Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What Is the Most Important Quality for a Writer?

Porträt Baudelaires by Gustave Courbet
I'm always fascinated by what makes artists tick.

It's not always a rational pursuit, in fact it's usually the opposite of a rational pursuit. It's not something you can prove ahead of time in numbers or formulas or a plan you know is going to work. You're operating on gut instinct and some ideas and a whole lot of faith.

So what's the most important quality a writer can possess? What do writers have in common?

There are a lot that spring to mind, but I'm going with determination.

What about you?






162 comments:

JMCOOPER said...

Agreed. When I first saw the title of your post, my first thought was: Persistence.

Allan Petersen said...

Honestly, I think it's "passion." Without passion for your subject matter, you'll never have the determination to complete the long and arduous journey.

HungryGals said...

Also agree - my first thought was "tenacity"!

Brendan Gannon said...

Selfless objectivity. A writer's first priority should be their audience. If you're always thinking about what's best for readers you won't cling to bad material or resist strong critique.

rjkeller.org said...

Thick skin. Without it, even the most talented writers will implode.

Sara said...

I agree about persistence.

However, given the persistence, I would say that an artist needs to be deeply and compulsively perceptive, and in love with the finely expressed perceptions of others.

Laurie Marshall said...

I'm going to agree with these comments - being determined to see a project through to the end is vital. But getting started is key, so I think the big one is self-motivation. The desire to feed oneself is also probably up there in the top five.

Erin Moulton said...

Faith. I think, faith in yourself, your writing...and faith that the dream is going to come to fruition. A person with both faith and determination is going to be a sure success!

Taylor Napolsky said...

I'm going to second Allan Petersen. Passion all the way.

Matt Sinclair said...

I was thinking dedication, but determination does the job, too, as does persistence. As in most endeavors, showing up to do the work is more than half the battle.

mshatch said...

the first thing that came to mind was perseverance, because if I hadn't persevered, if I had given up after x amount of years, I wouldn't have written anything and I wouldn't be where I am now.

smithsk said...

The most important Quality for a writer is - QUALITY.
(Referenece: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance)

writerjmk44 said...

Discipline. To be a successful writer, you must discipline yourself to write no matter what else is going on in your life. You must be your own boss and push yourself to sit down and write. Without that, nothing gets accomplished.

Matthew C Wood said...

Bloody mindedness all the way!

CourtLoveLeigh said...

These are all great! And I think that maybe this sort of question is always going to be individualized. Because I can't answer this without thinking about what qualities I really need to keep myself writing and to keep myself ENJOYING writing.

So for me personally, I would say (because I can't pick just one) patience and unwavering belief in myself. I think that patience ties up so much for a writer. First of all, just developing a style and a voice can take years. Then actually writing something decent. Then submitting. Then waiting. Then getting rejected. Then getting over being rejected. Then writing something even better. Then submitting again. And waiting some more...

And through it all, a person really has to believe in themselves. Like REALLY believe.

CourtLoveLeigh said...

ew, that typo was just gross. my apologies so early in the morning.

Tea said...

With the way my writing project is currently going, I'm going to have to go with "a firm grip on sanity."

Andrea Mack said...

All of the above, plus being flexible and open to new ideas, and not sticking to something that isn't working.

tt said...

Vision.

The vision about how well you know the world.

Lindsey Lane said...

My word is perseverance.

As in "Perseverance furthers" from the I Ching.

As in: Success goes to the writer (you could put any pursuit there: illustrator, actor, fighter) who got up one more time.

JennaQuentin said...

Shucks, I can't give up on writing today, not after you said that! You might have saved an insignifcant career...thanks for always haveing great thigns to say!

Watcher55 said...

I think audacity (with a touch of conceit) runs a close secondto determination. Let's face it - we're in this business to impress people.

DearHelenHartman said...

The most important quality for a writer is... friends with money.

This is why so many of us are flailing. We keep friending other writers. Witty, wild, Broke-a$$ writers.

Oh and what other people said is good too(another important quality for a writer: stealing. Thoughts, ideas, sometimes french fries or halves of sandwiches, whatever is easily swiped and spilled on a page or stuffed into hungry writerly mouths).

abc said...

