Know Thyself. 7 Truths About Writers

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A guest post by Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers

Claiming the word ‘writer’ for yourself can be a big step. You may have been writing all your life but do you actually call yourself a writer?

Know Thyself was inscribed on the ancient Greek temple of Apollo at Delphi. People would go there to seek knowledge of the future or to find revelation about themselves. The words were a reminder that the first step to truth is to look inside.

Fundamentally, writers write, they put words onto a page or screen. But there are other aspects to writers. Do you recognize yourself in these traits?

1 We are loners

Writing is a solitary art. Even writers who collaborate create their pieces separately and knit them together later. We are not naturally team players. To be a happy writer is to enjoy solitude for creation. Writers are often introverts in the sense that they are energized by time alone with their minds. They may love being with people but it tires and drains them. I spent many years thinking I needed to be a team player, that it was essential to being a rounded person. Then I did the Myers Briggs test and found that introversion is just a natural state for some of us and certainly more dominant in writers.

2 We want recognition

Writers have egos and our desire to see our words in print or type stems from this need to be recognized. We want the six figure book deal. We want to be on Oprah or the New York Times bestseller list. We want to write words that change people’s lives. We want to be read. For all that to happen, our writing needs to be out there in the world.

3 We are scared and doubt ourselves

We want people to read our words but at the same time, we fear criticism and negative reaction. We compare ourselves to others and we often come up short. We doubt that we are original or that people will even want to read our words. We worry that we have opened ourselves up too much to the world, and then we fret because we haven’t been truthful enough.

4 We are deeply creative but sometimes forget this

When I was working as a corporate IT consultant, I found my creative side withering and dying from lack of exercise. I wanted to write a novel but I couldn’t imagine even starting one. I didn’t believe I could find that creativity in myself. So I started saying an affirmation on the daily commute. ‘I am creative, I am an author’. I said that over and over, and gradually I began to explore ideas and start to write. Four years later, I have two novels available on the biggest bookstore in the world. Although we may spend years in the wilderness, we can resurrect that creativity.

5 We know execution matters

Ideas are abundant. They swirl in the air about us and we pluck them down. We form them into finished works. People talk to us about the ideas they have, for this book or that story, but they don’t execute on the idea. We write, and we finish what we started.

6 We are always improving

Writers are readers. We learn from others by their words and we constantly try to improve our own ways of expression. We take courses on how to improve our writing. Sometimes we spend more time on reading books about writing than we spend actually getting white on black. We are obsessed with understanding why this works and why that is successful and we put what we learn into practice.

7 We know there are dark places within

Inside us are memories, emotions and an imagination that runs deep. We go there to tap into the experiences that make our writing resonate. Sometimes what emerges may be violent or horrific, resonant in truth and raw in emotion. We write with the knowledge that most people feel these things but they don’t admit to themselves that they exist. We have the ability and the strength to write those words without apology.

Do you agree that these are truths about writers? Are there any more?

Joanna Penn is the author of thriller novels Pentecost and Prophecy. Her site helps people write, publish and market their books and has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for writers 2 years running. Follow Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn


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