3 Essential Qualities for Writers

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3 essential qualities for writers

3 essential qualities for writers

Only 3 essential qualities for writers? Just 3?

Actually no, there are probably about 100 but this morning, there are just 3 essential qualities for writers that pop into my head this morning:

  1. The ability to hold two paradoxical thoughts about just how well we write.
  2. Ceding control of the story to the characters.
  3. Extreme tolerance for risk.

The two paradoxical thoughts about just how well we write.

I doubt that I’m the only writer who believes that on the one hand, I have a gift: I write well, better than most and have a duty to use it up for whatever time I’m on this planet. While on the other, I feel insecure, vulnerable and am wondering just how and why I have the audacity to tackle writing another book on Pontius Pilate and Claudia.

To date, I’ve read, scanned and studied over twenty-five books, more like fifty if I add in PDF’s and articles about ancient Rome, Greece, Israel so that I can feel immersed in their cultures. And am arriving at the point where I know I need to cease the reliance on what others have written and dive in.

Two years ago, I wrote this:

Of late, I have been thinking about this question. Perhaps because the book I am currently writing has been filled with challenges, to the point that I have made none of my writing deadlines. My inner voice screams, “Why are you wasting your time on this? No one will ever want to read it!” If you are a writer, you know that voice. And it is important to understand why we hear it.

The Universal Law of Writing

I am sure you have experienced exactly what I have but perhaps you have not stopped to consider what I believe is a universal law. One that demands opposition to creation: anytime you create something brand new, you’ll get push back. Whether from that critical ‘editor’ in your head, an opinion of a friend or what Stephen Pressfield calls ‘resistance’, each time we sit down to write, we face opposition. Since I am Christian, I occasionally have another name for Pressfield’s resistance.

Ceding Control of the Story to the characters

It’s not unlike standing in front of a vast audience with a carefully developed talk. And then throwing the perfectly structured lecture in the trash, opening your mouth and speaking from the heart. We’ve mostly likely watched others do this. But few have had the nerve to do it themselves. It requires a kind of trust…an absolute certainty that the spontaneous words spring from a different place. One where truth resides.

For writers of fiction, there is no choice. There is a point where we must stop the research. Give up the laudable but insufficient idea, “I know who she isn’t”- in my case, Claudia, generated by reading other novelists- and let this unique, never before conceived version of Claudia Procula emerge.

It’s scary as hell…walking away from the safety of the research and just letting go.

Extreme Tolerance for Risk

Of the 3 essential qualities for writers, perhaps this one should be in first place. After spending some time asking and listening to my husband’s helpful suggestions about one of my more challenging characters and his participation in the events that lead to that day in 33 AD, I realize that I’ve arrived at the solitary place.

My husband has an eidetic memory. Or very close. What that means is that his recall of the four years of high school then college Latin is prodigious. He speaks of the conquerors and Caesars with ease.

While he was speaking off the cuff in answer to my quandary, I thought, not for the first time, “You should be the one writing this book.” But then he’s not the one with the fire in the belly to write stories. Nor was his the mind in which the title, I’ Claudia, or the compulsion to write this story appeared. Mine was.

We attempt to re-create the thing and in so doing we can feel Something else taking shape. With the power of our words, we do our very best to make it real and adorn it with Truth. In this work, we are alone; editors, friends and other readers can make suggestions, recognize the need for technical corrections but the essence of the message is ours alone…There is an audacity necessary in loving and in writing. The audacity to do it and then to hope that it matters.

As always, thank you for reading the three essential qualities for writers- by now you know I’m thinking out loud, figuring out what to think, what to believe,

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