Four Essential Attributes Every Writer Needs (And Teachers Too!)

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Obviously, as a writer, it is important to continually work at understanding your craft and improving your skills. However, to my mind, just as important to literary success is purposefully developing the irreplaceable attributes of a writer’s mindset; patience, perserverance, the ability to reflect, and most important of all, self-forgiveness.

Patience:

We all know that good writing takes lots and lots of time, which means lots and lots of patience. Time to grow an idea. Time to write a usable first draft, and then time to take the first draft and shape it into something that approaches your original vision. 

Beyond the actual crafting of a single piece, it takes patience to allow ourselves the time required to improve overall.  Even though we want to plow ahead on a project, sometimes the best route is to patiently study mentor texts, to experiment with different approaches, or set a piece aside for a bit to allow a fresh perspective later on.

As a writer, I know that growth is an ongoing process and that there is always something to learn.  But living that truth takes patience.

The good thing about patience is that if you think of it as a skill to be learned, you can work on learning it.  And that too, takes patience.

Perseverance

The ability to keep yourself going through the highs and lows of both life and writing requires perseverance. I often find it difficult to keep myself motivated and moving forward when there is no deadline or daily reward. It takes perseverance to keep at a piece of writing day after day, to keep writing after a story, which I have patiently worked on, is rejected multiple times and to stick with a project that is unyielding and hard to crack.

Self-awareness/Reflection

I honestly believe that my ability to reflect on my process, on my content, on my successes and struggles, is one of my most valuable tools. My writing journal is my place to reflect.  A place where I articulate where I am in the writing process on a specific piece.  A place to ponder what is holding me back.  My writing journal is the place where I figure out what I’m trying to accomplish with the piece as a whole, or with a specific scene.  When I am stuck, reflection done through writing about my writing, is what I do to analyze why.

Self-Forgiveness

And finally, a writer’s most important attribute is self-forgiveness. As we try to live lives rich with patience, perseverance, and self-reflection we will inevitably face failure.  And it is self-forgiveness which gives us the strength, in the face of failure and self-doubt, to bring ourselves back to the page and start again.

Here’s the thing. By growing these attributes along with your craft skills, you will not only improve your chances for success as a writer, but also, as a human being!

When I first wrote this essay, I was only thinking about and writing about about what I believed to be the most important attributes of a writer.  However, after I finished it, I realized that the four attributes necessary to succeed as a writer, patience, perseverance, reflection, and self-forgiveness, are also necessary to succeed as a teacher. 

Furthermore, as teacher’s work with their students and use the platform of writing to articulate, teach and practice these same four attributes, their students will not only become better at writing, they will become better at life too.

What do you think?

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