THE WRITER’S PERSONALITY (OR LACK THEREOF)

The other day I got an email from my wife. it said: “Did you know that You possess way more of a personality via written word than you do one-on-one?”. That kind of threw me for a moment. If that was the case, and I had no reason to doubt her, then why?

The answer, once I thought of it, was obvious. It’s because when you are talking one-on-one to someone they usually don’t give you half an hour or more to come up with a snappy reply.

That got me thinking about the personality of a writer. Writing is a solitary profession and in general writers are not usually known for their outgoing and bubbly personalities. That’s not to say that there aren’t writers with sparkling personalities, there are, but I think it is fairly safe to say that they are rare. While we hope that we as writers can come alive on paper, our words providing the reader with a scintillating frisson of pleasure and the sense that they have heard from someone who is dynamic and charming, the reality is usually somewhat different.

Radio interviews are a good example of this. I spent several years hosting a weekly radio show and many of our episodes featured interviews with sf and fantasy writers. For every firebrand like Harlan Ellison or entertainer like Spider Robinson (who could play the guitar and sing during an interview) most of the authors I was able to sit down and talk to were, frankly, dull. These were authors whose work I had loved over the years, writers whose prose was exciting and stimulating. Speaking to them in person was a bit of a let down.

Such is the case with most writers, I think. It’s certainly true of myself if my wife is to be believed (and she is, make no mistake abut that). I hope that my prose is readable at least. I like to think that it is exciting where it needs to be. I take particular pride in my dialogue. I spend a lot of time crafting it, making it sharp and witty, or full of impact when need be. Sometimes I sit at my computer and say it aloud to hear how it sounds.

I sit alone in a room having imaginary conversations between made up people that have nothing to do with me. You know what they call people who do that on a regular basis, don’t you?

I’d be interested in knowing if any other writers feel the same way? Are you exciting in your prose but dull in person? Are you the life of the party? Does your writing have snap and crackle as it is going down on the page or do you labour for hours to craft your words to have that brilliant, off-the-cuff feel?

Leave a comment. Let’s start a dialogue. (I will endeavor to be “Mister Personality” in my replies).

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6 thoughts on “THE WRITER’S PERSONALITY (OR LACK THEREOF)

  1. I’ve been told that I’m entertaining but I don’t think so. I just simply don’t want to be boring so I try to engage a person’s interest and don’t make ’em feel like they’re talking to a dolt. Like Josh I prefer to talk about my writing because quiet frankly, I feel that’s the most interesting thing about me.

  2. It’s funny that you guys replied to this post the way that you did because, aside from loving both of your guys’ writing, I’ve always thought that both of you were way more interesting people than I was.

    Josh, I figure being born and raised is South Carolina and then moving to London England makes you interesting by default.

    Derrick, don’t you run a podcast? You have to be at least a little bit entertaining to do that, don’t you? I’ve heard some of your podcasts and you are an engaging speaker.

    Mind you, as I am a writer as well, hearing about other writers is fascinating for me so I may be a bit biased. I always think I am dreadfully boring to people when I talk about writing, particularly if they are not writers themselves.

  3. Hello Jack!

    I am NOT a professional writer, but I sure do love to write, spend a whole lot of time in my head, and sometimes prefer words over people… 🙂 I stumbled upon your post here as I was deliberately searching for a little moral support perhaps about why I feel that I am better on paper than in person. I think it very bold and courageous of you to admit that which your wife gently brought to your attention. Thank you for that! I notice that I sometimes can be very dynamic and absolutely the “life of the party,” but I also note that after such an episode, I feel completely exhausted/drained, and then I need to “escape” people for a bit. I find myself single again, later in life, and I wonder what type of personality I would be truly compatible with. Anyway, I appreciate that I am not alone in this “writer’s personality” issue. I included this little poem I wrote a few years ago, just for fun. Thank you again for your post!

    Linda 🙂

    I AM WORDS

    I am flowing words that describe
    and portray,
    with many adjectives
    strategically on display.

    I am bright ideas that
    illuminate the mind,
    and paint a picture
    that is reader-designed.

    I am full of punctuation
    to keep things gripping,
    with adhesive letters
    to keep words from slipping.

    I tend to be polite,
    and mostly terse,
    hiding complexity
    with each colorful verse.

    I am anything I want to be.
    and all but what I fear,
    for the identity is blank
    until my words appear.

    I am an eloquent image in print,
    that a meeting would surely worsen,
    for I am far better on paper
    than I could ever be in person…

    • Thank you, Linda, for the comment and the poem! That’s really good! Do you have a blog or website or someplace where you hang out on the internet? I’d like to read more of your words.

      • Hello to you too!

        Thank you for your reply. I’m glad you like the poem! The thought of you reading my words makes me immediately think of a college professor reading a preschooler’s expressions… lol.. but I suppose it’s all in the interpretation, right? 🙂 Maybe there’s a certain glue in the writer’s personality pool that warrants a common ground, no matter the degree. I publish for fun on a site called triond. The link is http://www.triond.com/ and if you go to the bottom and search users, I am Lindalori. I certainly would love to read your work and will be investigating that today. When I stumbled upon your article today it was as if you wrote it for me! ha! Vanity! 😉 Have a great day!

        Linda

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