Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


One needs skills to be an author. Everyone knows more or less what they are. Few deny that without some skills, success is limited.

There is no denying one also needs virtues. In today's world, youngsters are not instructed directly about virtue. They have no real idea what the concept entails. Which means they have no idea how useful virtues can be.

A sport coach or two might put virtues in their training terminology, and Sunday School might give them a mention, but writing manuals? Literary consultants? I don't think so. Let's define a few, and see how far we get. We are told there are seven identifiable virtues: abstract concepts that can be hard to grasp or apply to the crackpot world of publishing or the stretchy occupation of authoring books. It's worth an attempt to those who are disciplined enough to have written a few books to define what they feel are the character traits or habits that help rather than hinder their career. They must understand that they have a few qualities with merit without which they would not have been able to put together that last book.


Here they are!

I have tinkered with the four cardinal virtues, the three theological virtues and the seven heavenly virtues to come up with five of my own, which I think as an author, I cannot afford to ignore. They all seem to be self-explanatory, and all who read this might be able to see how they are applicable to authors and the life they lead, the habits they form and the principles to which they would like to adhere.
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I am patient to a fault: that one's the easiest virtue I find to follow, but diligence and love? Hm - some work needed there. I certainly do not always love what I do, and do not always work as hard at it as I'd like to be able to. 

What about other writers? What about you - do you find your list shorter or longer than mine? Are you good at waiting? Do you feel a pang of envy or humility every time a colleague publishes something fantastic that sells the instant it's out?

Perhaps all authors should make a list they think they should adopt, and without which they might feel at a disadvantage compared to those who have chalked up some sort of success. Or written about a topic they have longed to treat. Or changed genres to one they really always wanted to work in.

Ha! Perhaps this is what all writers should be doing instead of finding more means of exposure on the social media!

Tell me which virtue you feel has recently contributed to some of your success.

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  1. My virtues as a novelist all come from my addictin to story-telling. Does that count?

    I don't need any more virtues for my writing life because it's full to the brim and there's no spare time left.

    Happy writing!

  2. I think you identified a great subset of virtues, Rosanne. And insofar as my editor referred to "diligent work" I'd done on rethinking the ms, you've made me feel like that really meant something. What would I add as a virtue? Maybe--humility. I think it's important to keep in mind that we're all so lucky to get to be doing this joyous/crazy pursuit of ours. And that we achieve almost nothing alone. Thank you for this post.

  3. I think Jenny brought up an interesting virtue with humility a it is often the direect opposite of what we see with soem authors and it can somatimes appear that those who bignote themselves get the most attention. But I think we can only be the type of people we are. As for patience it's not easy to be patient when a work is taking more time than anticipated but so important to let it gel and get it right.

  4. You can tell my fingers got impatient then by the spelling mistakes.

  5. Patience ,,,yes, endless, dogged, determined and undeterred patience very high on my list.
    Kindness? I rate it one of the highest virtues overall. A kind person cannot really do harm to anyone. I don't know that it is high in the writing echelon of virtues, unless you mean avoiding libel and slander!
    Humility. We are duly humbled so often we must be the humblest workers on the planet.
    Love? Maybe a mixture of Anna's addiction and bloody minded willpower add up to devotion to the craft? Love of learning, and knowledge; needed.
    I throw in flexibility and open-mindedness without which we would still be using pencils and pads.Diligence. definitely. Margaret Sutherland

  6. Great blog! Interesting list of virtues, too. Can you add passion? I need that to write well (or rather inspiration). I suppose my virutes would indeed be patience and diligence. Maybe determination, as I don't give up easy and just keep pushing forward even when I don't feel like it. Anyway, Rosanne, thanks for the inspiration!

  7. My five writers' virtues--all of which I need more of:

    1. Diligence and Perseverance, because not every moment will be an inspired one. And you have to write, anyway. And then keep at it. If I waited to be truly inspired, I'd write only 10-12 times a year. And you have to be diligent enough to move on to the next piece--fast.
    2. Versatility, because your story won't always come out in a gush. Writers need to work at a scene near the beginning, then the middle, then 1/4 through...and writers should write different things. I've had a spec. fiction story, a small nonfiction piece, and a mystery short story accepted or published in the last few weeks. Plus, you have to be versatile enough to write the story the way it wants to be written. And versatility means balancing writing/career/relationships...
    3. Empathy, because if you don't have the humanity to care about your characters--even the minor ones, or the bad ones--then the agent, editor and reader won't, either. Reading YEAR OF WONDERS right now; the empathy and humanity Brooks feels for her characters is a force stronger than the plague she details.
    4. Bravery, because the rejections will pile up, but you have to send it out again, anyway. My latest rejection said, "Though I liked the concept, the ending seemed pretty arbitrary." OUCH. And you have to be brave enough to tell the story the way it wants to be told, too. Not for the faint.
    5. Contentedness, at least while writing. (Though a great many great writers were malcontents.) If writing itself doesn't content you, you won't write for long.