The Right Stuff

According to writer Nancy Kress, there are about six traits a person must possess in order to be a writer. So I thought it would be fun, or maybe just informative, to measure myself against them as I am in serious career direction consideration mode.

  • the ability to tolerate long periods of time alone (or surrounded by people who don’t actually exist)

I could fill rooms with the people I know who don’t actually exist outside the space between my ears. And being alone is an art form I perfected as a child.

  • the arrogance to believe that, however crappy your current work and however much rejected, you will get good enough for other people to want to read what you write

Well, apparently I am quite arrogant because not only do I believe I will be published someday, I believe that readers will buy the books I write.

  • the humility to understand the limits of your talent, and to learn from what editors, reviewers, and writing-group colleagues tell you about your work

Oh, I know a better writer than myself when I read one. And believe it or not, I take criticism to heart.

  • a love of reading and of stories (I have never met a writer who didn’t read fiction voraciously, at least while young, and who didn’t tell himself stories in which he was the hero)

I am not a voracious reader of fiction these days. I simply don’t have the time and I don’t run across authors who can really transport me or inspire me either. Is that a function of old age? Or am I just too much in writer mode to not pick at the work of others? I don’t know. I read books a week as a child and well beyond college. I was even still a better than average reader in the early days of my first marriage. Now it has to be a really great book to hold me still long enough to read.

Oh, and I am always a central figure in my own fiction though my hero tends to be Rob-like.

  • self-motivation, since one must work without a boss, an external work structure, or, often, a deadline

Blogging has helped me develop a work ethic. Group blogging is good for imposing outside structures and deadlines. Fiction efforts though are still scattered. A dilemma that may lead me away from the web soon, but I am still working things out.

  • for the SF writer, the peculiar cast of mind that finds a future world, an alien planet, or a magical realm fully as solid and believable as the chair he’s sitting on — at least for the length of the writing session

I have never had difficulty suspending my belief.

5 thoughts on “The Right Stuff

  1. I appreciate your assessment. Nancy adds that, “Talent and desire are not enough.” That’s a lot to chew on. I wonder how many published science fiction writers would agree with her.

  2. Great list of traits to think about. I think self-motivation is one of the most important, because it’s a craft easily distracted. Happy writing to you!

  3. British writer Nick Hornby give a reading at a Barnes & Nobel here in NYC a few years ago and after the reading he did a Q&A. Someone asked, “How do you know if you’re a writer?” He said that if you are writing a piece and are able to put it down for a week and not think about it, you are most definitely NOT a writer. It takes no small amount of obsession.

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