Despite the stereotype, not all writers are raging introverts, chained to their desks, whilst nursing a drink problem.
Maybe just some of them.
It would be silly to try and define a diverse group of people as possessing the same character traits, but it’s true that there are some common attributes that can be found in many writers.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start.
Writers can be reflective
Creativity, and writing in particular, is often associated with mental illness. There are many examples of famous writers who have struggled with depression, but not everyone who has a passion for writing is affected.
To an extent, melancholy is a state familiar to many writers. But to write well, you need to understand people, their motivations and emotions. This naturally involves a lot of reflection. Writers are often an introspective bunch, prone to wondering about life.
It may be a symptom of depression, but it is a state that allows us to open our minds to ideas and inspiration. I always feel at my most creative and inspired when I’m sad, and it’s an emotion I cultivate when I’m writing.
Of course, it depends on the kind of writing you do; not everything requires pain and heartbreak.
Writers can be observant
A good story is made up of details: that carefully crafted description, intriguing snippet of conversation or the nuanced character that leaps off the page.
Often we find these details, or their source, in our real lives. How many times have you tuned in to a conversation on the bus or in a restaurant, or glimpsed an interesting looking figure walking down the street and thought this would make a great story.
Life is about the detail, and when you’re crafting a world entirely from imagination, it helps to anchor it onto something real, no matter how small.
Writers can be sensitive
When it comes to writing, introspection and emotional sensitivity are often closely linked. For characters and stories to feel real, they have to have an air of emotional truth.
Of course, sensitivity can have a down side, which becomes apparent with the issue of criticism. Most writers pour their heart and soul into their work, so it is painful when a reader doesn’t appreciate it and offers only negative comments.
This is something that every writer has to deal with, and with time most can learn to brush off criticism, to some extent. But writing is a personal habit, which can be difficult to forget when it comes to feedback.
Writers can be analytical
One of the benefits of reading a lot, or even watching drama on television, is the ability to deconstruct a story. When you study English at university, you’re taught to be analytical, to pull apart the narrative to find the meaning.
But this is a skill that also benefits a writer. Whether it is always intentional, a good story will follow a structure of some sort, with twists and hints left like breadcrumbs to allow the reader to infer the author’s meaning.
After a while, this becomes second nature and you can envision your story in an objective way, noting the key points and moving between them.
Writers can be solitary
Writers spend a lot of time alone; that’s hard to avoid. So it helps if you’re a solitary person, who doesn’t need to be around other people all the time.
That doesn’t have to mean that you’re introverted or anti-social, you might just be self-sufficient: the kind of person who can rely on your own company.
Writers can be book hungry
It’s incredibly hard to become a decent writer if you don’t read. Reading and writing are so entwined that it can be a challenge to have one without the other.
Writers can be curious
Wondering is a way of life for many writers. The slightest thing can inspire the need to know more, whether it’s who lives in that mysterious house at the end of the street or what would force someone to commit a horrific crime.
It isn’t always possible to know the answers in real life and that doesn’t matter. Writers ask a lot of questions, but it enables them to come up with their own answers, which can be as elaborate and frustrating as they like.
Writers can be disciplined
Along with all the creative elements, writers have to be able to work hard if they’re ever going to be successful. Anyone who has ever tried to write a novel will know that it isn’t easy. That’s why so many people give up.
Whether you fit in writing around a family and a full-time job, or you have all the hours in the world to idle over a blank page, motivation can be a killer. Without it, you’re going to have a hard time.
Writing isn’t about the words you create when you’re inspired; it’s about the ones you force into the world when you’d rather be doing anything else.
Writers can be dreamers
Obvious, right? You’d have to be to come up with all those stories and characters. Writers are prone to getting lost in their own imaginations.
Let’s face it; sometimes it’s the best place to be.