What is your best quality? Go ahead, be honest. Don’t hesitate. Chances are it is obvious to you. If you are too humble to answer this question, ask someone close to you. For myself, I would have to say that my sensitivity is a positive trait that defines me. I am a perceptive and empathic person. I feel things deeply. And my sensitivity to the world around me fuels my imagination and creativity.
More often than not, our best quality can also be the bane of our existence. The other side of the coin of being a very sensitive person is that I can be defensive and easily wounded. Sometimes I walk around wearing a bit of armor. In my creative life, a sensitive nature causes all sorts of problems. Too much emotion can wreck havoc on spontaneity and focus. In my writing, the armor definitely gets in the way.
Leah and I have discussed her best quality as well. She is an intellectual person, with a gift for problem solving and strategy. She writes brilliant social commentary, and can explore any topic with great rationality. This is also her biggest challenge. Connecting to the heart of the matter is harder from way up in the intellect. Her awareness of this obstacle enriches her writing. Accurately reflecting her real emotional depth requires heavy lifting.
This past year of writing has led me to a new appreciation of this duality. The best parts of my writing come from my deep sensitivity. And the really bad stuff tends to reek of it as well. Knowing this helps me be on the lookout for that heads/tails probability. Chances are always fifty percent.
Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers. She doesn’t shy away from exposing her own flaws. With self-effacing humor, she treats herself gently, but presents the whole picture with the knowledge that this is necessary to give something of value. Her work is like a present from a totally unselfish friend.
Writing requires honesty. Again, that’s the best part, but also the hardest part. If we haven’t been honest with ourselves about what our own struggles are, our writing will end up contrived. Even fiction won’t let us get away with that.
Carolyn and Leah
Writing Exercise: Write a paragraph about your best quality, and how it contributes positively to your life and the lives of others. Write a second paragraph about what challenges this trait might be presenting for you. We would love to read it if you want to share it with us.