I'm author ELLE STRAUSS and welcome to my website.
I write fun, lower Young Adult (teen) fiction to do with whimsical things like time-travel, fairies and merfolk (with a nice helping of romance!) When my serious side peeks out, she's called LEE STRAUSS. She likes to write upper YA/adult about romance in the past, present and future.
There's always a TIME for romance!!
This blog is about books, mine and other fab authors', but occasionally I'll share about other topics. Thanks for dropping by!
Thursday, September 5, 2013
3 Things Writers Can Learn from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits
I grabbed it when it was on sale and started reading it out of curiosity. What are the 7 habits?
Stephen is a bit wordy and sometimes you have to wade through a lot of aroundaboutness to get to the gems, but it's worth it. Here are 3 things I gleaned from it that are not only valuable for me as a person, but as a writer.
1. The difference between Character ethics and Personality ethics. A couple generations ago (think Jane Austin times) a person's character was the most important influencing factor a person had. To get a job, a spouse, a friend - much was based on if the person in question was a man or woman of good character. Character is defined by our values and virtues. Most people will state that they think things like honesty, integrity, generosity, and kindness are things they value.
However, in the last generation or so, there's been a shift from Character ethics to Personality ethics. Being popular, charismatic, beautiful, talented - these are the things that get attention in our culture (for the most part).
On a personal level, I want to esteem Character over Personality. I hope to be a person of character, rather than one who influences purely on personality.
As a writer, imagine putting two people together who view ethics in such opposing ways? We see it all the time in literature and film. The character who sleeps with the boss just to get further along in her career versus the one who refuses? That example is cliche, but it gets the point across.
2. Define what centers you. For example, some people are friend centered, or family centered, career centered, work centered, or self-centered. We react to people and situations differently, depending on what is driving us. Usually we are driven by more than one thing, but one is dominate. None of these examples are drives to happy and effective living. There is one center that is and it's called principles centered. When we define our personal values and principles (i.e. our values and what's important to us) we are not caught off guard when conflict or crises arrives. We know what we value and believe, and respond rather than react, accordingly.
As writers, understanding your characters center is really helpful. Stephen gives an example in his book. Say a man has promised his wife a long overdue date night. She spends a lot of time getting ready and is excited to go out. Just before they leave, his boss calls, something urgent has come up at work and they need him to come in right away. What's the man going to do? What's the wife's response to his decision going to be? This scenario could play out in many different ways, depending on what is driving them.
This is also helpful to understand when building a character arc. Maybe your character starts out friend driven - she's so concerned about what her friends think of her and being accepted by them, it's almost incapacitating. Somehow by the end she embraces a principle centered life and frees herself from her "friends."
3. The importance of a mission statement. Stephen talks about keeping the end in sight. Basically, if we were to write our own eulogy, what would we want it to say about us? As writers we understand that knowing how the story ends before we get there really helps in filling out the middle bits. It's the same with our own lives. If we know where we want to end up, it helps us make the decisions necessary to get there.
As a writer, this advice is more for the business end than the creative end. What kind of writer do you want to be? Are you just in it for the money? Just for the art? For both? This is important to know, as how you approach it and what your expectation should be will vary depending on what your answer is.
What's my author brand? My author reputation? If I know this, I know what kind of writer I want to be. I'm not tempted to copy the success of someone else if what they do compromises what I've decided I wanted for myself in points 1 and 2.
I came away with all this and I'm only at habit #3! I look forward to what the next 4 habits are going to teach me. :)
How about you? Have you read this book? What did you think?