Thursday, April 28, 2011

What Are You Good At?

Recently I finished a great book. It's one which I had read over a decade ago and it made quite a difference in my way of viewing the world. The book is called Soar With Your Strengths. I highly recommend it. The basic premise is that one should focus on one's strengths and stop trying to overcome one's weaknesses. If you are at all like me, you tend to focus on what you do wrong, what you just can't quite get right.

To indulge in some generalization here, I believe people generally fall into one of two categories. People tend either toward pride (hubris) or discouragement. They either think too highly of themselves or too lowly. I tend toward the latter. A big part of the reason, I believe, is that I still focus too much on fixing the parts of me that are weak. Even as I'm writing this I'm doubting myself thinking, what good thing do I have to say about this topic--especially when I am far from mastering it? These thoughts are so insidious, so entrapping, that it makes me want to quit writing. It is so easy to just give in or give up. But to do so would just prove my point (but not in a good way)--that to focus on my weakness is futile. So, I'll not do that.

So is something I'm good at. I am good at empathizing. I am good at imagining things. I am good at writing dialogue. I love writing dialogue. I love being inside the minds of more than one of my characters at the same time while they are interacting, communicating. I can get high on this sort of creation.

I want you draw this picture in your mind: picture an image of a boy (we'll call him Timmy) who is staring out the window in his school classroom. Timmy is looking at the dead leaves blowing around in circles by the wind, fascinated by how the wind works. Then he sees another class playing kickball outside during recess. His mind gets carried away as he imagines that he is the one at the plate. As the ball rolls toward him he runs slowly at first, then faster as he thrusts his leg hard and the ball jumps off his foot high into the air over the head of every boy and girl in the outfield. The ball is still being chased as he jumps on home plate to score the winning run. His teammates are giving him high fives and the cute girl he likes smiles at him.

"Timmy? Earth calling Timmy." Timmy's classmates crack up at his expense as the teacher then says, "Timmy, you must have the worst attention span of any kid I've ever taught."

Maybe countless are the times this has happened to a boy or girl who, not only did not have the worst attention span--even if they did, so what--but who had a gift for imagination who will now think of it as a curse.

Though this is part of growing up--stuff happens--as adults we have the ability to choose what we focus on. Though it's unfortunate not all teachers are able to recognize hidden talent when they see it, it is fortunate that we--every one of us--can choose to focus on the things that we are good at and spend more time doing them.

What are you good at? What talents do you have and how can you put them to use to help yourself and others?


Anonymous said...

I, too, enjoy writing dialogue. My favorite times writing are when dialogue works so well it feels magical and when my gut aches as my characters hit rock bottom. Sometimes I re-read these parts of my manuscript just to get in the writing zone.

Chris Hunt said...

Regarding dialogue, sometimes I write so much I wonder if I need to add narration. I've never heard of another writer having the same problem. It seems writers usually narrate too much. Maybe I have the opposite problem. Who knows? Just doing what I love to do.

Meghan Ward said...

Because it's my first time visiting your blog, I thought the subject of the post was going to be how you are good at sleeping with your silverware! I kept waiting to see how dialogue tied in with silverware :) I am good at writing dialogue, too (if I do say so myself) and also worry sometimes that I need to break it up a little with more thoughts/commentary/action - not that I don't have plenty of narration, too.

This is a great post about pride and discouragement. I definitely fall into the category of being too hard on myself. I wonder if all writers do.

Anonymous said...

Probably all successful writers end up being too hard on themselves. If they tended toward pride, they would probably be so atrocious we wouldn't read them. Editing takes a fair amount of being hard on yourself.

Chris Hunt said...

Meghan, I am happy to announce that you are the first person to comment on the title of my blog. Congratulations, you are the winner of absolutely nothing at all!

Perhaps soon though I'll post the reason behind the title.

Anonymous, interesting point, though I can think of some rather arrogant writers. Hemingway comes immediately to mind. I'm sure there are others...but most writers probably do tend toward discouragement.