What makes a great writer? Is it a diverse word choice? Is it a naturally logical progression in the narrative or the ability to bend and break the rules? In this article, we will explore the most valuable writing strengths and most common weaknesses.
Read and consider the writing strengths and weaknesses below and reflect on your writing skills. Is there an area in which you could improve? What strengths do you naturally possess, and which can you learn?
Writing strengths and weaknesses
Writers have a combination of strengths and weaknesses that make them unique. Although the conventional wisdom is to just focus on your strengths, as a writer, you also need to work on your weaknesses. Also, regardless of your strengths you can continuously improve your strengths as a writer.
The ability to maintain focus is one of the most valuable skills a person can possess, not just in writing but in everything you do. As a creative, the ability to focus helps you enter a state of creative flow. When it comes to your writing sessions, that flow-state allows you to craft a story, a blog post, a report, or any other piece of work that will immerse readers in what you have to say.
Focus is not always easy to come by. It requires discipline, which is a valuable commodity in today’s world of endless distractions and quick dopamine hits (how often do you check your phone when writing?) Seasoned writers understand the importance of putting away distractions when it is time to write. If focus is something you struggle to maintain, it helps to establish a routine. The mind adapts to routines, so the more structure you can bring to your writing process, the easier it will be to do what you need to do when you need to do it.
That structure is not just about the hours you spend writing, but other crucial aspects of your day, such as staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and taking enough time away from the desk to allow your mind to drift and imagine. Focus is crucial, but the more you try to force yourself to be creative and productive, the more likely you are to burn out. Once you burn out, the focus is incredibly difficult to achieve.
“Writing a story is like going on a date—you will spoil it if you aren’t living in the moment.”Pawan Mishra
2. Avid reading
The best writers are avid readers. They have a passion for the written word, and they read fiction and nonfiction. They also love to explore each author’s writing style and question why writers write in a particular style, their word choices, and their message with as much appreciation as speculation. If you want to become a better writer, read as much as you can. A love of reading is a tremendous strength when it comes to writing because it provides inspiration, which can help you overcome writer’s block.
Noticing the diverse word choice, writing styles, vivid imagination and playful ways a writer moves through a narrative can help you take a new approach to your writing process. In the world of art, you can absolutely mimic, copy, and steal ideas from others—you just have to tweak them to make them your own. Stand on the shoulders of giants by reading the great texts, classic to modern, and take inspiration for your own stories. Read magazines, newspapers, and online articles and consider how well they are written. How does the writer make her case? What type of reader would enjoy this piece more than you?
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body,” wrote Richard Steele in The Tatler. American author and writing teacher Tony Hillerman writes “When I was teaching writing… I thought that the best way to learn to write is by reading. Reading critically, noticing paragraphs that get the job done, how your favorite writers use verbs, all the useful techniques. A scene catches you? Go back and study it. Find out how it works.”
3. Understanding the audience
Understanding the type of person who wants to read your book will help you write for them in both fiction and nonfiction. Hence, having a clear understanding of your target audience is a key writing strength.
Of course, you are also writing for yourself as an act of creative expression similar to painting or dancing. However, you must also consider the readers as they are part of that creative expression. You have a message, and they want to hear that message. The space between the writer and the reader is where the magic or transformative effect happens.
Equipped with an in-depth understanding of your audience, including their preferences and what evokes their emotions, you will be much more prepared to take them on a journey. That is why readers read in the first place—for the journey.
“I can’t write without a reader. It’s precisely like a kiss—you can’t do it alone.”John Cheever
A final note on understanding and reaching the audience: If you write nonfiction, make sure your skillset aligns with what you want to write about. Readers need to trust you if you want them to hear your message.
4. Wide vocabulary
The written word can leave a lasting impact on the reader, which may change a person’s perspective. Consider the impact left by great poets such as Robert Frost and Sylvia Plath. These poets possessed an extensive vocabulary and the ability to choose the right words at the right time in the right place to penetrate the reader’s psyche. Just as the use of colors appeals to the viewer of the painting, word choices move the reader.
As such, every writer needs to broaden and diversify their vocabulary. Choosing the right word at the right time helps you clarify your message and helps the reader visualize it.
To broaden and enrich your vocabulary, consider an earlier strength—avid reading. The more fiction and nonfiction you read and the more writers and writing styles you explore, the more vocabulary you learn. You will not always know when a particular word will apply best, but the time will come when you use it and feel grateful for the time you learned it. Diversity is as fun for you as it is for the reader, so try not to use the same words repeatedly.
“The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.”Henry Hazlitt, author of Thinking As A Science
1. Lack of clarity
Consider the three C’s: clarity, coherence, and concision. These are keys to organized writing that can successfully convey your message to the reader. A common writing weakness that leads to writer’s block for the writer and ease of distraction for the reader is a story, article, or blog post that goes in too many directions.
Sure, you might have a lot to say, but you may also have a limited word count in which to say it. Your message will get lost if you waste too much time on rambling thoughts and vague, half-baked points and ideas. The reader is in a vulnerable state—their mind is open to the words on the page. It is your responsibility as a writer to take them on a journey, and that journey will only be successful if you can remain clear and coherent.
“It’s up to the artist to use language that can be understood, not hide it in some private code,” writes American Sci-Fi writer Robert A. Heinlein. So, although we mentioned the importance of a rich and wide vocabulary earlier, it is also true that your word choices should not overcomplicate the message.
2. Lack of focus
The biggest challenge many writers face is a lack of focus. Creative writing, in particular, requires a type of focus that is not always easy to come by. It is a type of focus learned through discipline and commitment to the art of writing. What happens to your writing when you lack focus? For one, you are not far from entering a state of writer’s block. You sit down to write, but your mind drifts from here to there, and no clear message stands out in what you are writing.
You try to write despite your wandering mind and find that coherency and flow are nowhere to be found. Sure, you might end up with a complete piece of work, but that lack of focus will show. It manifests in your writing as a draggy, unclear, and chaotic structure that makes the work incredibly hard for the reader to engage with.
“The sun’s rays do not burn until brought into a focus.”Alexander Graham Bell
Redundancy is unnecessary repetition. You make a point, but add extra words and sentences trying to clarify a point that is already clear. Good writing is clear and concise and does not rely on extra ‘fluff‘ to get its message across.
Many writers repeat words or phrases in different ways to reach a word count. For example, a blog writer might try to achieve a word count of 2000 words to improve their visibility on search engines. They have made good points, but they have come short on the word count. They seek out parts of their work that they can expand to bring the word count up but complicate the entire piece.
“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”Thomas Jefferson
If you need to reach a word count, but you have already made your point, consider other questions a reader might have. If you are writing a travel blog, think about potential issues a traveler might run into when organizing their trip to the Grand Canyon or hiking trip in Bali. This demonstrates an understanding of your audience that goes a long way in achieving reader satisfaction.
No matter where you are right now with your writing skills, believe that you can continuously improve. We all have inherent and learned strengths, just as much as we have underdeveloped areas of our creative abilities.
If we could sum up the most important aspect of good writing in just one word, it would be discipline. Discipline paves the way for focus and flow and keeps you engaged with your work. When you are engaged in the work, you do not want to pass it off. You want to make your work the best you can be, and you achieve that by organizing your life in a way that makes you a better writer.
A word to the wise: improving your skills and developing your craft requires rest. Discipline is not the ruthless pursuit of creativity to the detriment of your sleep and your overall health, but a commitment to finding balance in your life to give your greatest attention and focus to your passion when you do it.