Characteristics of a Writer

So, a student asked the following question during a Q&A discussion I did for my class:

What are the components that makeup a complete writer? (K Patterson)

I’m so glad this was one of my questions because, honestly, I’ve never thought of a writer’s characteristics.  I just wrote.  I geared my answer toward my English 101 class, but I found that I could apply these characteristics to Writer Me as well.


I can think of 6 qualities that would make a well-rounded writer off the top of my head.  (Disclaimer:  There are most likely more than 6.)  These apply not only to students of English, but they also apply to students of other educational subjects. (Think about applying these qualities to someone who is writing an Adolescent Psychology paper on the effects of illegal drug use for children, ages of 10-15, or a religion paper comparing Christianity to Islam in the late 1900s.) These could apply to someone interested in creative fiction writing as well. So, here they are in random order.

  1.  A writer is an observer.  S/he pays attention to detail, analyzes different perspectives of a situation, wonders “why,” and asks “how.”
  2. A writer has a story to tell or a point to make.  There is a reason s/he is writing the paper, essay, blog entry, short story, poem, and/or novel.  If s/he doesn’t have something to say, s/he has more brainstorming or soul-searching to do.
  3. A well-rounded writer doesn’t monitor his/her point of view in fear of offending the reader.  This doesn’t mean that the writer is tactless, however.  There is always a “right” way of saying things, especially if the message is controversial.  The “right” way never diminishes the writer’s significance and is accompanied with lots of reasons or evidence backing up the claim (as all claims should be).  Likewise, a writer does not fabricate controversial opinions in to draw attention to oneself.
  4. A writer is self-motivated.  As you are finding out, writing is a process.  It can be tedious and frustrating.  Sometimes you’d rather chew aluminum foil than revise one more word.  It may take three days for you to find the perfect analogy for an important part of your paper/story. But… do you remember how you felt when you wrote something of which you were proud?  It might have been only a sentence but, boy, was it a good one!  Writers have to self-motivate to complete the process, to actually reach “the end.”  Lots of people give up 10 yards from the finish line.  A writer actually crosses the finish line ribbon, even if s/he is in last place.
  5. Good writers are readers.  Plain and simple.  Reading in areas of your writing genre can show you what has been done, what has yet to be done, what is good, and what is bad.  When you read inside your genre, it’s like research.  You want to be a doctor when you grow up?  Read medical journals.  You want to be a minister?  Read religious texts.  You want to be a director?  Read scripts.  Etcetera.
  6. A good writer has a strong grammatical foundation.  A writer can’t get his/her point across if the reader keeps tripping over grammatical mistakes.

I hope this is helpful.  I’ll edit this post as I think of new characteristics, compile a really comprehensive list.

Do you have any suggestions?  What other characteristics do you think a writer should possess?

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