Updated: Feb 3
A skilled writer is not necessarily a great one. I believe it is the qualities writers possess, rather than just their skills, that make great writers great. The qualities that drive them in life. Qualities that form the person they are.
Many great writers have said they panic at the thought of boring others - because they dislike being bored themselves and are petrified at the thought of being perceived as a boring themselves. They rarely talk for too long, for fear of boring the other person.
When writing they write freely and find their safe haven. Here they can let go of their fear of boring people, at least for the first draft. Here they can venture into that empty space and find themselves.
"Inability to tolerate empty space limits the amount of space available.” Wilfred Bion
Here their fear of boring others is replaced with their second quality:
Curiosity - they are always in search of answers. They revel in the knowledge that they will never find them all. That, for them is the beauty of life.
Curiosity leads them to explore whatever they find interesting. The stars, mountains, adventure sports, yoga, existence, other people, cinema, books, art, music, news, their own thoughts… With their friends they are the ones who often ask questions, eager to hear what others think about something. When listening to stories they will ask for detail like ‘but why were you going to the Co-op at 10pm?’
In writing this curiosity leads them to experiment with what kind of stories they tell and how they will tell them. Would this story interest anyone else? If so, who? How can I reach them? How can I craft this story to ensure it has maximum impact? Who makes the best narrator for this story? What sequence will work best? Why do I even want to write this story? What format should I select? Short story, screenplay, novel, poem, blog… They will start by writing just one sentence and then their curiosity will lead them all the way through the story.
As they get deeper and deeper into their stories they come across a multitude of obstacles, not least of which is their constant need for clarity. Here it is their dogged persistence that helps them carry on when they don’t have a ready solution. They research and experiment and just keep going until they find a way out of the impasse. They might introduce a new character, event or secondary/parallel plot which moves the story forward. They might decide not to solve the problem but to simply present it and leave it to their readers to ponder.
They take risks and love adventure both in life and in their writing. They live and write to the full. Everything, even boredom, is of interest to them. It is their relentless search for truth and verisimilitude that helps them find interest both for themselves and for their readers.
Finally, it is the value they put on simplicity that drives them to reduce and then reduce some more to get at the real meaning of their stories.
They live, they dream and they write their stories. Their stories live. The greatest ones for decades, centuries or even millenia.