personal bind, writing it out helps me understand myself better. Helps me figure out exactly what I’m thinking and feeling, and how to best convey those thoughts and emotions to someone else if needed. Sometimes just the physical act of writing — pressing ink to paper, or pushing characters onto a screen — is therapy enough.
• I love books. The shape of them. The feel of them. The places they take me. The things they teach me. The way they make laugh or cry or both.
• I love words. The sound of them. The look of them. The flow of them. They are truly beautiful to me.
• I have the support. Of family and friends. Of time and circumstances and (for the most part) finances.
• I can be quite the homebody. Sitting at the same desk in the same room of the same house day after day doesn’t faze me.
I’m open to feedback, I type quickly, etc… There is probably more, but I think this post is plenty long enough to accomplish its objective. To inspire me to celebrate and build on my strengths, instead of always only lamenting my weaknesses.
I encourage you to do the same.
16 responses to “Meant to write, or not meant to write? That isn’t really the question”
Ooh, great post and list! How awesome that you have the time and support to pursue the activity you love. :)
I don’t think I’m particularly cut out to be a writer, and it doesn’t bother me much. My laziness is probably the biggest obstacle. It’s a wonder I get ANYTHING done, really.
But I do like fiddling with problems and can do the same thing for hours, and don’t mind staying home a lot, and love to read, and love to make myself feel all sorts of emotions by living vicariously through fictional characters. I also have very particular tastes and can be hard to please, so sometimes I daydream about writing the book that has all my favorite tropes and not push any of my buttons. Hm… I think all those things peg me as more of a reader than a writer. :P
Very good reminder to focus on what you have and how you can best use that to your advantage, rather than agonizing over what you wish you had. I think too many people fail to pursue their dreams and goals because they focus too much on what they think they need (whether it’s a new computer or specific personality trait) rather than what they do have that could work just as much to their advantage.
“I can stick with something for a long time, well beyond what most reasonable people would tolerate.”
This is the most important one. Really, this is the only important one. Without this, no amount of wit or originality or skill at plotting matters. It sounds like you’ve got a lot of other advantages, too (and I think it’s great to focus on them like this), but the first one is the one that matters.
Also, sometimes it’s good to think about what our favorite artists can’t do. Because nobody can do everything, and we can be great with our limitations, too.
Robert Altman is my favorite movie director, but when he tried to do a thriller (The Gingerbread Man) is was pretty blah. He wasn’t a thriller director. His reaction to learning that fact? He went on to make another picture. Which was really good. And two years later he made a masterpiece. And then he made another picture. And so on.
Great post, Kristan. Thanks for reminding us to look at the other side of the spectrum. I find myself identifying with your thoughts.
Of course you are! This is a good thing to think about though. It’s easier for me to list my weaknesses than strengths. It’s good to remember what they are.
Hey, it’s little me!
I had to pop in and say thank you so much for this blog-post. It really helped me – I’ve had a really tough time writing lately.
Since I’m a harsh reviewer, (or; I think I am) I keep on thinking about other’s opinions. I’m scared of being turned-down, of being rejected, of being told, “Your no good.” I know that it happens as regularly as clockwork, but I’m still terrified of it. (I think that’s why I constantly edit.)
I’m also a very slow writer. It’s not exactly “writer’s block”, but I take FOREVER to right even a page. I’m even taking my marry time writing this comment! Although, I think the “slow writing” is due to my fear of brutal-criticism. I don’t know.
But despite these fall-backs, you have reminded me all about the things I love about writing. Again, thank you. I think you have helped me greatly with your wise words.
… And you are too funny!
Oh, you’re definitely meant to be a writer. I have no doubt about that.
I’ve never questioned it quite this way, but I have noticed that I’m not as happy when I’m not writing as when I am. It’s similiar to when my husband goes running. If he doesn’t run for a few days, we can all tell. He’s cranky and irritable. Running is his release. Writing is mine.
You know, I think a big part of it is also … we’re writers because we can’t NOT write. It is so easy to dwell on our weaknesses in such a subjective industry – and one that’s so unique, creative, and internal at the same time – but it’s more important to consider our strengths. Is it easier said than done? Sure. But like you said, it’s vital. Thank you for the reminder! :)
We don’t even know each other and you just wrote me. 100%, entirely, wrote me. In fact, you wrote me as of last night when that exact list (the first one, the why not write list) was scrolling through my head. Ahhh… it feels so good to be written by someone else!
If you can’t not do it, you’re meant to be a writer.
It takes an awful lot of stamina and self-discipline to finish a book and that should never be underestimated. I also do think you’re original. Your book was quite different with a distinctive writing style and I enjoyed it more than a great many others I’ve read in the past. Many of the most successful writers fear that they’re not cut out for it and have to force themselves to keep going. I doubt writing is easy for anyone.
Oh “meant to be.” I have a friend who has been tossing that concept around — she believes all roads lead to where she is now. Maybe. I don’t know. But it does sound a bit like saying our hands evolved to fit into our gloves rather than that we designed our gloves to fit our hands.
In other words, you’re a writer because you write. That’s just my opinion though!
Write or write not. There is no “meant to.” (Yoda)
Good point about fiddling with problems! It has really struck me in the past year or so how much writing is really problem-solving. And like you, I enjoy that challenge and can play around with possibilities forever.
So true! We’re all only human, haha, with our unique set of shortcomings. The key is to work around them instead of fixating on them.
Helloooo! (A) I don’t think you’re harsh! (B) Glad this post encouraged you! That was definitely my goal. (C) Someone else said to me once, we’re slow and scared because we care. And caring is a good thing. :) (D) My boyfriend never thinks I’m funny, so thanks!
Juliann and Shari-
Yes, that’s one I forgot! “I’m discontent and incomplete when I don’t write.” Good one!
Thank you so, so much for your kind words. I can’t tell you how they buoy me up. :) And you’re right, I don’t think writing probably comes easy to anyone. With all this social media, I really ought to have an easier time remembering that, since writers are more open and connected than ever…
There’s something to that, too. Chicken or the egg — maybe it isn’t a matter of which comes first.
“I can stick with something for a long time, well beyond what most reasonable people would tolerate. For example, I ate the same 2 kinds of Lunchables for 5 school years in a row. That’s a LOT of little crackers, circular ham (or turkey), and square cheese.”
That’s quite an accomplishment! But seriously, sticktoitness is probably the least showy, but the best virtue a writer can have. I really believe that.
Hi,Kristen. I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating. I knew long ago that you would be a writer. As a teacher, I often see this potential path for students and wonder if they will actually take it and persevere. I’ll see them years down the line and they will have left their potential behind, abandoned for more lucrative interests. The disappointment eventually becomes immured within me and I just shrug, but you, you continued to pursue your gifts, your passion, and so the little light of hope flickers again in me. You know all this drama is teacher talk, but oh so sincere it is. I’ve been at this for decades, but I still write every day–a website, a blog, article directories, books. It makes my heart sing! P.S. I love your blog! Thrilled to see you still writing.
(It feels weird to call you that now that I’ve realized you’re my former teacher! But I don’t know you as Mrs. O’Connor either…)
Thanks so much for your longstanding faith in me, and for your encouragement again now. I can’t tell you what that means to me — on top of all the things you taught me during those formative middle school years. ;) Truly, I remember so much from your classes, and I’m glad to have sparked a bit of hope in you too!