Fortes and Foibles

Contrary to the title, this post will have nothing to do with swords. I know, I know, you need a moment to compose yourselves after the shock. Go ahead, take your time, I’m patient–mostly.

Ok, better? Good. Today’s post is going to be about writing. Now, there is a story behind this but it’s laced with drama (and by “laced” I mean “utterly tainted”) and I don’t really want to let this post go sideways because of that. Suffice to say, somewhere on the plague that is Facebook (I don’t have Facebook, so I had to hear about this) something I said in regards to my being on the autism spectrum impacting my ability to write emotion was translated as “Melion blames autism for being a crap writer.”

I was going to completely ignore this like a sane person would, but then I decided that it actually raised an opportunity to have a discussion on writing. After all, every writer has areas in which he or she struggles.

So that leads me to discuss what happens when we, as writers, recognize that there’s an aspect of writing that doesn’t come easily to us. Does that make us crap writers?

My answer? Gods, I hope not. It would mean a lot of my favorite writers were also, well, crap at writing. Why? Because every writer has something (seriously, bold, italicize and underscore that sucka because it’s that important) that doesn’t come easily to him or her. For some, it’s dialogue, for others, it’s description. Some have trouble wrapping the story up in a satisfying ending. Each of these elements is a fundamental aspect of writing a story, yet each of these elements are also things I’ve seen successful authors admit they struggle with bringing to fruition.

That we struggle doesn’t make us crap (and by us, I mean you and me and the world at large), it makes us human.

For myself, I struggle with conveying emotion. Not necessarily showing emotion, but choosing which emotion would be most “normal” for a given situation. I’m pretty damned sure I can trace that back to my autistic traits. However, identifying the root cause is not the equivalent of making an excuse. An excuse is saying, “Welp, just can’t fix that, might as well move on because that’s just how it’s gonna be.” Identifying a cause is what a doctor does in a diagnosis: it’s figuring out whence the problem stems so that the source of the problem can be treated.

Excuses are lazy, but recognition is the launchpad for achievement. And, damn, did that sound like a platitude. My apologies.

So, as a writer, what’s your foible, what’s the element (or perhaps elements) that you find yourself struggling over?

Look, there’s no shame in admitting that some aspects of writing (as with some aspects of life) are just going to present more of a challenge. We can’t throw up our hands and walk away (ok, yes, we could, but we would never achieve anything) whenever we encounter an obstacle. I can’t speak for others, but for myself, I’m a better writer for being honest with myself about my weaknesses and my strengths. I should never ignore my fortes and overlook improving them even though they are already strong, but finding my weaknesses lets me hone those skills so that they become like my strengths.

It’s not an excuse, it’s an understanding, and all of us, whether we are writers or not, should be honest with ourselves and seek those understandings in all that we endeavor to do. In martial arts, I’m weak in kata. It doesn’t mean I tell my sensei, “Sorry, I won’t learn those.” It means that I tell myself, “Melion, get with it and get on it,” and I work that much harder to make my kata strong.

As for me being a crap writer? Eh, I’ll be the first to admit that I can improve. But I’d say that if I were awarded a Pulitzer. There are writers who I approach with awe and wonder, they exist in a realm that I strive to achieve and for which I hone my skills that I might touch upon their abilities one day. Yet, admitting I’m not awe-inspiring hardly means that I’m not good. I am good. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t be out contending to get my work in pro magazines (and succeeding now and again). I wouldn’t be asking you to invest time and money in reading my work–it would be a waste of your time, and I don’t want to waste people’s time.

When I assess my strengths and weaknesses, I find that I’m a damned good writer. And maybe, if I keep struggling and keep practicing and keep being honest about my weaknesses and whence they come, I’ll be a damned great writer. Either way, I thank you all for being on this journey with me, and for enjoying my work. You all rock. Seriously.

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