Thursday, October 25, 2012

5 Skills Writers Might Not Know They Possess

"The ability to relate and to connect, sometimes in odd and yet striking fashion, lies at the very heart of any creative use of the mind, no matter in what field or discipline." --George J. Seidel

photo courtesy of
My mom is a quilter. I'm a knitter. Neither of us are welders, electricians, or ditchdiggers. But there's a possibility that writers have similar skills to all of the above. How so? Consider five skills that writers might not know they possess.


1. Quilt. Quilters choose patterns to express their artistic endeavors. Writers seek patterns, too--in words, sentence structure, story flow, insight, and imagination. Bruce Ballenger, author of Discovering the Writer Within, notes: "First there is uncertainty and confusion, and then a pattern emerges that begins to make sense. First we plunge into the sea of experience and then tentatively climb the ziggurat of perception, reflecting on what we have seen, and plunge back in again with our new knowledge to see even more."

2. Knit. Knitters produce a knitted project much like a writer fills a blank page, one stitch/word at a time. Along the way both have to deal with the inevitable tangled threads: "Writing fiction has developed in me an abiding respect for the unknown in a human lifetime and a sense of where to look for the threads, how to follow, how to connect, find in the thick of the tangle what clear line persists." --Eudora Welty

3. Weld. Welders specialize in joining, linking, forging things together--especially metals, plastics, polymers. Writers join, link and forge, too--in their heads and through their keyboards. Marilyn Ferguson inspired this thought with her observations: "Making mental connections is our most crucial learning tool, the essence of human intelligence; to forge links; to go beyond the given; to see patterns, relationships, context."

4. Wire. What do electricians do? Make connections. So do writers. And we have to train ourselves--wire our brains--to see connections and follow them to their conclusions. Right-brain exercises designed to spark creativity help in this way, as does freewriting, journaling, and writing poetry. Dean Kamen reminds us: "Some broad themes brought me where I am today. At a very young age, my hobby became thinking and finding connections."

5. Excavate. Ah, this might be a stretch. I might fall into a hole here. But excavators are ditchdiggers and earth movers who uncover--reveal--that which lies beneath. Writers are word movers, seeking to uncover and reveal a story's meaning. Ballenger again: "Writers do that, moving back and forth between the seeming chaos of information collected and then reflecting on its significance, looking for connections, contradictions, questions, or even specific details...that will reveal meaning."

What's the value in learning all these skills--to be a jack-of-all trades, master of none? On the contrary, these skills help foster a long-term goal, that of enjoying what we do. One more time, Mr. Ballenger: "I find that moment of recognition--of making sense out of something that seemed to make no sense--is one of writing's greatest joys."

Do you find yourself doubting you can take on all five skills? See yourself mastering only one or two? Then consider this. "A typical neuron makes about ten thousand connections to neighboring neurons. Given the billions of neurons, this means there are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy." --David Eagleman

Wow. The brain power is there. All we have to do is tap into it. What other unusual skills do you think a writer possesses--or maybe should develop?


  1. These area such great analogies. I love it when a WIP finally comes together and is a coherent whole--after all the brain skills you mentioned above have exerted full play on the piece.

  2. Comment: Brilliant article. Interesting, informative and insightful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great analogy, Kenda. I love it when the entire story comes together.

  4. Love this post~ makes me feel like a budding craftsman :)

  5. Kenda, I love it when you do posts like these! You have such a unique way of looking at things that is so refreshing.