Insight.

maine character said...

Your mention of a formula reminded me of this one from S.L. Farrell.

Success = Talent + Dedication + Passion + Luck

Amy L. said...

Follow through!

Ranae Rose said...

I'm going to say perserverance. Lots of people 'want' to write a book, or have come up with an idea, thought about it, ect... Writers are the people who actually do and finish their projects!

TheWriterStuff said...

Curiosity. About everything.

A.R. Williams said...

Discipline.

Nothing else happens unless you write.

Anonymous said...

I'm going with determination as #1.

Cute often helps, too.

Dominique said...

Oh, most definitely determination. If you don't keep plugging, nothing else matters.

magpiewrites said...

bloody mindedness. AKA persistence.

Mark Terry said...

I'll go with persistence, although having a high tolerance for financial instability definitely helps.

Bane of Anubis said...

in nae - perseverance

scruffy said...

Has anyone mentioned "madness" yet? That gets my vote.

Eileen said...

I agree with persistence and determination. Most artists are curious and passionate, so it's not just writers who do that. I don't think feeding oneself or money is important. If you're doing it for the money you should probably consider going into medicine.

Kevin Ott (www.kevinott.net) said...

Haha, I liked Scruffy's comment. It reminded me of the film "Alice in Wonderland" where Alice's father says, "You're mad. You're bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."

Perhaps that is another facet to "determination." You have to be a little mad, in a healthy sense, to keep pushing forward against all odds.

The BAD kind of "madness" is where you lose perspective on what's important in life. The fact that we have the luxury to write means we have food and shelter. Nurturing an attitude of thankfulness for what I DO have, as opposed to getting envious or discontent all the time, keeps away the BAD kind of madness.

Charli Armstrong said...

Humility...

D.G. Hudson said...

Persistence, supported by passion and imagination are powerful tools. A strong will to succeed can help the writer when the going is tough.

The writer also needs to be continually improving his writing for the persistence to pay off.

On continuing to write in the face of rejections: the writer needs confidence in his work in order to be persistent.

Taking the advice of James Brown, the late R&B man, might help too, "you gotta live for yourself, yourself, and nobody else". Translating that to writing, I'd say write for yourself first, to get the story down, then open the door (a la S. King) to let others help you refine it.

phipster said...

Has to be stupidity. As in too stupid to realize it might not work out. Too stupid to know when to give up. Too stupid to pay attention to the little voice in your head that say's you aren't qualified, prepared or tenacious enough to get it done.

Guilie said...

Only Charli gave an answer I can agree with. Perseverance, dedication, tenacity... all of those are important, certainly, but not just to a writer; to ANYONE. They're qualities you must have in order to live a fulfilling and productive life that's ripe with achievement. They're as necessary to writers as they are to any kind of professional, but I don't believe they're endemic. The one quality of a writer I believe is, is creativity. "Madness" is good paraphrasing... So is "passion", which Allan mentioned above, and "perceptiveness" which someone else also mentioned. But the crux of a writer's mettle is creativity, is it not?

Caleb said...

Determination for sure. It's not just the normal rigamarole but all the naysayers. There are the naysayers that say you shouldn't waste your time writing in the first place. Then you finish writing and you're determination got you past that. Then, you look for an agent and that's a full time job by itself. They tend to be nicer naysayers because they've been in your shoes before, typically. Then you get your book published and then the original naysayers come back and say that you shouldn't write like that and people won't read it and they won't recommend it.
Determination is a good word for it.

K. C. Blake said...

You took my answer, Nathan. That was the first word that popped into my head. No one who ever quit has become a successful writer.

Hart Johnson said...

Totally on board with persistence.

People who can't keep plugging away won't get to the end and people who won't keep improving and working to make it better and better end up with a subpar product.

Matt Larkin said...

Creative drive. A passion to create.

sarahjoyliteraryagent said...

Hard work. Lots of hard work. And then after the hard work, more hard work. And then after that hard work, even more hard work. But after that hard work... making connections--showing everybody your hard work. Moving up in the world a little bit... and then more hard work!

