Is This You?
No one is a pure type. But, as writers, we all correspond loosely or tightly to certain types. You are not alone, or utterly unlike all others, or without the ability to contrast and compare yourself to writers whom you resemble — if only slightly. The deepest and best reason to do this is to grow in self-knowledge, and in the ability to tell your own tent from the tents of others.
As a writer, do you know your type?
No type below will be 100% you, but one will be much closer than all the others. You will glimpse key aspects of yourself in two or three. You will feel a strong disaffinity for one or two.
Type 1 – The Literary Writer
Love of language gets this writer to her desk. No pleasure she can experience rivals using language to its fullest – whether to break your heart, deliver you the subtlest of foods for thought, shake the dust off you, or simply to knock you down. Not that she needs an audience – she writes to be writing. When she writes about food, it’s not about food, but about the language that conjures the food. Maybe the world knows her, maybe it doesn’t, but you’ve sized her up: She’s an artist, deep and true.
Is this you?
If yes, then your greatest strength is the quality of your gift. Obstacles you may meet include perfectionism, isolation, making deadlines, debilitating bouts of writer’s block, crises of doubt, and being too thin-skinned for the marketplace.
Type 2 – The Communicator
This writer means above all to connect with others. Her greatest pleasure is to write with her tribe in mind, deeply to sense her audience as she chooses and shapes her material. She can build a community of readers like no one else, but without readers, she would struggle not to dry up as a writer, would as soon sing opera in a soundproof room. She loves to write about food because it’s one of the deepest connections she can forge with a reader – and this writer must have readers, or her life feels incomplete.
Is this you?
If yes, then your greatest strength is your ability to create radical rapport with the right readers – your tribe. Obstacles you may meet include early difficulty properly envisioning your tribe, high concern as to how you’re going over at the cost of developing your own voice, and feeling too anxious and needy to lead. And lead you must, so that others will follow you.
Type 3 – The Craftsman
This writer would be a master carpenter if she worked with wood, not words. She’s the one who could rewrite the instructions for a complex DIY project so that they were a pleasure to read and a breeze to follow. Even if she sweated blood to craft such clean prose, she would prefer you to assume her “scrap heap” – in the form of discarded drafts – was very small. If you first encounter her via an article on a topic that leaves you cold, you’ll still wonder if she also writes about food. Her discipline, clarity, and concision make her a standout among writers who have yet to learn that more is less.
Is this you?
If yes, then your greatest strength is your compelling readability, to readers with the highest standards and those with plainer tastes — because everybody knows a good table, even without knowing how hard one is to make. Obstacles you may meet include the high time-cost of your dedication to craft, the loss of attention to mission that a focus on craft can entail, and – because you write well about absolutely anything – difficulty claiming your best and most characteristic territory.
Type 4 – The Connoisseur
This writer brings deep background to her work. Her choice of material reflects passionate immersion in her subject, whether as an amateur or a leading light in her field. Since connoisseurship is about love, and about the insights that long commitment yields, you would never call a writer-connoisseur “informative.” Rather, she transforms a subject for you, and the way she does so may well transform you, too. As a food writer, she’s hard to beat, because she’s a special mixture of charm and bedrock, someone you trust to guide you to far shores of understanding.
Is this you?
If yes, then your greatest strength is the perspective you bring to your work, one that marks you as an original, because to have it, it is necessary to have lived your life. Obstacles you may meet include difficulty holding back from overwhelming a reader, a poor sense of how to broaden your readership, and little patience for concision when passionate sharing is a form that can take you far into the night.
Type 5 – The Authority
This writer is where she is because she knows her stuff cold. Research is her middle name, and she may well be, though is not necessarily, an academic. While others may have “read around” in her subject enough to be fairly fluent, she knows it as a discipline. She’s one of your top go-to people — you read her when you want the facts, and when, conducting your own research as a writer, you need a recognizably credible source. If food is her subject, she will have the last word – she’s earned it.
Is this you?
If yes, then your greatest strength is that readers to accede to you, and publishers size you up as the real deal. Obstacles you may meet – obstacles met by most who are trained in academic writing — include slight inattention to the art of writing, not knowing how to draw a lay reader in, an interest in the data at the expense of the story (the data ARE the story, you might say), and finding a highly readable tone for making your key points.
Type 6 — The Discoverer
This writer approaches her subject with intense curiosity and enthusiasm, but not necessarily much in the way of background. Like her reader, she wants the adventure of learning, and learns by jumping in. She writes a great deal about her travels. You hope to join her on one of her trips – in fact you do so, when you read her. She’s a stand-in for the reader, who is thrilled to go along for the ride. While others can offer an account of what they did, she can deliver an experience – the one you’d like to have.
Is this you?
If yes, then your greatest strength is that readers readily channel through you. Obstacles you may meet include developing a level of craft that differentiates you from lesser writers of your type, taking time for fact-checking, so that you are always on solid ground, and financing the kinds of experiences in food and travel that replenish your stock.
Type 7 — The Introspective Writer
This writer is her own material – she writes to understand herself, to make sense of her life, and to grow as a person. Experience is her teacher, but the most vivid learning she does is through her writing, in which a spiritual discipline may be sensed. Breaks in routine, such as travel or retreat, shape her and create new potential for her as a writer. Food may be almost Eucharistic to her, profoundly transformational rather than sensual. Does she need an outwardly interesting life to work her spell as a writer? You decide – it could help, or it could just be in the way.
Is this you?
If yes, then your greatest strength is the bravery that commands attention from readers whose journey through life is also one of growing consciousness and insight. Obstacles you may meet include difficulty developing a sense of scale in your writing, and difficulty with pace and self-editing. Also, successfully addressing readers who are not like you could be an area to work on.
Elatia Harris is a writer and consulting editor in Cambridge, Mass. She is most often at work on books and articles about food, wine and travel. Contact her at elatiaharrisATgmailDOTcom or via text at 617-599-7159.