Consider This Your Soapbox (or Focus on Your Strengths)


Photo Credit: Shuttleworth Foundation on Flickr

I read an excellent blog post by Jeremy McNabb on analyzing your own strengths as a writer. Too often we criticize ourselves, tearing down our own efforts with our words. We might be tough on others, but usually we are hardest on ourselves. Recognizing our mistakes and learning from them is a valuable trait to learn, but dwelling on them can be counterproductive. Negative thoughts breed negative results.

Keepin’ it Positive

I want to focus on the positive. You need a moment to shine. And here it is. This is your moment.

Just as we all have weaknesses, we all have strengths, too. The hardest part is looking past our own faults. We can be really good at faking confidence. We put on brave faces for our peers. Gotta keep those Facebook posts positive! (You know what I’m talking about, right?) But internalizing that sense of self-dissatisfaction is just as bad as broadcasting it to others – actually, it’s worse. Instead of letting others help build us up, we cover our own imperfections with a façade of “everything’s hunky-dory.” I’m not saying that we should broadcast the failures; I’m saying that we should internalize the good more than we do the bad.

My Strengths

In Jeremy’s post, he made a list of his strengths as a writer. What a great way to quantify the good things – and cement them in your own brain. In like fashion, here are mine.

  1. I have an iron determination. My personal motto has always been, “If they can do it, I can do it.” And beyond that, if I can do it, I will put every ounce of myself into doing it the best I can. When I wrote my first book it was rough. Really rough. Many people advise an author to put their first novel aside and move on from there. That no first novel deserves to be made public. But I knew there was a good story in there – a great story. I had critiques from several talented writers and I knew it would be a lot of work to fix. But I decided that if a heck of a lot of work could make it better, it would be worth the time, effort and blisters on my fingers. And I didn’t back down.
  2. I take constructive criticism well. It’s easy to hold your novel as close as you do your firstborn, refusing to heed a negative word spoken about it by anyone. It’s easy, but not beneficial. I don’t come from a background of writing, and for me that means I don’t think I know it all. I’m aware of my limitations and of the strengths of others around me. It’s part of my nature that I’m not overly sensitive about most things. That doesn’t mean my novel isn’t a little like my firstborn. But it means that I can receive a critique for what it is – a lesson on how to do better, a solution for how to fix very real issues. I absolutely crave feedback – positive and negative. It’s like candy to me. And when I get it, I’m eager to apply it wherever I can.
  3. I am a visual writer. Stories come to me in pictures, like I’m watching a movie in my head. Because of that, it takes time for me to translate the images to words, but once I do, I typically can paint a very descriptive scene. I’ve been told I write very cinematically, which I take as one of my greatest compliments.
  4. I am not overly “writerly.” I don’t have a degree (or handful of degrees) in writing. Another benefit of that is that I don’t over think the language too much. While I can appreciate powerful imagery in a story, I most enjoy novels that are direct and simply written. Too many writers get caught up in flowery prose and complex descriptions. Stuff like that is fine for literary fiction (I guess), but that’s not at all the style of books I write. I just focus on doing what comes naturally and not trying to add a lot of unnecessary fluff to my stories.
  5. I am driven by passion. I don’t have the attention span for writing something I don’t absolutely love. I don’t have the time to do it, either. My energy is valuable and I save it for the most important projects. I don’t have hundreds of story ideas waiting to be written. I have a few. But I love each one of those, and love them dearly. Passionate writing is better writing. It also keeps that pesky thing called “writer’s block” away. I either want to write with passion or not write at all.

Your Strengths

So those are my strengths. I’m stating them to lead by example. But really, this post is about you. So here’s your chance. *pushes soapbox forward* Step up. Step out. Be heard – by yourself as much as others. Tell me, what are your strengths when it comes to writing? We You need to hear it.

You might also be interested in:

Share Yourself

Blog with Passion

Ways to Foster Imagination

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  1. #1 by Courtney Cantrell on December 30, 2011 - 4:28 pm

    Becca, you inspired me to blog my own list here: http://courtcan.com/writing/weak-strengths-or-strong-weaknesses/

    Yours makes for a fun and interesting read — thanks for sharing! I definitely relate to being a “visual writer”…and I love the example you set with your iron-willed determination! : )

    • #2 by Becca Campbell on December 30, 2011 - 7:16 pm

      Court,

      I’m so glad you joined in. Can’t wait to read your list. And here I go.

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