Tag Archives: k.m. weiland

Know Your Strengths

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As a college writing instructor, I’d be asked the same question at every interview: What is your greatest weakness? (Clue: The answer, for me, is always perfectionism.) Although I don’t understand the interviewers’ fixation on flaws, I fully acknowledge the importance of being acquainted with your inner demons. Whereas employers are obviously seeking ways to weed out all candidates who either cannot or will not reflect upon their own shortcomings, as a writer (and arguably as a human being) it seems more important to build upon your unique set of strengths, rather than constantly battling your inherent imperfections.

On the first day of class, my students complete a few activities that help illuminate their individual strengths for them. Many of them had never heard of Howard Gardner or Multiple Intelligences. This is a shame because, when you know how you learn, you will learn better.

As a teacher, I read Teach With Your Strengths by Rosanne Liesveld and Jo Ann Miller, which is a great option for non-teachers, as well. Stengths Finder 2.0 is from the same publishers and, though I haven’t read it personally, I’m sure it would be equally beneficial.

There is also obvious value in learning about your unique personality type. Over at 16personalities.com, you can take the Myers-Briggs Personality Type (based on Jung’s theory) that will tell you the 4-letter combination that defines your identity. To be honest, it’s downright uncanny how accurate the results are!

A bonus: learning about ALL of the different kinds of personalities can help you write depth into your characters. K.M. Weiland discusses this in her article, “Myers-Briggs and Writing: My Characters’ Personalities.” Over here, she points out that INTJ’s are archetypal evil geniuses, but Batman is also an INTJ. So, it’s important to know your characters on more than just a superficial level.

It’s also important to know your own personality–to not only know but also to trust thyself, as Emerson said. Don’t focus on your weaknesses. Know your strengths, and exploit the hell out of them!

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Joy & Sorrow: The Early Days of a Writing Career

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Last week’s Prairie Schooner e-newsletter featured an interview with Adam Zagajewski titled, “The Border Between Sadness & Joy,” where Zagajewski discusses success:

I think success is the enemy of the poet. Poetry arises out of inner life; out of some contemplation, sometimes out of lament, and success creates an artificial reality. It’s not you− if you happen to be acclaimed. I haven’t reached this degree of success, luckily, but I can imagine there is a degree of success that cuts you away from real life, from real people.

Last time, I mentioned contacting fellow writers. In her response, Lisa Fay Coutley said, “It’s exciting, those earlier days of meandering and working your ass off. If that’s where you are, in a lot of ways, I think that’s the best part. It’s like new love. Enjoy it!”

For me, this adventure is like being a new mother. No one can possibly articulate how difficult it will be. On the same hand, no one can possibly describe how rewarding it can be.

As K.M. Weiland describes, “The magic ingredient in fiction is that special something that socks readers right in the gut and leaves them breathless with joy or sorrow (or maybe wabi-sabi, the Japanese term for that impossibly beautiful combination of the two).” (Outlining Your Novel, 66)

This July I will deliver my fifth baby. Because they arrive without specific care instructions each child is a beautiful mystery. Like Adam Zagajewski, I haven’t reached the degree of success that removes a writer from reality. I only know the magic of discovery involved with each new creation of poetry or fiction, and the overwhelming feeling of wabi-sabi that inevitably comes each time. And I will take Lisa Fay Coutley’s advice and enjoy it while it lasts.

~ Jennifer

Organizing My Ideas: yWriter and K.M. Weiland’s “Outlining Your Novel”

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I’m beginning a new YA novel that threatens to be a complicated mess if I don’t figure out a good way to organize it. As a college composition instructor, I continuously preach the importance of prewriting exercises, including the great and wonderful outline. I searched for a book to help me with this, because I felt a little overwhelmed by all of my ideas and didn’t know how I should organize them into a coherent storyline.

I happened upon K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success. I’m only three chapters into it, but she’s already provided some priceless help. Thus far, I’ve written my “perfect review,” based on her advice:

Often, when we begin writing a story, our ideas are hazy, and the final shape of the story is only a dim outline in the mist. The story we put on the page will never be a perfect representation of the story in our imagination, so it’s little wonder we aren’t always aware of where our stories fall short. But here’s a little trick to narrow the gap between your idealization of your story and its printed reality: Write yourself the “perfect” review before your story ever hits paper. (36-7)

She also recommends downloading yWriter from spacejock.com. This program provides an organizer that allows you to enter chapter summaries, scene descriptions, character bios, and a plethora of other information about your projects. It took about two minutes for it to download and it was completely FREE! I’ll spend some time playing around with it, but it looks like an asset to anyone who needs a bit of extra help organizing their thoughts. ~ Jennifer