Can You Predict Who Is Going To Be A Good Writer?

Author and blogger Ron Knight wrote a blog post trying to predict future successful authors based on how they act as a child.

This bothers me: because I don’t fit his profile, and my whole life I’ve dreamed of being an author.

Now, I’m not too good at remembering the difference between what I was like naturally as a child and how I turned out nurture-ally…ish (new word, roll with it). I think a lot of my personality was influences by those around me. I was one of many children who was sexually abused by someone I trusted, and I won’t go into that because it’s private and this blog is public (and besides, he died a few years later, before I got the courage to tell my family), but I’m pretty sure that experience (among others) shaped how I am today.

Here’s Ron Knight’s checklist and how it compares to me:

  • Attention problems. Pfft. Attention problems? No way. Some of my friends would say how bored they were at school because it wasn’t challenging. I loved school and I was good at it. I could multi-task, and I knew how to set goals and prioritise. I finished my work early, then I’d work on my stories. No.
  • Academic struggles. The only time I ever struggled in school was when my maths teacher bullied me and I got a tutor (and ended up kicking ass), or when I was in Grade 9 doing a Grade 12 advanced science course. Luckily I decided not to become an astrobiologist in lieu of being an author. No.
  • No interest in reading. I would have thought you could tell authors by their absolute love of reading. I was a real bookworm. Whenever I went to bed when the sun was still up (summer holidays) I would read until the sun set. I always had a book with me. No.
  • Blurts out whatever comes to mind. Nope, I never did this. I was a perfectly behaved child. I never did the whole “Look at me!” thing. People often commented on how quiet and well-behaved I was. I was often lost in thought, thinking about my story worlds. No.
  • Talks to themselves. I only talked to myself when I was playing with my toys alone. My parents told me I had an imaginary friend called Claire, who was based on a character from a children’s picture book, but I never did. I don’t remember anything like that. No.
  • Born leaders. Well, this one’s a bit tricky. When I was small, I was definitely a natural leader. A combination of being the tallest and the most mature despite my age often made adults leave me in charge of other children. As I got older I encountered other natural born leaders, where I was more than happy to stand aside and let them get all the glory. But stick me in a room of sheep and I’ll lead them. I’ll lead the f*ck out of them. Yes.
  • Always doing things their own way. I would say no to this, but my mother would say yes. Not long ago we had a D&M (we have more of these since I moved to the other side of the world) where she said I’ve always done things my own way. Here I was thinking I was much more emotionally dependent on other people’s guidance. Turns out moving to England only knowing one person is pretty much ‘doing it your own way.’ Yes.
  • No problem getting friends. Oh wow, this is so not true. Most authors are introverts who prefer to avoid people and spend time in their own heads rather than make friends. I’m not good with people: they think I’m cold and aloof when I’m simply shy and quiet. So I’d say to this one:  No.
  • Dramatizes everything. When I was small, I was guilty of this. It wasn’t so much the idea of dramatising everything to make it more exciting, though, as much a means of showing how smart I was by knowing the answers to everything – even if I had to lie about it. As I grew older I realised I wasn’t smart enough to keep lying, so I gave it up altogether. Yes.
  • Struggles with writing. Um, what? What kind of author is not good at writing when they’re young? So many authors from when I was a child quit school to concentrate on writing – like my favourite author, Louise Cooper. What kind of a person would want to pursue a career they didn’t like and weren’t particularly good at? No.
  • Emotional.  HELL YES! I was an emotional kid, a tough teenager, and re-emerged an emotional adult. I cry at sentimental commercials. I get angry when people are sexist, or racist, or generally pricks to minorities or the under-privileged. I get ridiculously happy when good things happen to my friends. Yes.

I’m already uncertain enough about my future as an author. I don’t need a list like this coming along and telling me I don’t have it in me because I wasn’t like some other successful authors were as children (loving all the negatives in that sentence). As far back as I can remember, my wanting to be a professional writer was a secret dream, something I wanted but was told was out of my reach – a pipe dream. It’s not until I actually finished my first book (in 2010) that I thought maybe I could sell it. Before that, I was just writing for myself and maybe my friends and family and maybe in the FAR distant future for a larger audience.

…Oh come on, it’s not like I’m UPSET by this list. It’s not like this is the be all and end all, and any kid who isn’t like this won’t be successful.

Right?

… right?

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3 thoughts on “Can You Predict Who Is Going To Be A Good Writer?

  1. Charlotte says:

    Haha. Wow. A couple of those points make sense to me – excess of emotions, tendency to daydream – but even those probably apply to certain sorts of authors writing certain kinds of fiction, without necessarily applying to everyone who writes.

    On the whole I think that list is full of… What’s a polite word for bullshit?

    Okay, never mind, we’ll go with bullshit.

    “Believe it or not, future authors did not like writing stories.”
    “Children, who grow up to be authors, usually did not like reading.”

    What is that even based on? Curiously dogmatic tone for a set of unsubstantiated opinions.

    Don’t let something like that make you doubt yourself. There are no convenient boxes for things like this (in fact I don’t believe there are such convenient, easily-labelled boxes for anything in life). The notion of a ‘future author checklist’ is pretty risible.

    But hey, if that means you have to throw in the towel now and go be an astrobiologist instead, you’re in good company. I’m off to pursue that career as a heritage manager that I didn’t really want.

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    • Lissa says:

      I don’t think I will chuck it in. I’ve had enough of University – not sure I can go back to a regular undergrad science course. Sometimes I wish I had done it instead of a plain Arts degree. If I did go back, it would probably just be for a Masters. I’ll see how I feel when I’m older and if I really do want that science degree, and where my family is at and all that bollocks grown-ups need to think about.

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