Sarah Joy, an associate agent-in-training.

Jan Cline said...

An open mind. But I also agree with everyone else!

funny in the 'hood said...

Discipline. There are a million other things I could be doing but I don't do them because finishing the book is more important.

It's a choice. If you want to write a book then write a book.

Rick Daley said...

I'm going with patience. Good things take time. It takes time to develop the craft, to write and revise a good novel, to perfect your query, to submit said query and/or manuscript, to to get published. Even self-publishing is not instantaneous.

SBJones said...

Fearless. If you think public speaking is scary, write a book and have the possibly the whole world look at it and critique.

Jens Porup said...

Honesty.

countdowntocontract said...

Persistence..and loving writing so much that you would do it even if you were never published or paid for one word!

Deb said...

A love of reading.

Sommer Leigh said...

Curiousity.

Stephanie Garber said...

Commitment.

Like many of the other commenters, my first thought when I read this post was that you need to have love or passion. But, without commitment there will come a day when those qualities may not be enough.

I always think of writing as a relationship. And in every relationship at some point the love or passion disappears. That's where commitment comes in. Without commitment it would be easy to leave writing behind and find a new love, one you're not tired of, or that has yet to reject you, so it seems perfect and flawless and easier.

But if you're committed to writing then no matter what you feel you will sit back down at your computer, your typewriter, yellow legal pad... whatever... and start writing again, until the love returns.

Sommer Leigh said...

Curiosity.

I superfail at spelling today.

Katrina said...

33.3 percent passion; 33.3 percent determination and 33.3 percent talent.

Cathy Yardley said...

I'm going to go with surrender. You need to let go of all of the "common sense" that tells you it's crazy to be a writer and that you'll never succeed. You need to let go of the plot outline that got you started in order to get to the organic thing your novel wants to become. Then you need to let go of the novel itself to let it make its way in the world. And you really need to let go of the outcomes once the novel is published: you need to do the footwork of promotion & marketing, but ultimately, there's so much out of our control. So yeah -- long story short, surrender.

Rebecca said...

Perseverance. That's one quality all writers have in common. Even those who sell their first novel on only a sample chapter to the first place they send it, they still had to finish the darn thing. People say that writing a book is like running a marathon. I disagree. A marathon is finished in one day. A book never is. In the end, all writers, regardless of the passion they have for their subject or the quality of their writing, have persevered and finshed a book.

Ann Philipp said...

I agree with those that say curiosity and madness. But I write to keep the madness at bay. Unless I need it, then I invite it over.

Sean Thomas Fisher said...

The talent to recognize a great "what if" situation and then turn it into an amazing story.

Mira said...

The most important quality a writer can possess?

I love all the answers, and especially resonate with honesty, passion and vision.

I might add: the longing to express ones truth, to have that truth be heard.

Will said...

Determination is always good, as are the other qualities mentioned in the comments. But I'd have to second Guilie and Matt Larkin and go with "creativity." Without that, what would we have to offer?

I think Sean Fisher has a good point as well. If we can't see something totally innocuous and think "what if," we can't truly surprise the reader with something out of the blue. We need to have unique insight if we're to bring anything new to the table.

Beverly Diehl said...

Toss up for me between determination/persistence and talent.

I've met really talented writers who just don't stick with it, though they could be GREAT if they did. However, I've also met writers with no talent, no "ear" who continually turn out terrible work over and over again, without ever improving, or even recognizing that their work stinks.

(Not that I'm giving myself airs - my work was amazingly bad, too, but it is improving. Writing in Flow

Jonathan Auxier said...

I'm seeing two types of answers in these comments:

One set that focuses on the act of DOING the work -- answers like "persistence," "passion," and "determination." While important, I'm not sure they cut it because these traits are necessary for success in ANY field.

The other set of answers are more about the personality type of a writer -- "honesty" "bloody mindedness" and "curiosity." All very true, but they don't really account for the DOING of work (the way that words like "persistence," "passion," and "determination" do).

