Friday, February 20, 2009

Becoming A Writer

Last night I gave my talk, "Becoming a Writer," at the University of Rochester. There will -- eventually -- be a link posted to the podcast. One of the things I discussed was the fact that I see many students with writing talent who nonetheless do not go on to publish stories. After much pondering, I identified six personality traits that one must have, in addition to talent, to become an SF writer. In brief:

  • the ability to tolerate long periods of time alone (or surrounded by people who don't actually exist)
  • the arrogance to believe that, however crappy your current work and however much rejected, you will get good enough for other people to want to read what you write
  • the humility to understand the limits of your talent, and to learn from what editors, reviewers, and writing-group colleagues tell you about your work
  • a love of reading and of stories (I have never met a writer who didn't read fiction voraciously, at least while young, and who didn't tell himself stories in which he was the hero)
  • self-motivation, since one must work without a boss, an external work structure, or, often, a deadline
  • for the SF writer, the peculiar cast of mind that finds a future world, an alien planet, or a magical realm fully as solid and believable as the chair he's sitting on -- at least for the length of the writing session
Talent and desire are not enough. The rest must be there, or must be acquired, in order to become a writer.


Nick A said...

nice summary. Someone asked before I believe, but please post a note if your presentation is put on youtube.

Daniel said...

Well said, thank you for that post!

Luke said...

Hm. Gotta work on that humility and persistence.