5 Glaring Personality Flaws That Actually Make You a Better Writer

Shannon Hilson

If you’ve ever been written off as a screw-up, a nut, or a mess, this is for you.

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Lately, I’ve noticed something that I have in common with a lot of my writing friends. A lot of us have had a ton of trouble fitting in for a variety of different reasons. Those of us who were never called screw-ups to our faces were probably still considered weird or odd on one level or another. Others are just really familiar with how it feels to have someone ask “what on earth is wrong with you” for what feels like no reason.

Of course, when you’re talking about personality traits, “positive” and “negative” are relative terms. What makes a person trash to one social group may well make them a treasure to another, and vice versa. There are a fair number of personal qualities that are rarely to never seen in a positive light, though, but I’ve also noticed quite a few of them that can be pretty helpful if you happen to be a writer.

That said, if you’ve ever had any of the following statements flung in your face by somebody else, you’re in luck. You may not have a toxic personality so much as you have qualities that might hit entirely differently if you channel them into your writing instead of leaving them to fly around loose.

1. “You’re way too intense.”

You may not hear it phrased precisely that way, though. Sometimes people will just tell you you’re “too much” in that way that sounds like a joke but totally isn’t. Others might choose to smack you right in the chops by telling you that you’re overly passionate to the point of being hard to be around.

Meanwhile, you’re probably just sitting there wondering what’s so wrong with caring deeply about things or being super into your interests. I heard things like this about myself a lot when I was younger. Occasionally, I still hear them. However, I’ve also mellowed out a lot over the years, so I’ve noticed I’m more likely to hear it from folks who aren’t fellow creatives.

The great thing about passion is that the type that’s “too much” for everyone else is often “just right” for a writer. An intense person who’s hyper-passionate about their interests, values, and ideas often also feels the need to express them. They tend to be filled to the brim with ideas, as well. Writing’s a terrific outlet for all that energy. Your intensity tends to keep you going when most other people would be too bored or frustrated to continue.

2. “You sure think a lot of yourself.”

I used to be one of those little girls who’d answer with “oh, I know” instead of “thank you” whenever an adult tried to tell me I was pretty or smart. I’d also be bewildered by that reaction. I didn’t yet understand that people are supposed to be a lot more modest than that and that there’s a vast difference between having healthy self-esteem and being downright cocky.

Thankfully, I grew into my sense of modesty a lot as I got older, but I’m still pretty confident in general. I like myself, and I’m comfortable in my own skin. If I decide it’s important for me to be good at something, then that’s all she wrote. I’ll grind until I’m good at it, and I’ll never really doubt that I can do it. It’s very hard for another person to kill my confidence when I’m super-secure in my ability to do something well, and that quality has helped me more than I can say when it comes to being a writer.

It takes a certain amount of audacity to wake up one day and decide an idea you had is good enough to put it out there in front of the whole world. It takes even more to deal with it when other people inevitably dump all over your work because eventually somebody will, even you’re truly good at what you do. Now, you should absolutely be teachable and open to feedback that has value, negative or otherwise, but a hefty dose of self-assuredness will help you over a lot of rough spots.

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3. “You’re the nosiest person alive.”

Some people just can’t seem to mind their own business no matter how hard they try. If you’re one of them, then you already know it. You’re the guy that knows way too much about how the neighbors spend their time or the girl who always seems to know everybody else’s business. Maybe you love to people-watch, and if you also happen to overhear a random conversation between strangers, then so much the better.

You know you should mind your own business, but you can’t seem to help it. You’re just so interested in people and curious about what’s going on in their lives. You also just might be a natural-born writer. Although it’s never OK to truly violate another person’s privacy, a natural desire to connect to the people and situations around you on a detailed level means never running out of ideas.

Inspiration can (and often does) come from just about anywhere. I personally have gotten excellent ideas from something random I happened to overhear on the street or an exciting chance interaction I might have observed. I know lots of other writers who can say the same.

4. “You’re constantly rushing into things.”

When I was younger, I was often envious of people who were natural planners. They seemed so calm and collected, and they got so much credit from everyone else for doing things correctly. Then there was me — Miss Spontaneous. I was the kind of person who’d almost always make decisions on a whim, and once I made my mind up to do something specific, I’d jump straight in with both feet. I reasoned that if whatever I just did wasn’t right for me, I could always just quit or switch gears.

Now, life has certainly taught me some tough lessons about why you need to strike a balance between total spontaneity and fastidious planning. But becoming a writer has taught me not to judge the very impulsive person I use to be too harshly. Planning things out properly really is the way to go most of the time, but staying in touch with that part of me that’s always all wound up and ready to go has been helpful, as well.

The benefit of being a writer who rushes right in when they’re on fire about an idea is you tend to go with your gut and write from the heart. You also power through a lot of the real work right away, so by the time you’re running out of gas, enough of the hard part is done that it’s easy to continue. Very spontaneous, impulsive people tend to have a lot of different experiences under their belts from trying so many things, too, so you’ll always have a full cache of material to work with.

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5. “You need to grow up and act your age.”

I’m not necessarily talking about being a functional adult here. Regardless of what you’re looking to get out of life, it’s crucial to be self-sufficient and to be able to take care of yourself without too much assistance from other people. Beyond that, though, I’ve never understood why so many people think there has to be an age limit on certain things. The ability to be childlike (as opposed to childish) is a gift because your life will be the best of both worlds.

I’m going to be 45 on my next birthday. That’s probably downright over the hill to younger people out there, but I’m still a lot like the kid I used to be. I’m endlessly curious about things, always asking questions and wanting to know more. I still like amusement parks, and cartoons, and Halloween, and bright colors. I’m not afraid to look or sound silly in the name of having fun. I’m also still very creative. My head is as full of ideas, stories, and dreams at my current age as it ever was when I was a child.

If anyone has ever told you to grow up because of your take on life or because of the things that bring you joy in life, don’t do it — especially if you’re a writer. All that imagination, enthusiasm, and expressiveness will serve you very well. Kids don’t worry about what others will think of the things they imagine or enjoy doing with their time. They just listen to their hearts and keep right on doing them — something proper adults could stand to do more often, in my opinion.

Personal growth is important. I’ve worked hard to become more productive, compassionate, efficient, and just an all-around better person over the years. But I’ve also learned that many of my less desirable qualities didn’t need to be eliminated so much as they just needed to be polished, refined, and properly directed. I’ll always be a bit eccentric and “a lot” by some people’s standards, but I’ve learned how to make it work for me. There’s no reason why you can’t do the same.

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Monterey, CA
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