So how to connect the practicality traits with the personality traits?
For me the intersection between the feeling and doing comes down to one thing:

"Feeling misunderstood."

Every time I've sat down to write something, it's because I feel fundamentally misunderstood by those around me. Writing is a chance for me to articulate all the things going on inside me in a way that *I hope* will make sense to others.

The good news is that this never goes away. As of last week, I finally have my first novel in the world(!), and every time I read a minor quibble in a review, I feel the same burning shame and frustration that filled me as a child whenever a teacher misunderstood what I was trying to say.

It's that feeling of being misunderstood that pushes me to write another book. And another. And another.

EDL said...

Like so many of the other commenters, I say whatever combination of dedication/tenacity/insanity makes you sit down and write every day and keep going even after you have to make 100-page manuscript cuts. I know so many amazingly creative people with wonderful ideas for novels, but very few have that ability to write it all down.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Discipline/dedication. That's what will keep you improving your craft and reaching out for your goals. If you're only doing one of those two, you're not going to achieve your dream (assuming that dream is to get published, not just to write).

Katherine Hyde said...

Determination is important—even crucial—but it's hardly specific to writers. Anyone who wants to succeed in any field needs that.

I think the most important quality for fiction writers is the ability to be totally, gut-level honest about themselves and other people. If you can't get down to that level with your characters, your fiction won't be worth reading.

Anonymous said...

Sincerity.

No matter what the subject matter, unless the writer dares to look inside him and write about the things that concern him, the final product will come out as superfluous and uninteresting.

If, on the other hand, he writers with sincerity, even if it is all fiction, his work will capture the readers' attention and hopefully steal their hearts.

Aimée Beatrice Jodoin said...

Hmmm, I don't know. I don't have much determination or persistence all the time... I'm going to have to say passion. Passion for art, or at least for writing, that is the thing that keeps writers writing, I think.

Hillsy said...

Healthy Self-Confidence.

I think a lot of positive traits spring from that.

Carla Marvin said...

My answer is "consistency". No matter what your dream is as a writer, nothing will ever happen if you are not consistently writing! Being consistent often requires many other things, like dedication, motivation, desire, etc...but it's the constant writing that will actually take you places. You can't get something published (assuming that is your goal) if you haven't written it. Write now, edit later. Get the general ideas down and you can go back to fill in the blanks or patch up the grammar later. To be a successful writer, you have to do one thing: WRITE! :)

bcomet said...

I think the most important quality a writer can posses is love of story.

Darley said...

I know it's been said, but discipline. I just don't think you can be a writer without it.

Anonymous said...

Respect. The single most important quality of any successful writer; really, of any successful artist.

Many others here have quoted things like perseverance, determination, discipline, etc. All these are byproducts of respect.

When you respect the art and the challenge of writing, then you treat like a vocation that demands your maximum effort.

But we need to also remember the other lesser advertised byproducts of respect. Things like humility, a sense of humor, and the much overlooked gratitude.

Sheer talent might grant you some of the rewards that would traditionally require perserverance, determination, and discipline. But without respect, you'll come to see your success as something owed, rather than something earned. The result; arrogant and dim-witted one-hit wonders who's flash of success caused them to self-destruct.

But if you respect the difficulty of writing; if you resepct both those who pan and praise your writing; if you respect the sacrifice; then you'll find success wherever your writing takes you.

-Bill

Anonymous said...

Not taking yourself too seriously.

It's a job. It's work. If you can figure out a way to get published, you've done something right. If you can figure out a way to reach enough fans and sell enough books to make a few bucks, you're doing okay. If you can keep doing all this for years, God bless you.

But it's just a job like teaching, selling houses, and baking bread. And if you start thinking you're an artist and bullshitting the troups with how important you are, you're in trouble.

Stephanie Barr said...

Good product.

If you're not writing good stuff, the rest doesn't matter.

Jeffrey Ricker said...

For myself, it's the ability to shut my browser window, turn off my computer and phone, and pick up a pen and focus.

Michelle Levy said...

To answer this I shall quote Galaxy Quest. "Never give up, never surrender!"

Bryan Russell said...

Ability - that's the quality you find at the intersection of talent and persistence.

