I saw this first over at Charlotte’s, and have enjoyed reading her answers and answers from all the other participants. I’ve felt ambivalently about calling myself a writer, but I do write, so that’s really the end of that question, isn’t it?
1. I write clearly. To the extent that I have a natural voice — which if I do I don’t have a strong sense of it — I think it’s a clear and simple one. I would have to work hard to be complex and difficult. I think that comes through on my blog, but also in my academic writing. I was never one for densely theoretical, jargon-laden prose. I suspect my teachers appreciated this.
2. I love to revise and I do it well. This isn’t the case with blog writing where I don’t revise at all (I’ll edit, but not revise), but certainly is for the academic writing I do. I remember getting praise from my professors for being one of the few people willing to revise a paper in a serious way, so much so, at times, that I’d end up arguing the opposite of what I originally thought. When I get readers’ reports back from journals asking for revisions, I cringe at first, and then dive in, and I end up enjoying myself. I love seeing how a piece can take on a new form and end up much better than what I started with.
3. I want to keep learning about writing. I teach writing, but I by no means think I’ve figured it all out. I like reading books that talk about how words and sentences and paragraphs are put together (as in, for example, Francine Prose’s book Reading Like a Writer, even though that particular book was unsatisfying). I like noticing how great writers work their magic with words. I like finding new ways to explain things to students.
4. I know my limitations and don’t let them bother me. I’m completely uninterested in writing fiction or poetry, and I accept that about myself. Instead of beating myself up for not being able to write the things other people can write, I enjoy what it is I can do. I’m so glad I discovered blogging because it’s a form that has me writing regularly and that I’ve come to love. Any writing I’m going to do will be of the nonfiction essayistic sort, which, as that’s a sort of writing I love to read, I’m fine with.
5. I am very good at slow, steady production. In other words, I’m good at the writing process — I don’t write fast, but I can be steady and methodical and can get things done. This is how I wrote my dissertation while doing tons of teaching and full-time administrative work. I wrote a little bit each day and eventually all the little bits added up and I was finished. This has taught me that I don’t need to be afraid of big projects; if I want to take one on, I have the persistence and endurance to finish it. I think you can see this trait of mine in my blogging — the daily 500-700 word posts suit me just fine. I’m nothing if not steady and reliable.
You might note that I’ve said little about my writing itself; it’s hard for me characterize it, and so I’ve focused on the way I go about writing. But it seems to me that how we go about doing something is sometimes just as important as what it is we produce.