Wednesday, April 09, 2008

What Type of Writer Are You?

I bought a new writing book yesterday. I know, I know, I have an entire shelf of writing books, but there is always room for more!

This one is different from anything I've ever owned, though. It's called The Write Type: Discover Your True Writer's Identity and Create a Customized Writing Plan by Karen E. Peterson, PhD.

Now when I first picked it up, I thought, oh no, another one of those "follow these rules and you'll be a bestselling novelist!" writing books. But no. The first page of the first chapter instantly captured my attention and whisked away that first assumption.

At a book signing, a woman says to the author, "I started writing every day, like you're supposed to, but I couldn't stick with is so I stopped writing. I guess I'm just not a writer." And then later, another person tells her, "I started writing first thing in the morning, like you're supposed to, but I couldn't keep it up so I stopped. I'm not really a writer."

I could definitely identify with the second one. I am not a morning person, period. I cannot get up at 5 a.m. and write for two hours, then get the kids ready for school and go to work. I. Can't. Do. It. Now if you tell me to write at 10 p.m. after everyone is in bed and the house is quiet and it's just me and my kitties, oh, I'm there. Definitely. Can. DO.

What works for one person doesn't work for another. And sometimes we sabotage ourselves by thinking that if we don't do it the way XYZ author does it (who is now a bestselling author), then we are not real writers, are not dedicated or committed enough, and will never be successful. But that's simply not true.

This book is a mixture of psychology and writing, which is why I find it so fascinating. Peterson has several small exercises to help you figure out which "type" of writer you are. For example, in throughout the book, she asks you to answer questions with first your dominant hand (if you're a lefty or righty) and then with your non-dominant hand. This is to help separate the left side (logic) of your brain from the right side (creative). The results can be quite fascinating.

I'm only beginning to scratch the surface of this book, but I think it will help me move past the whole "should" committee. For instance, "I 'should' write for two hours every day" or "I 'should' use my lunch hour at work to write." are some of the 'shoulds' I struggle with. I may only write an hour one day, and three hours the next. And writing on my lunch break is hard because for me, I have to downshift from "day-job work" to "my" work. It's not that easy for me.

Maybe I should have this whole writing routine, how-I-write business figured out by now. After all, I've written two novels and am working on my third. But I don't have it figured out. I think I tend to get frustrated and fit my "square peg" writing routine into a "round" hole just because there is so much writing advice out there. Bottom line - you have to do what works for you. Maybe what you're doing isn't working for you. And I'd fit myself into that particular category. I don't think I'm focused enough right now, and it would be interesting to open the door into the psychological aspects of why.


  1. Thanks for the tip on this book! I'm going to ask Beth, the lovely ILL librarian in Sechelt, to find it for me :)

    I'm much like you where this topic is concerned (seems we have a lot in common). I've written three full mss and now have four in various states - some just plotted, others with chapters written etc. But I haven't yet figured out a way to just write. Sean says it's cause I let myself get distracted by other things, and I bet he's right to an extent. But a lot of it is because of problems with plotting.

    Anyway - you're right. There is no ONE way to write and we have to stop pressuring ourselves into being like our fellow writers.

    Oh, and like you as well, I can NOT write at 5 am - no way, no how!

  2. Tess, yeah, I think we're twins separated at birth! ;-) I'm finding out that I can't just blindly follow someone's writing advice because it may not work for me. It's a lesson that's been hard to learn at times.

  3. That does sound like an interesting book. Once I get through my TBR pile I may look in to it. And I definitely hear you on the addiction to how-to-write books (and articles, blogs, websites, magazines... um...).

    I came across a "What Type Of Writing Personality Are You" article once that I loved. It was entirely about introverts vs extroverts. How introverts are drained by being around people, and often have no creativity left in them after being in a crowd. How they need solitude to write, and write well. Extroverts- obviously the opposite. Thrive in crowds, etc. Can work anywhere, any time- except in silence.

    I didn't book mark it thinking that I could always just find it again. Wrong! I've been trying to find it again for 2 years. :-(

  4. The book sounds interesting. Anyway, i always like something that validates me breaking the rules. :)

    I do find that it changes over time, when and how are the best way for me to write.

  5. This sounds like a must-have book. I've written two (and a half--the half is hidden deep, deep in the hard drive, where it belongs) and just when I think I've got it all figured out, I get thrown a curve ball and then I'm back at square one. Aargh.

    Looks like I'll be getting this book. (And I agree with you about writing books--I have my own shelf full!) :)

  6. Sounds like an interesting one. Over time, I have sort of figured out that the more confident I become in my ability to self-edit and be objective about what I'm doing, the less I worry about the "you should" statements. I think those only come into play when we, ourselves feel like we really aren't doing the things we should be. Great post!

  7. I think every book requires a different method. I know people like Elizabeth George are enormously successful in very tight routines, but I can't stand it. I can't stand anything that smacks of a 9-5 life. I need huge swaths of uninterrupted work time.

    I AM a morning person -- I get more done before 10 AM than all day -- but there are also times when I'm nocturnal.

    What I'm NOT is an afternoon person.

    And there's plenty I can't write first thing in the morning, so then I write it at a different time of day.

    We have to find the process that works for each book -- boxing ourselves into a "type" -- well, I hope the book works for you, but the title is enough to make me run for the hills, as is the fact it's written by a shrink.

    I'm fascinated to hear about your experience with it.

    The one thing I agree with is that one needs to write regularly -- at whatever time of day -- because the ONLY time you get to write when you feel like it is before you're regularly published. Once you have contracts and deadlines, it really doesn't matter what TYPE you are. If you expect to keep getting hired, you meet your deadlines.

  8. WordVixen - Very interesting re: extroverts and introverts. I'm a curious mixture of both, but I have a hard time writing in the midst of a crowd. I'd rather people-watch. :-)

    Kacey - I think you're right. Our writing process evolves over time. I used to tell myself I could only write when I had hours of free time in front of me. Can't do that with kids, though!

    Christine - I have LOTS of half-written novels buried in boxes - and you're right, that's where they need to stay! ;-)

    Lisa - I agree. The 'should' committee gets on my nerves whenever I think I'm not doing what I need to be doing. Frustrating! But learning to tell that committee to take a hike is becoming a tad bit easier.

    Devon - Interesting thought about how each book requires a different method. For me, I've discovered that I've used a different process in plotting the books and doing characterization, etc., but not so much a different method for actually writing them. I guess it's completely different for everyone, which is why the bookstores are so marvelously full with so many wonderful books. :-)

  9. I think I have it figured as to what kind of writer I am and it changes. Honestly, it changes with every WIP. What worked for one situation doesn't work for the next.

    So how many writing books do you have?

  10. I saw this book too and thought it was interesting. But I just can't figure out what I am. All I can do is find time to write whenever I can.

  11. Rene, I actually started getting rid of some of my writing books, so I don't have as many as I did before. I rarely buy one, but I'd say I have about 30 of them now.

    Ell, I tend to agree. I have to write whenever I can, too. And sometimes, I really need to write more than I do. Which will be the topic of my next post...


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