Steve Westover said...

The 3 P's- Patience, Passion, Persistence

K L Kerr said...

I'd have to say 'resilience'. Or the ability to consume massive amounts of alcohol.

Kate Austin said...

I have to go with the three p's - all of which have already been mentioned: patience, persistence (aka perserverance) and passion.

Kate

Anonymous said...

Humility. You need it to respect your audience and to be open to critique.

Lynda R Young said...

Most important quality for a writer? The ability to keep writing whether or not they are inspired.

What writers have most in common? self-doubt ;)

Ben Campbell said...

Death. For me, a writer has to die a few times before effectively and creatively write.

Anonymous said...

Hung.

Linda Godfrey said...

I think the writer's chief asset is a deep and irresistible compulsion to tell stories. Success then comes from learning to tell these stories in an elegant and compelling way.

brianw said...

resiliency. The ability to bounce back from a bad day, harsh criticism, and anything else that life or writing throws your way. A writer must learn to bend and not break, give but not give in.

Oh, and all that other stuff people said too. They kind of go hand-in-hand. One thing doesn't make a writer:)

Jil said...

These are all good but for fiction first comes imagination. As Einstein said,"Imagination is more important than knowledge." Without imagination writing would be like precisely and energetically dipping into a well which has no water.

Toby Neal said...

Ridiculous amounts of hubris. Unflappable hope. Dogged, relentless perseverance. Above all, courage. Anything worth writing is gonna hurt.

robinC said...

Persistence and a sense of humor.

Some extra spending money doesn't hurt either.

gonnif said...

Insanity.

gonnif said...

Insanity.

It's a sort of package deal. With insanity, there's passion, creativity, and humour. I don't think you could ask for more!

Though, I believe that anyone can be a good writer. You don't have to be a certain type of person. You just need to be able to express yourself in words, and voila!

Bryce Daniels said...

A lot of people are talking about persistence, passion, tenacity, and the like.

I would agree, but only to a point. If we are talking basketball, a player can improve his free-throw percentage by practicing and never giving up.

But you mentioned artists. Here's the difference. A writer can see the arc of the ball and hear the swish as it drops unimpeded through the net. BEFORE it leaves his hands on a trial-and-error trajectory.

So I'm going with ABC's insight. Or vision. A way of looking at the world and creating his or her own with words.

Adam Heine said...

You took mine, Nathan. I guess I shouldn't be surprised.

kdrausin said...

Jonathan, I don't really get what you're saying;)

Lydia said...

A gut that scoffs at the very idea of antacids.

Tammy said...

Imagination and a word processor.

Art Rosch said...

It helps to be madly in love with writing. There are so many writers in the world today that chances are no one will ever read my work, or your work, or yours. I keep going because I'm madly in love, it's that simple.
I love to write, even more than I love to be read.

TeresaR said...

Definitely going with the others who said "insanity".

A. A. Attanasio said...

Imagination is an obvious candidate, that distinctly human trait of disordering reason in a systematic way that provokes real emotion.

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

Imagination to begin, perseverance to keep on going.

Susan Tuttle said...

For me, its the ability to grow and change - as both a writer and a person. Without that, you're just rehashing what you've already written. (Of course, persistence, passion and the ability to laugh at yourself help, too!)

Robena Grant said...

A strong sense of adventure.

EKBalesteri said...

A vivid imagination, belief in your work and confidence in your ability.

shadowkindrd said...

Gawdawful, sheer cussed stubbornness. That'll get you through all the ups, downs, upside-downs, right-sides up, and everything else that is the writing craze.

Also, knowing WHEN to quit. That's the next thing.

EKBalesteri said...

and listening...

EKBalesteri said...

and listening beyond just hearing...

Carol Riggs said...

Yes, I agree with persistence and passion, but the first thing that came to my mind was: a love of words. :) (ha! my word verification is "happi" LOL)

Sharon Hamilton said...

Well, since insanity was already taken, I'd say:
Being easy to start and hard to stop.

Robin Connelly said...

knowledge of the ABCs and how to form words with it

wry wryter said...

