Call it Style
Contributor
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012
Contributor
Written by
Laura Brennan
March 2012

Blue bookitis.  That’s what they called it in college, a disease characterized by the belief that you could take every class offered in that enticing blue book of options.  Archeology, Art History, Chaos Theory, Japanese Film Studies – you are a Renaissance Woman!  You can do it all!

 

And then reality comes crashing down and you realize that, no, in fact, you will never be a ninja archeologist battling the forces of chaos while seeking a lost Da Vinci.  Although, hey, that would make a great book…

 

And so you become a writer.

 

Surprise, surprise, I personally suffered a massive case of blue bookitis.  I did, in fact, take things as diverse as ancient Japanese poetry, computer programming, and the sociology of modern media.  And I discovered something very interesting and humbling and important:

 

I am not good at everything.

 

And you know what?  That is sooooo freeing.  I’m not equally good at everything I do, and in some areas I’m barely competent.  It’s as true of cooking (and trust me, it’s VERY true of my cooking) as it is writing. 

 

This is fantastic news.  If I know what I do well, I can concentrate on doing more of that.  If I know what I don’t do well, I can either decide to get better or I can figure out a way to do as little of it as possible.  And call it style.   

 

So here’s the $20,000 question: What do you do well?

 

Let's be friends

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Comments
  • Regina Y. Swint

    I'm a good listener, which I hope translates into delivering good descriptions of people and scenes.  Sometimes, I over-think things, which can make it challenging not to give too much description and overload the reader with stuff they don't care about.

  • Cindy Brown

    Humor. At least, that's what my followers tell me.

    Everyday Underwear... A Humor Blog

  • Laura Brennan

    I just interviewed a writer and director, Lisanne Sartor, for a post I'll put up later in the week, and she mentioned - unprompted by me, I promise - that she now chooses projects that play to her strengths as a writer. 

  • Catrina Barton

    My problem is I'm afraid over overdoing the descriptions so I tend to keep them basic.

  • Fun prompt, Laura!

    I do characters and dialogue well.I also do first person-outsider voice well. I really have to work at describing a setting and developing plot complications.

  • Catrina Barton

    My sister was born in Hawaii. XD

  • Kay Lorraine

    I am pretty good at being irreverent.  It comes easily to me.  It shows in my writing style.  Years ago, I started writing a book.  I worked very hard on it but there was just something "off" about it.  So I set it aside.  Now, 20 years later I finally know what was wrong about that manuscript.  It was too "straight."  It was good material but it was the wrong presentation.  It didn't resonate in my head because it had no wit, no sense of irreverence.  Some day, I'm going to go back and rewrite that sucker.  I think it will be much better now that I know my strengths.

    Kay In Hawaii

  • Catrina Barton

    @Laura absolutely. They think we're talking to ourselves and are "crazy" because our characters live inside our heads. Don't you just hate the way they say "get a real job!" ? That's so annoying. It's like I'm doing my job.  :D

  • Laura Brennan

    Doreen, that's excellent - it's clear and it's special.  And you can see how it translates across the board in all kinds of writing. 

    @Olga and @Catrina - isn't it weird how other people perceive us?  It can be very useful, or it can be completely confusing.  What it comes down to is what you want to take on and to own.  I started as a pitch consultant because that's what my friends always used me for... and then they started telling their friends, and it snowballed from there.  On the other hand, I have also been told I'm a fantastic assistant and script coordinator, and you know what?  That, I'm not pursuing anymore.  I'm okay leaving that as a hidden talent...

  • Doreen Pendgracs

    What do I do well? I tell stories as though I was talking to a friend. Everyone always tells me that when they read my writing. Like I'm writing girlfriend to girlfriend. I really like to let my personality come out in my writing.

  • Olga Godim

    What do you do well? That's a tricky question. What do I think I do weel or what do people think I do well? I think I make up good stories, but my fiction editor doesn't agree. She said my heroes don't have enough problems, their lives are too easy. On the other hand, I think I'm a so-so journalist, but my newspaper editor is happy with me. I write for a small community, and I have some fans among my readers. Whenever they see me, they always come to let me know how much they enjoyed my latest article. So what do I do well? Go figure! 

