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The Quirks of Great Writers

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Sometimes being an obsessive and eccentric misfit isn't such a bad thing.

Are you often singled out, praised or criticized for quirks and oddities that could help you be a great writer, if you only let yourself try? Maybe you're an obsessive perfectionist, who can't send an email without editing and proofreading, sometimes three or four times? Do you become lost in your own fantasy world and have a rich and colorful imagination that interests you more than reality? Can you become so obsessed with perfecting your prose that you forget to do laundry, cook or pay your bills on time? Perhaps you notice typos everywhere and drive your friends and family crazy with complaints about misused apostrophes and misplaced hyphens? These flaws, quirks and odd personality traits may be the things that make you an exceptional writer, and that give you the focus, drive and determination to succeed when others give up or fade away into mediocrity.

Traits that others see as unusual, negative, odd or just plain quirky can be useful to you as a writer, but only if you can channel and focus your propensity for perfection and focus into productivity and not into procrastination and distraction. Are you a frustrated writer, spinning your wheels in a dull day job, when you could be prolific and fulfilled? Here are a few signs that you may have talent that you can leverage by writing (if you allow yourself to), and most writers will recognize themselves in at least one of these descriptions.


You forgo the obvious and notice the subtle and curious.

Are you lost and bored with small talk, but inspired and encouraged by life's subtle idiosyncrasies? Can you describe the beauty of ugly situations, the charm in people's' awkward shortcomings and the value of distracted nonsense? If you can do this well, you have an advantage. Successful writers often find themselves revealing hidden value in situations, and ignoring the obvious to share new and unique perspectives.


 You can articulate points that leave others lost and muddled.

When others are lost for words or tongue-tied, do you leave people speechless with your ability to describe situations with clarity? Do you have in-depth knowledge of a subject, or multiple subjects, and can you deconstruct, critique and explain nuanced issues without confusing your audience? The world can be divided into three camps: those who know, those who don't, and writers who can bridge the gap between the two.


 You respond to poor treatment with long and detailed written complaints, and spend more time than necessary perfecting the prose.

Perhaps your landlady thought she could rob you of your security deposit. She probably wasn't expecting you to post a immaculately crafted, six-thousand word rant on Craigslist the following evening, offering a scathing and devastatingly accurate analysis of all the reasons why she's an appalling landlady and a disgrace to the community. That's because she didn't know that you're a closet writer who can spin off beautifully bitter diatribes in between vacuuming the living room and making a sandwich.


 You find grammar mistakes and poorly crafted text only slightly more excusable than second-degree homicide.

Does poorly constructed English make your toes curl with fury? Instead of letting out a piercing primal scream the next time an officious colleague uses “myself” where he should use “me” or “I,”  put your own grammar knowledge to good use and outshine the competition with perfectly crafted sentences. An excellent understanding of grammar is an immediate advantage in a world where many aspiring and well-meaning writers don't know what a semicolon is.


You can lie beautifully, and manipulate people easily.

Some might call it a personality disorder; others may say you're a bad person. Maybe you do need a stint with a shrink to resolve your compulsive lying and deception, but if you're not ready for that then at least put your creativity and persuasion to good use, and stop being so mean to people. A good writer friend of mine once said that the best part of being a writer is wearing pajamas to work, lying all day long, and never getting into trouble for it.


 You enjoy your own company, sometimes more than the company of others.

Would you prefer to spend New Year's Eve with a bottle of Baileys and a Kurt Wallander novel more than celebrating with friends and family? Is a cup of coffee and your laptop all you need for a perfect Sunday? Writers often spend long periods of time alone, and bubbly socialites in need of constant affirmation of their popularity will have a hard time accepting some of the loneliness of being a writer. In fact, a writer can easily feel lonely in a crowded room, if she's so focused on her work that she's completely withdrawn from the conversations and chit-chat going on around her.


You have a rich and complex internal world and your communication is colorfully peppered with fantasy.

Are you the only person you know who can imagine his entire family transported fifty years back in time, complete with beehives and a Ford Galaxie convertible in the driveway? Do you have their imaginary behaviors and dialogues rattling around your head when you look at old family photos? Can you easily imagine your miniature Dachshund as a Victorian gentleman, sporting a tweed waistcoat and pocket watch and offering you advice on the best place to procure smelling salts? Put your creative and elastic mind to good use and start writing about all of this, before it drives you completely crazy.


 You are your biggest critic.

After sending an email, do you immediately feel annoyed with yourself about your word choice in the first paragraph? Do you rewrite much of the content in your mind? Can you edit and proofread your own work, and do you learn rapidly from your writing mistakes? Does the great writing of others lead you to rework your own style and habits? Good writers know that they can't and shouldn't wait for others to find the errors in their work. Being your own worst critic is not enough though; you must be open and receptive to criticism from others, and those who can adapt and learn from the feedback from colleagues, editors, and reviewers will benefit and grow the most as writers.


     You enjoy describing your work more than actually doing it.

    Maybe you loathe your job, feel no affiliation with your colleagues or the company, and spend half your day daydreaming about a freelancing writing career instead of working. But when it comes to training new colleagues, writing manuals, or speaking in meetings, do you wake up from your cubicle slumber and become a model employee, full of energy and enthusiasm? This is probably because you're using a part of your brain that is desperate to be used. Good writers can find joy in writing about even the dullest topics, as the joy of spinning words and crafting beautiful sentences can be gleaned from any type of writing.


    Your work is never finished.

    Writers never stop learning and improving their craft. There is no beginning and no end for a writer; just an addictive, frustrating, complex and rewarding continuum of learning and improving, and endless cycles of thinking, writing, reviewing and rewriting that teach the writer a little more about her strengths and weaknesses every day. Many writers would prefer no office, less income, and a lifetime of learning from mistakes. If this sounds like home to you, you might be a great writer.



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