First you must dream of what it is you want to do; then believe you can do it.
Dream.
Believe.
From those two qualities comes all the rest, tenacity, persistence, thick skin, passion, determination, persistence, every single quality stems from the dream and the belief.

Marilyn Peake said...

Deep love of creativity and writing.

dcamardo said...

coffee

Wendy said...

Courage, I think. Putting yourself out there, having faith, having persistence and having determination all ultimately make up courage.

enermazing said...

Resilience - to bounce back and stay on track :)

marion said...

PERSISTENCE!
My first thought, along with JMCooper (who gets the first comment prize) & so many others.
I think that's the only way I'll machete my way through the wilds of revision. In spite of leeches, tsetse flies, etc.
But I still have to listen to my muse, or there's no point.

I agree about feeling misunderstood. But I think it's more a passion to make other people understand your protagonist.

I agree with everyone else, too. Especially about madness.

Congrats. to Jonathan Auxier on publication!

[Verification word: deculath, which is a length of wood I use to connect you with the deck. I mean, I swing the wood and knock you down.]

Melissa Adams said...

Feeling humbled to comment when so many erudite writers have already expressed my thoughts, I think the most important quality for a writer is the ability to see the world in an original way + the voice to share that vision with words. Good writers connect the dots creatively, presenting the world through a lens that offers a unique perspective. Like Hemingway, "My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way."

simplysam said...

I'm going for blind faith...

Ellis Shuman said...

Having something original to say!

S J Bradley said...

Bloody-mindedness. And determination. Ok, so that's two, but they sort of cross over.

Adele Richards said...

This is all quite intimidating, so I'm going to say that the most important quality for a writer is a love of sandwiches.

What do you know? I qualify.

Phew.

Anonymous said...

Courage. Being scared crapless and going forward anyway.

You can't be persistent or passionate or thick-skinned or any of these things if you're not courageous first. They all require major courage.

And you can not be persistent or passionate or thick-skinned or any of these things and still come out okay. You can lack them and be successful.

But not courage. You can't lack courage and ever come out okay.

Karen A. Chase said...

Writers have to be comfortable with solitude. In order to really write, we have to spend a lot of time by ourselves. It doesn't mean we are all introverts, but if you don't like your own company, or you can't stand being alone, there will be no time to write.

Lauren said...

I'd have to say determination for sure, and perseverance, and a whole lot of faith...

You know who said...

Thanks. I needed to hear this today!

Ishta Mercurio said...

For me, it's self-motivation combined with discipline. Without those things, I'd never start to write anything. But once I start, I need patience - patience with myself and with the slow process of just getting the story down, patience with critiquers who take time to get back, patience with the editing and revision process, patience while on submission, patience while waiting for the book to reach the shelves once all my work on it is done...

jongibbs said...

The ability to enjoy what you're doing, even when it's not fun.

Shilpa said...

For me, its persistence. That is so necessary!

Ulysses said...

A tough question. I think "most important" depends a lot on what aspect of the writer's life we're discussing. The "I have an idea for a book" state may require one thing above others, while the "Time to promote this book" stage requires something different.

But you said, "writer," and I'm interpreting the question as "what is the most important quality for the production of quality written work?"

Obviously, from the above, it's the ability to use quotation marks around things that aren't actually quotations...

Beyond that, I believe the most important thing is a work ethic. It's the ability to sit down and work, to produce. It's a combination of discipline and dedication. Writing is easy. Writing well is not, and it is easy to be discouraged, to be distracted, to apply only a tiny fraction of the effort your writing requires to become all you can make of it.

Without that, I believe our success becomes less likely. Without that, success becomes a matter of luck or raw talent (much more scarce than luck). It stops being something we can count on or control.

A bunch of other things I think are important:

- Tough skin
- Persistence and stamina
- Willingness to learn
- Ability to learn
- Willingness to make mistakes
- Knowledge of at least the basics of the language
- Creativity

Deri said...

A mere few weeks ago, I would have said something along the lines of what has already been said, such as determination, persistence, tenacity, insanity (lol), etc.

