“Consistent” and “Conservative” Characteristics Make Great Writers
Having spent the last 15 years practicing creative writing, it has been hard for me to see certain aspects of my personality as being instrumental to any kind of creativity. For many years, it felt like the character traits that I could personally best describe as “conservative,” “competent,” and “consistent” were detrimental to my writing. Who does writing need to be if not such people?
Oh, but you wouldn’t believe it, because how can you write a book based on your character traits? You would say, “It would be akin to an accountant saying, ‘I’m a workaholic with a tendency to overcommit.’” And that would be you telling me this: “I only write about people who aren’t like me.”
Whoa! I thought the character traits that I could most accurately characterize as “conservative,” “competent,” and “consistent” were a good thing for me to write about. As far as I knew, writing would be about telling stories about my friends and other people that don’t conform to the box I set up for myself as a writer. You know, other people with boring jobs who have bank accounts that are primarily made up of plastic, who bicker and fight with their partners in front of the kids, and who need and deserve help daily.
Silly me. Now, it would seem that I only write about people like myself. Something called the “dive in-weary-to-the-moon” view of authorship is in place, but I am not there yet. To say that I am going to write about non-self-essential people (sadface) is incorrect. Sure, I will write about a lot of different personalities when I write. I write about people who I want to know. I also want to know the personalities of people who I know I don’t know.
Yes, part of me will write about people who fit in my box. My philosophy is, as one learned long ago, that character is not taught like the Pythagorean Theorem. Rather, it is discerned on the basis of a person’s life and their relationships. If the person in question is a parent, the child in question will be no different than most kids who will grow up wanting to go to college or gain success in whatever field they will eventually occupy in their lives. If a person is a leader of a large organization, he will remain the same. If a person is a parent of a son or daughter, she will continue to care about every detail about every aspect of her child’s lives, to the point that she will always be feeling guilty if something unpleasant happens to her child.
There is also the issue of a person’s mental health, and to the extent that one can reasonably rely on the statements “relaxed, positive, joyous, happy” when discussing someone’s character, I think that makes one a better person to write about. This is one of the areas where you have to trust that the person one is writing about is in the same ballpark.
In short, that is why it doesn’t really matter who you write about. If a person’s character fits the description one gives you, then you will be able to accurately describe his or her personality and life, and will accurately inform the reader of everything that needs to be known.
But, will the reader pay attention to what I write about? I don’t know yet. That will only come when more fiction writers follow my lead by acknowledging the most important qualities a person must possess in order to be a successful writer. The important qualities are the same as those in order to be a doctor or a pilot: integrity, selflessness, intelligence, friendliness, patience, and a willingness to help others.
Each and every trait in these parts must be respected, and it must come back to that one core quality of a person who is not content with a career. They will need to go the extra mile to make their careers happy. Everyone must do this, not just the elite few, but for life.
If that is not the case, then we are the people who write about “consistent” and “conservative” personalities and characters and write people who are merely regular people with problems.