  • Catrina Barton

    Very interesting way of looking at it. Thanks for sharing. According to everyone I know I should be a chef lol. I've never taking a cooking class in my life. I learned through necessity at a young age. I'm a writer, and in high school I failed English Lit regularly. Go figure. :P

    Growing up I wanted to be a singer, but always lost myself in reading books. XD

  • Laura Brennan

    Patricia, I hadn't even thought of that - but of course blue bookitis still hits us all the time -in both definitions!  LOL.  I think for me, what keeps me focused is that I'm usually writing on deadline (which equals paycheck) so I can't be tempted to drop the old for a new idea, and time on my novel is so tiny and precious, I'm not tempted there at all. 

    For me the big issue is overscheduling, but that's off-topic.  I'll moan about that when I'm not guest-editing... :)

  • Patricia Woodside

    Tyra/Joy, do they still have those little books?  Or, has it been that long?

    As far as the writing, I know I write short stories, book blurbs, book reviews, inspirational pieces and other shorter things well.  The novel remains a challenge.  It's a long way from beginning to end and "blue bookitis" often hits midstream.  Whatever I'm working on, I'm sure to get a "better" idea while in progress.  I capture them for later, but sometimes they can be quite distracting.  My current wip is staying with me, succumbing to only a minor case of the "itis" in which I'm committed to the story but who and what my main characters are/want keeps changing as I write.

  • Laura Brennan

    Carole, I think you nailed it - we are so much more adept at identifying what we don't do well.  I dunno, maybe it's cultural, maybe we can blame our own high standards, but whatever it is, we have to get over it.  We need to be able to clearly say what it is we do well.  Personally, I'm the Goddess of Structure. 

  • Tyra Brumfield

    Loved your comment, Patricia. Those little blue books had the same effect on me. 

  • Lynn A. Davidson

    Procrastinating. *sigh* Thinking - I think a lot. Collecting ideas, life experiences, books ... :) ... but I am writing when I can, when not taking care of someone.  Maybe that last point is part of collecting ideas through continued life experiences.  Yep! Still thinking.

  • Patricia Woodside

    Funny.  When I was in college, "blue book itis" wasn't about course selection, but about those annoying little blue paper-covered booklets that were provided for exams, the ones with the lines too far apart to be considered even wide-ruled and too few pages to write much more than a Haiku.  If you had classes that were heavy on essay writing, then it was likely, particularly after midterms or finals, that you might come down with a case of "blue bookitis".  The sight of one of those little booklets could send you running for the nearest restroom.

  • Carole Howard

    Like a lot of women, I think, I'm much better at specifying what I'm NOT good at.  But, since you asked:  In terms of writing fiction, I think my strong suit is dialogue.  As Wendy said, I put two characters together and hear what they say to each other.  In my personal life, I'm a good friend.  Whew, I did it!

  • Wendy Roberts

    One of my favorite things to do is just put two characters in a scene together and see what happens.  Sometimes my first draft of a "talkier" scene is all dialogue.  I seem to be best a the "small" things:  character development, descriptions, creating in-scene tension.  And I'm also *too* good at the melodramatic, affected writing sometimes :)  It's the big-picture strategic things that I need to force myself to work on.  How does a scene fit in with the overarching story?  How best to build towards a fulfilling climax and conclusion?  I bore myself easily, and outlining is the surest way to kill my enthusiasm for a story.

  • Kara Lennox

    Wow, sounds familiar! Without a doubt, my strongest suit is plotting. I love plot. My downfall is probably description. My first draft is a lot of talking heads, and I have to go back and put in descriptions (which I agonize over).

  • Laura Brennan

    @Marcia: Oh my goodness, you know what you have there?  A logline for yourself!  "I'm one of those rare birds: an extroverted writer.  My real gift - outside of writing - is bringing people together.  I love connecting people, and I know everyone.  The shy, bookish writer stereotype?  I blow that out of the water." 

    You are a marketer's dream.  I can't wait for your book tour!  What a splash that will be.

  • Laura Brennan

    LOL!  Ren, I do exactly the same thing with "kind of" and "maybe."  I have to global search both whenever I finish writing and get the buggers out of there.  Thank goodness for modern technology.

    And knowing you do language and dialogue well - that's excellent!  It also translates well to film - and even if you don't want to write movies, you may someday want to write a web series or a trailer for your book... Knowing that's a strength opens all sorts of things up to you.  How fun!

     

  • Marcia Fine

    What I do well is bring people together. I'm an extroverted writer, which means I have to block out time to write. Once I'm there, I love it! I like making up the stories, researching settings, developing characters. However, it's fun for me to see people that I've introduced get along. I'm putting together a women's political event so friends can meet. On the other hand, I'm not a cook. I an make a salad. That's it.