Monday, July 9, 2007

What every writer MUST have...

I did a phone interview last month for a regional paper about The Penny Tree and at the end, the reporter asked, "In your opinion, what's the one characteristic every writer must have, published or not?" There are many obvious answers: tenacity, a passion for writing, natural storytelling ability. But I was in a punchy mood (probably too much espresso) so I said, "A sense of humor, for many reasons."

For those of you rolling your eyes, I actually believe this, by the way. Take a look at the photo above: I can't look at these nuns without smiling. Can you? And as I do, my mind wanders and I catch myself wondering: Was it a staged photo? Or did someone take a snapshot walking by? What are their lives like? What made them choose to become nuns in the first place. And then, finally, I think to myself, I'll bet there's a good story here.

Also, as a writer facing the often endless hurdles that exist in this business, you will need a sense of humor (not to mention a network of supportive friends) or you'll eventually find yourself folding your tent and trudging off to Nepal to join a quiet group of Sherpas who know nothing about the world of publishing.

When I'm a few hundred pages into writing what originally felt like "the golden story idea" and I hear a tiny voice whisper, "Ack! Burn it already and start over," it's usually humor, more than anything else, that kicks in
at my end and nudges me
across the finish line.

This said as I sign off to unfold 52 intricate paper airplanes my son and his friend spent most of the afternoon building on the floor of my office using my freshly printed manuscript
*big tight humor-filled smile*


ORION said...

I need that photo of the guy dragging the lightbulb.

Melissa Marsh said...

What an appropriate photo that is - the lightbulb one.

A sense of humor - yes, definitely need it, especially after getting the umpteenth rejection or have looked at the same paragraph for two hours.

A sense of humor and chocolate. Then you're good to go. ;-)

Melissa Marsh said...

Ack. It is late. I should be in bed and NOT posting comments on blogs before I hit publish. It should have said, "having looked". *grin*

wordman17 said...

Great lightbulb photo.
But the nuns look hot, too!
*roar* *chortle*
Gimme a break, ok?
It's called Texas humor
and at least I have some.

Kim Stagliano said...

Oh my gosh, yes! And the ability to talk/email/blog with fellow writers who can tell you that even the established, successful writers (like one HK) hit the same hurdles.

I printed that nun photo on a mug for my brother one year with the caption: Runs on the nuns.


Anonymous said...

This is my first time going on a blog site. Just wanted to say how much i loved the tin box.

Anonymous said...

Humor is a must. How true.

Holly Kennedy said...

ORION - I just sent it to you.
Use it whenever you like!

Melissa - I'm tickled you posted twice. Shows how much yah care *ha*
How are things at your end, btw? Any better? I hope so.

Wordman17 - I love that I can ALMOST always count on you popping by. Bring your humor any time.

Kim -- How was vacation? And the
rewrite? Are you making progress?

Anonymous -- Thank you for commenting. I'm thrilled that you liked The Tin Box. It's hard coming out of those lurking shadows to post on a blog, but once you do, it becomes impossible to stay away. Please stop by again.

Steve g -- I hope you're having a good summer at your end :)

John Elder Robison said...

Holly, I hate to have to tell you this about those "nuns."

They are not "nuns." They are hardened professionals, veteran New York sex workers. They dance at a club in Times Square. You may have even passed them on our visit a few weeks back.

The were tanking up before going across the street to tape an episode of HBO's Real Sex. Right after the Latex People and the Human Horses.

You should have seen the undertakers they had there for the next show.

Melissa Marsh said...

Holly - Hubby is still in the hospital. Yeah, I'm just a little stressed. And really REALLY tired of hospitals. We're hoping he'll get out this week.

Larramie said...

And you have humor to spare, Holly, because it's a rare post that doesn't leave me smiling. Also, the golden light bulb...brilliant!

Now my turn for a bit of humor as I tag you with a meme. Participation is optional and you'll find the rules tomorrow on
where my own 8 memes will be posted.

Now there's something to look forward to... (rolling my eys)

Adrienne said...

That light bulb thing would make an excellent pendant, I want one!

I am so with you with the sense of humour thing. But I think it matters most in all aspects of life. A sense of humour implies you are able to see beyond yourself and the moment. It implies a wider world view.

Also it helps stay sane.

Trish Ryan said...

You are so right about the sense of humor...absolute necessity.

Too funny about those paper airplanes :)

Anissa said...

I couldn't agree more! And the sense of humor certainly comes in handy during revisions when I find some truly eye-roll-worthy blunders. Like Kim said, it's nice to know you're not the only one with nasty little critics in your head.

Now about those paper's hoping the pages were numbered. ;)

The Anti-Wife said...

A sense of humor is absolutely essential. The ability to laugh at myself and my situation has kept me out of a lot of trouble and made life a lot more enjoyable.

Good post as usual.

Holly Kennedy said...

John --

Nuns in the sex trade? Latex People? Human Horses? Undertakers? Here I was trying to be motivational and sweet and you swoop in and drop a smutty comment that makes me burst out laughing!

Having read LOOK ME IN THE EYE (lucky me) I now have some insight into how that trickster mind of yours works. Logical you may be, but I shake my head when I think of how much fun you'll have on book tour playing with people's heads.

Have you heard if you'll be coming up to Canada for any readings yet?!

Holly Kennedy said...

Melissa -- I hope your husband is feeling better soon :)

Larramie -- Thanks for tagging me! It may take me a week or so to get to it, though as I'm going away next week and won't be back until the 23rd.

Adrienne -- Everyone seems to like that lightbulb man!

Trish -- Good to have you stop in as always. How are things at your end? Any plans for a nice long restful summer?!

Holly Kennedy said...

Anissa -- Aren't those inner critics annoying little buggers at times?! Re: the airplanes, I got so frustrated, I reprinted the manuscript :)

Anti-wife -- Medication helps, too.
Just kidding!

Kanani said...

Have to have a sense of humor.

In January, when I was gathering people who'd be in The Writerly Pause, I chose those who I thought would get along best, and also those who had a sense of humor. We might not all agree on things, but we can all laugh, and we see the need for well.... doing dumb things like putting a copy of Lottery and a bottle of beer, sending it to Pat's publicist and suggesting a beer tie-in, or asking for beer sponsors for our site.

Let's face it. It also helps when we have to be dead serious with one another because we know just under those words is someone who can laugh with you, and respects you a lot.

Mia King said...

Oh, I like this. I think humor definitely has its place in a writer's life and career - talent can only get you so far, but humor can push you over the finish line!

LadyBronco said...

Oh my God!

The picture of the nuns had me so dang confused! I had no idea they were sitting on chairs at first!




Manic Mom said...

OK, Ajers just came in and said, "Ewww, are those nuns butt-nekkid!?!?" TOo funny!

Jess Riley said...

Great advice! And you're so RIGHT about having a supporting network of writer buddies. Critical.

(I almost spit my coffee out when I saw that picture. Hilarious.)

Travis Erwin said...

Yes the nuns made me smile, and my sons constantly raid the trash can beside my computer for paper airplane material. So far they've never snatched freshly printed pages.

Demon Hunter said...

Ah, I LOVE the picture of the nuns, Holly. Too cute. Those stools are awesome! :*)