Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Turning Negatives into Positives

I had a theme this month. I didn't mean to; it just happened that way. I wrote about introversion back on the 4th. I wrote a blog post about how my perpetual rewrites have helped me develop my craft. Then on the 14th, I wrote about my nemesis, the inner editor. On the 19th, I blogged about being thin-skinned and overly sensitive to criticism. This week, on the 25th, I posted about my overactive imagination and how writing is an outlet for it.

All of those posts started with an explanation of a personal flaw I have. All of them then explained how these flaws have helped me, and why I think they've made me a better writer.

I have more. I can post next month about how my distractions help. I can blog about my cynicism and pessimism. I go off on tangents, and I bet I could figure out how that helps me. I have lots of vices. They're tame ones, granted, but they've all contributed just as much to my identity as a writer as my virtues, if not more. I wouldn't trade them off, any more than I'd lop off my own hands.

Bear with me for a moment.

One of the most common job interview questions is, "What's your greatest weakness?" For the longest time, I was taught that the answer to that question was a flaw that was actually a strength in disguise. For instance, something like, "I get so determined to finish things before I leave that I usually end up staying late." But what I've learned through my job tells me that answer is actually wrong. Instead, look at a weakness you've learned to handle. For instance, my introvert tendencies mean that I sit back in meetings and listen to every side of a problem. I'm not the first one to jump in with a solution, but, when I do speak up, it's after careful consideration, and it tends to be more insightful than those who talk a lot in meetings.

Writing is the same. (I know, writing just like real life? Gasp.) You can bemoan all of the things that are stacked against you in this writing thing. Or, you can find out how they work for you. Granted, there are flaws that are deadly to a writer, most notably lack of knowledge of grammar and spelling. But those can be learned, and your grasp of fast-and-loose grammar is going to make for much more realistic dialogue.

So, before you say you can't be a writer because of your many flaws, think about how you can make them work for you. Turn them into positives, into tools you can use. You'll be a better writer for it. The most fascinating writers' voices, to me, are the ones that come across as human and flawed. So, embrace it.