However, in light of a recent development, I have to use a word that most people might consider a negative: stubbornness! I have been called stubborn many times for a variety of reasons, although I'm usually a pretty easy going, docile person. I only get stubborn when someone gets in my face and tells me what to do. Well, unfortunately, that has happened to me recently with my writing, and from the single closest person to me.

I was told I was wasting my time, that my pecking away on some silly story wasn't going to get me anywhere, that nothing I was doing would ever amount to anything. I needed to "get serious and be responsible" even though I've been the sole breadwinner for the last 6 years (and I've supported myself financially since I was a teenager.) When confronted with those sentiments, I shut did down in a way, but I kept writing, because I didn't care what he said. That person's words ring in my ears every time I sit down to write, which frankly only pisses me off so that I write that much more. So for right now, the most important quality for me to have is my stubbornness.

Mira said...

Deri - wow. That sounds intense - and good for you for keeping on!

I think what you're talking about is fairly common, unfortuantely . In the Artist's Way she talks a bunch about people who will try to kill your dream - usually because they are denying their own dream. And she stresses and how important it is to trust your own creative force, as well as finding voices that will support you in that.

Deri said...

Thanks Mira! I was shocked because he'd been supportive before. But now I realize that he thought it was a phase that would pass. I've had some positive things happen to me recently writing-wise, and I think it may just be abject jealousy. I've dealt with negativity before, but nothing like this. I'm so glad I've found an online community to lean on!

Jen P said...

Whilst all of these posts touch on characteristics which can help you as a writer, I believe it is the ability to perceive and translate the everyday, the comic and the tragic and the every essence of our existence through words, into something more - whether it is more fun, more understandable, more meaningful, more connected, more disconnected through escapism or more informed, depending on what kind of writing you produce. It is Joan Miró who sums up for me what it is all about: 'I understand that an artist is someone who, in the midst of others' silence, uses his own voice to say something and who makes sure that what he says is not useless, but something useful to mankind.'

Miró in common with many writers, started (painting) using lots of detail, close to a realistic impressionism but his surrealistic work progressed throughout his life continually paring away the forms, his characters, down to their barest elements, he analysed the importance of each stroke in his work and had a tireless energy and creativity. He couldn't not paint, and was sensitive to everything in the world going on around him, from a swaying blade of grass to world politics. That heightened perception and an ability to translate it through art into something that adds value and makes a lasting impression, perhaps even a life changing one, on the viewer and leaves something permanent, is a quality all artists seem to a greater or lesser degree to possess and strive towards, with a greater or lesser degree of self awareness as Miro. He knew what he was doing, and why he was doing it, and he always had a purpose, but he didn't let that purpose get in the way of his creativity. 'The painting rises from the brushstrokes as a poem rises from the words. The meaning comes later.' I think it is a critical quality for a writer - to understand yourself as an artist, to understand your purpose and have that same understanding of others and the world around you.

(As an aside, it was Hemingway who bought Miró's The Farm and said of it, “I would not trade it for any picture in the world.”)

Daniel McNeet said...

Nathan,

Discipline. Writing has to be an enjoyable task and incidentally you may make a dollar. If it is money first you will be in a prison for which there is no escape.

Thank you for the post.

The Pen and Ink Blog said...

Courage. It's not enough to write it. You have to submit it. And when the contract comes, you have to sign it. Even if it includes the terrifying bit about what happens if someone sues you and the publisher saying you you plagiarized the work.

Ted said...

Can't argue with persistence and imagination as critical traits.

But I'll say being a good reader is the most important quality. You have to love the way words look and sound, and love the process of converting them into moving pictures in your mind.

Anonymous said...

A good chef needs (inner) charisma. So does every author.

Chantelle Smith said...

I'd have to say "talent".
Everything else stems from that.

Matthew MacNish said...

Humility.

wendy said...

Speaking from personal experience, I'd say that persistence will get you nowhere without faith. I persisted for decades without much hope or confidence. .I now see the error of my ways, but I don't have the determination/passion anymore.

Brett Henley said...

I'd offer up "fearless."

