5 writing strengths Meme

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I have been tagged by Nova at distraction no. 99 to do a meme that lists my 5 writing strengths.

Haha.

I am not so familiar with my strengths. Workshop critique can do that to you–all you hear is what you suck at, what your manuscript lacks, and after 4 years of workshops, it’s hard for me to see through the thick forest of “I suck at…” trees. Right now, you see, I’m suppressing a list of “I suck at…” (revision! I suck at revision–I don’t even know where to start with revisions! I suck at dialogue!)

I remember a Famous Writer/writing prof/friend of mine gesture to me in workshop two years ago saying, “Jade, you know what your strengths and weaknesses as a writer are,” and then turned to the rest of the class and said, “You should know what your strengths and weaknesses are.”

UGH. SO.not.true. I could only list what I SUCKED AT, having no idea about what I could do well. But, from the tone of my friend/Famous Writer/writing prof’s voice, it seemed a critical thing to know my strengths as a writer. Even Junot Diaz seems to be full of the self-critic, as illustrated in his interview with Powell’s when he was asked, “What is your weakness as a writer?” (note his usage of the popular writerly phrase, “…I suck at…”):

Díaz: — Oh, I suck at dialogue.
Dave: You suck at dialogue?
Díaz: Definitely. If I were better at dialogue, I’d probably be walking around with a fur coat.
Dave: That’s interesting. I don’t feel like that’s the case, having just read both of your books.
Díaz: Okay, it’s just me. See? I’m probably the problem.

Even the interviewer, Dave Weich, expressed surprise at Junot’s response. Because Junot is BADASS at dialogue–but he says that the dialogue comes from a great amount of work and revision.

As I thought about what my strengths might be, I was tempted to call all of my friends and my writing professors up and say, “What do I do well?” It was unbearable to consider–and when I came up with a possible strength, I would criticize it down into submission.

Well. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Idea–I figure, if my writing ain’t up to par, then at least the idea can carry the story and characters for a little while. People are willing to read a bit further if it’s not something they’ve read before.
  2. Plot/ting–I spend a lot of time deciding which scenes belong in a story, and how they are all connected with each other, and analyzing their function.
  3. I’ll take the heat when it comes to feedback.
  4. Descriptive language–my poetry background, I think, helps me here. Not my biggest of strengths, but it has potential.
  5. I’m a good reader. Someday, I hope I’ll be a better reader of my own work, though.

I tag….
You can ignore my tag…or give it a try!

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7 Comments

Filed under Memes, Writing

7 responses to “5 writing strengths Meme

  1. w

    I’m gonna do this one, I swear—even though my wont is to list all the things that are wrong with my writing. Thanks, sweets, for the tag.

    Thank you, too, for the stickies, I’ve been using them like mad. And also: please expect a nice package from NYC next week! 😉

  2. oh w! thank you! 🙂

    and the meme is helpful in that it forces us writers to look at something we rarely look at: what we do well. it’s uncomfortable, but i think it might help.

  3. So true what you said about seeing what you’re good at through the forest of “I suck at” trees! Sometimes I am so surrounded by them, I can barely see anything at all. And maybe something I think I suck at is something other people think is fine (for instance Diaz and dialogue), and perhaps the same for you?

    Your #1 cannot be more important. I am always willing, and wanting, to keep reading if it’s a concept I haven’t seen before. And #3? Well, I could take a lesson in that. I really envy that strength in you.

    p.s. W: I know I’m excitedly awaiting your list of 5!

  4. hyunjini

    Oh, I love challenges, though whether I actually accomplish them is a whole another story. (!)

    Jade, I wonder if you could expand on your writing/thinking process as it relates to your strength #2. I recognize the importance of selecting dramatic scenes and connecting them, but how it’s done is wholly elusive to me. Nothing elaborate, just a few words on what that process means for you. Thanks!

    It makes sense that you have a poetry background. One reason why I love reading your blog is b.c. your mastery of the English language.

    I wish I was a better reader. From what I’ve read and heard about becoming a good writer, this is THE quality to have.

  5. Jade,

    I did this puppy. Quick. Posted here. Thanks for the impetus to think about what I’m doing right. It’s refreshing!

    It’s long been a crit rule in groups I’ve been in to start out with what the other person is doing well, as we need to know that too… but Creative Writing workshops sometimes lose sight of that. 😦

  6. I can’t wait to see everyone’s list of 5! This is one of those rare memes that encourages thought…and in general, encourages.

  7. Pingback: 5 writing strengths Meme : gordsellar.com

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