Understanding Your Weaknesses


Pow! See what happened? Let’s work on that.

Everyone has weaknesses. They’re awful. They suck. I’d love to sweep them under the carpet and never discuss them again; but then they’ll get worse. If you have any interest in growth and improvement, you need to take a long look at what you’re bad at — and decide what to do about it.

As my dad used to say while teaching us to drive:  “You can’t just say oh shit when something bad happens. You have to do something.”

Bad stuff happens all the time. Our weaknesses get in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish, and all writers have weaknesses. Maybe you and/or I:
  • Can’t do outlines.
  • Get frustrated and confused by mosaic method because it disregards linear time.
  • Are great at nature description can’t do dialogue at all.
  • Love writing slapstick, but when someone else reads the manuscript they don’t laugh.
We spend a lot of time developing our strengths, but when we need to add dialogue, do an outline, or even a joke, we freeze.  You intend to find the right words — the write words — the a mystery wrapped in an enigma.  Before you know it, double-whammy!  Writer’s block! You’re left with half-hearted ideas, and lines that aren’t even yours: a misery wrapped in an enema (that’s Terry Pratchett’s joke, not mine).
You can’t run from your weaknesses forever. You have to face them. Understand them. Learn from them.

How? Other people!

Get recommendations for books by authors who are famous for what you want to learn. Or, the next time you’re with other creative types, jam with them. Talk about what you’re good at, and where you need help.  Find out who is your technical counterpart is. Ask them how they’d handle it. If you’re still stuck, switch gears, and try to write something together.

At my own writing group, we found out that:

  • A loves writing action, but hates writing outlines.
  • B loves writing internal monologue, but never feels like there’s enough action.
  • C can get the story from A to B to C, but feels really stuck at the moment.
  • D has lots of outlines lying around, but finds it challenging to flesh out a full story from them.

We decided that this would be a great opportunity to collaborate.  D will find one of his old outlines, then divide up the parts and give them to A, B, and C.  They’re going to each write a section, and then see if they made something coherent. This could be the birth of three brand-new stories.

“Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than the one where they sprang up.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Do not be afraid to get close to your opponent. The closer you are, the more you will learn.”
— Mestre ‘Bimba’ Manuel dos Reis Machado


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