Tuesday, February 25, 2014

There are lists for everything: the best, the worst, the most, the least. I wonder if there’s a list of characteristics or qualifications for writers? What is our best, worst, most, or least? What do we have in common that made us into writers?
I’m only speculating now, but I’ll bet we all had one particular English teacher that planted that qualifying seed. For me, it was Betty Mattson when I was in ninth grade. She taught English so easily, her students all believed grammar and diagramming sentences were easy. She glided through literature and enjoyed it so much, we all wanted to enjoy it with her. Her literature class was like a book club.  She wrote such pleasantness with her red pen on our essays, we never felt deflated, only encouraged that she liked it so much she wanted to read it again with suggested changes. We couldn’t wait to get started on the rewrite to see our grade improving with each rewrite. We didn’t write book reports. We wrote book reviews. We weren’t compelled to like anything. We could review using our choice of style, compare it to another book, another genre, another author. We could critique POV, plot or characters. Our raves or other opinions were never challenged. We were graded on how we wrote it, not on how we liked it. It was probably Betty Mattson who first believed in my hope to become a writer “when I grow up.” It was she who said, “You already are a writer.”
We are probably a pretty thick-skinned group. Whether that’s cause or effect of being a writer, I don’t know. How do we learn not to take those red marks personally, not to be devastated by rejections?  I think I learned that from Betty Mattson, too. When I make school visits I talk to the kids about how their teacher is their first editor. If she’s still making red marks at the end, she liked it! She believes you can make it better. The teachers smile, and “get” the point I’m making.
We’re mostly creative people. Sometimes that might be our best characteristic, sometimes our worst. The creativity explodes into what ifs, and try this and oh yeah! But sometimes it’s still exploding when we need rest. For many of us, shutting down is hard. Creativity demands to see what you got, put it out there, write it down, build on it. Creativity must create. As readers, we’ve been blessed by centuries of creative writers who inspire and move us to action, mentoring us from their graves. As writers, we’re blessed by our own creativity that transforms our ideas and words into Story.
I’m sure we’re all readers. If we didn’t care for books, why would we care about creating more? It’s certainly not for all the money we make! It’s for the love of the story. It’s the belief that we can create something readers will enjoy, or learn from, or be inspired to greatness. Books are only fragile paper. How do they achieve such permanence in our lives? Perhaps it’s that desire for permanence that we all have on our list.

Is our work ethic something else we have in common? I follow a lot of writers on facebook and groups, and there are as many ways to approach writing as there are writers. Some tell facebook hourly how many words they’ve written. Several take part in the November Novel write-a-thon. Their posts sound exhausting! I’ve known some who leave home and go somewhere special, void of distractions, and write for days. Many post all through the night of their frustration with not getting their story written.  Some of us sit at our desks and plod along day after day. However the work ethic plays out for each writer, it’s there. It’s a drive, a force from within that says I have to get this down. I have to write this. We are compulsive wordsmiths.
The last thing we have in common that is one of our best, is the story in the heart. We all have one. For some it might be the first one written. For others it might come at the end of a career. It might be a picture book, or an 800 page novel. It doesn’t matter. It is in the heart and will niggle at us until it’s done.
What qualifies us as writers? We write. It’s what we all do.

Deanna K. Klingel calls the mountains of western North Carolina home. She lives with her husband and golden retriever. She enjoys visiting her seven married children and eleven grandchildren, and travels with her books.
Blog: www.BooksByDeanna.com, “Selling Books”
Facebook: Deanna K. Klingel;  Author Facebook: Books By Deanna
Twitter: @deannakklingel


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