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.
- 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.
- 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.
- I’ll take the heat when it comes to feedback.
- Descriptive language–my poetry background, I think, helps me here. Not my biggest of strengths, but it has potential.
- I’m a good reader. Someday, I hope I’ll be a better reader of my own work, though.
You can ignore my tag…or give it a try!
- Susan at BlogIto/ReadingWritingLiving
- Elizabeth at Fluent
- Bustopher Jones
- Gord at Eclexys
- wc at Loud Solitude
- No Milk
- Lucette at My Novel On Toast
- Hyun at To All Intents and Purposes