Positive Psychology: Building on Your Strengths

Have you ever heard of a thing called positive psychology? I just learned about it today. Positive psychology is, as I understand it, a great therapy based on building strengths and thinking positively. The people who came up with it thought that psychology should be more than just a focus on problems. They believe in a balance between troubleshooting our weaknesses and maximizing our strengths. I think it’s a wonderful concept. Why not continue working with what you’ve already got instead of desperately trying to conjure up a characteristic that’s just not in your nature?

So, I got to thinking about a writer’s skills and I wondered what were my skills? I came up with the following categories:

Theme: Is the theme fluid throughout the story? Is the theme universal?

Plot: Is the plot structured well? Is the reader clear on what’s happening? Is the story compelling? original? Is the story paced correctly for maximum effect?

Descriptions: Of characters? Of setting? Of action? Are they from the right perspectives? Are you showing not telling? Or are you telling in a compelling way? Are you flooding your writing with too many adjectives/adverbs? Is everything important/relevant to the story?

Language: Too many big, unnecessary words? Are you using the right words?

Voice: Is there one loud and present voice throughout the story?

Time and Place: Is the setting being used appropriately? Does it bring out plot, action, and character?

Conflict: Are the obstacles believable? Is there depth to antagonist? Are the stakes high enough for the reader to care about the character?

Character(s): How well have your characters been developed? Is there depth? How interested is the reader? Is their purpose/desire made clear? What about relationships with others? Is the dialogue intriguing and fluff-free? Are the conversations natural? Believable?

What are your strengths and how can you work on them further?

As of yet, I’m not really sure what my strengths are. When I write with confidence, I usually have a steady and strong voice. When I write with a foundation/outline, I usually structure my plot well. My strengths are dependent on a number of factors. I think I can say that I am generally an original writer. I’ve heard that from a bunch of my readers and I’m definitely okay with taking their word for it.

But then there are other things to consider: Do I write everyday? Do I read everyday? Do I finish stories? Hm… no. But! I’m going to force myself to not focus on that. Let’s see if this positive psychology thing works…

What are your strengths and how can you work on them further?

Challenges, Goals, and Other Literary Objectives

I’ve just finished a VERY big life project and now feel like I’m going to have a lot of extra time on my hands, at least until college starts (I’m thinking of September as a possibility). I’d like to take advantage of this new time surplus by setting some goals.

1. Writing Goal: 500 words a day

I know I can write more than 500 words a day, but I want there to be less pressure. I feel like high expectations scare me away. The cool thing about this challenge in particular is that, its host, Inkygirl.com, has a “Weekly Word Check-In” pit stop where all the challengers are encouraged to post their progress. I’m not sure I can do this yet, but I’m going to go ahead and recommend this as an efficient motivator.

2. Reading Challenge: A Story a Week

Just a story? That’s no challenge. Ah, but it is a challenge. First of all, I haven’t been reading at all lately. So, jumping into full length books might be asking too much of myself. But, giving myself an entire week for each story has quite a few benefits. Its regular pace will keep me reading, even if its only a little at a time. And, beecause the expectations are so low in terms of quantity read, there’s no pressure, and thus, there’s a greater likelihood that I will meet my goals. The bounty of time I’ll be giving myself to read will mean plenty of time to dissect, analyze, and review the stories. I find that when I take the time to delve into what I read, the lessons I learn from picking apart the writing of others leads to improvements in my own writing.

3. Submissions!!

I want to start sending out my short stories. I want to make it an annual event. I read somewhere (Writer’s Digest?) that September is the best time to submit to literary magazines. My goal is to have 10 completed shorts by September. With the remaining 4 months and 3 weeks, I’d like to finish 5 shorts, one of which I’ve already begun. Then, I’ll send them all out to different lit magazines and hope for the best.

I’m not too good with goals and I’m definitely not too good with commitment. But my optimism never fails me, and so, once again, I will set these goals for myself.