Writes toil and struggle under a pile of rejection letters, hopping on the publishing merry-go-round ... why not make your own game, and ask for forgiveness later?

Pamala Owldreamer said...

Perseverance and a thick skin!

Anonymous said...

Your blog has become boring.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

That may have something to do with my real life being the opposite of boring at the moment.

Alice said...

Intelligence. Same as any other art.

Ann M said...

Great question, Nathan! And I think your answer might be the most important, too. Because, without that, anything else won't really matter.

I think another good quality is also flexibility. Being open to the changes that your story will (most likely) need to undergo. I'm constantly reminding myself that the story as a whole is more important than any one part.

Suma Subramaniam said...

Its got to be passion. Then persistence.

Thanks for sharing your view Nathan!

Best,
Suma.

Matthew Wright said...

A writer's most important quality? Can't render that to a word; lots of qualities come into play. Persistence. Enthusiasm. Determination. Optimism. Drive. Marketing skills. Helpings of polymath. Why? Writing's not a single-trick skill - it draws in the whole of a person. And should speak to the whole of a reader. Ideally, anyway - and it's a personal journey, too.

Matthew Wright
http://mjwright.wordpress.com
www.matthewwright.net

Anonymous said...

insanity, humility, follow-through, and talent.

R.K. Gold said...

Imagination. Without imagination, you can be as determined as you like, but you'll have nothing to be persisten about.

Deri said...

Can't believe someone called this blog boring. It's one of my favorites. I always look forwards to posts. I think someone is jealous of Nathan's success...

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Edward Summers aka Roland B. said...

There are many great attributes listed here already, but for me, personally, writing(and music) just seem the light that makes the day worth while. I say love, for your work, for the process, for the journey--waiting for that moment of completion. I beleive an artist should feel just as excited and checked in on word 1 as on word 100,000.

Mira said...

Yes, re-posted.

So, it took awhile for me to think about the mean anon comment and Nathan's response.

I have a bunch of things to say.

1. anon 9:28, I wish Nathan was posting more too, for my own sake, but there are many blogs on the internet. You can go to one of those rather than leaving a hurtful, inappropriate comment on a fellow author's blog who gives of his limited time to provide something to you for free. It's fine that you have an opinion, but I hope you'll re-think comments like that.

2. Nathan is never boring.

3. Last I checked, there were over 74 likes on this post. So, there you go.

J. T. Shea said...

But when the ticking stops, run for cover!

Anonymous 9:28 am, your comment is boring.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Nathan...Determination a very important quality. It is what separates the writers from authors. We can all be writers, but to go that extra step, we need to be entirely unwavering in our decision to be...well, what we are.

Also, the ability to accurately critique our own work helps.

Saturday Sequins said...

Nathan! Oh my gosh! The last time I checked on you, you were an agent who'd just gotten a book deal. And now you're a published writer! I'm so proud of you.

Hmm. I think the most important quality a writer can have is a practical mindset. Not positive. Not negative. Practical. This means taking an honest look at our work and discovering our strengths and weaknesses. Choosing to own and cultivate what makes us shine and knowing that whatever faults we have, from shyness about marketing to difficulty with dialog, we can overcome them IF! If we work hard and develop a knack for creative problem solving.

It means knowing that succeeding is probably going to be difficult, that there will be setbacks along the way, but that if we keep plugging along, we might just be rewarded. And knowing that whatever happens, it's worth it just to be able to put that pen to paper or open that Word document every day.

Nicholas said...

An observant eye.

- -Alex McGrath said...

Yes I'd also say "passion". Passion and Persistence are like 1 and 1A. You need to have this burning desire to tell your story and have it be remembered, or you end up being one of those people that never get around to writing the damn thing. And you have to care enough about it to trade your sanity in to make it the best it can be through revision.

Wendy Christopher said...

For me, I think it has to be that you have to WANT to write, more than anything else you could do instead. It can't be something you feel like doing every once in a while, when the creative mood strikes you; you need to want to do it so badly that the only way people could stop you writing would be to break both your arms. And drug you unconscious - just to make sure...

If you've got that, everything else you need will come with it.

Chocolate also helps ;^)

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