I asked John Brantingham, my writing mentor, former professor, and a valuable person in my inner circle of writing friends, to write a guest blog on any topic he’d like.
John offers a free gift to a lucky reader at the end of this article.
When Carole told me that I could guest on her blog, I didn’t tell her that I was going to write about her. You shouldn’t think that all the praise I am going to heap on her is self-serving then, but Carole is one of my many, many creative writing students who has left my class to become successful.
I can always tell when one of my creative writing students is going to be successful on the first day of class.
I have to be careful here to define the word “successful” as it relates to creative writing. By that, I don’t mean that the student will go on to become the wealthiest writer on the circuit today, but that he or she will write and keep writing and reach a group of readers in whatever way he or she wants.
For some people, that means wide publication, and for others it means sharing with friends.
If we focus on those who want to publish, however, they are always easy to spot even on the first day. They share a group of characteristics.
1. They are willing to learn and grow. I had one student flat out tell me once that he knew all there was to know about writing, and he didn’t want help growing. “Why are you in a workshop that emphasizes craft then?” I asked.
He smirked and said, “I’m just here to do my thing.”
No clue what that means.
The successful students are always hungry for information from wherever they can get it. No surprise there. It’s no surprise that successful writers are too. They want to know what their profession is about because they love it.
2. They are exceptionally eager to work.
When I talk about the revision process, some students glaze over and turn off, and other students become excited. They want to revise because they want to get better. More importantly, writing is fun and revision is too. This is intellectual game play after all if you enjoy it. And the successful writers love it.
3. They ask questions throughout the class. They have wondered about something for years, and they finally have someone to talk to. Often, the best ones will disagree with me about some concept or other. That’s all right (as long as they are respectful). They love what they’re doing and they’re exceptionally passionate about it.
Obviously, the key word here is “love.” The successful students love what they’re doing and would do anything they could to improve and reach people with their work. If they don’t love reading and writing, they will never be successful, but there’s no surprise there.
And Carole is one of those students who I knew right away had everything she needed for success. It’s fun watching a student like her turning into a great writer, both in terms of skill and acknowledgement.
So here’s a question and a giveaway. Carole will determine the winner by the best answer given, and I will give away a copy of my book East of Los Angeles. What do you think makes a great writer great?
John is the author of Mann of War, Oak Tree Press 2012-2013, Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods, World Parade Books 2012-2013, and Study Abroad, Wormwood Chapbooks, October 2012.
I am grateful to all of John’s help and support in my writing endeavors. Here’s to both of our successes! Pre-order John’s latest chapbook, Study Abroad: http://roughwriters.bigcartel.com/product/study-abroad-print-chapbook-pre-sale