3 Ways to Discover Your Brilliance As a Writer

Do you find yourself going off in all kinds of different directions in your writing? The problem may not be with your focus or your writing ability. It may be that you simply haven’t tapped into your own brilliance just yet.

Many of our best authors are known because of their brilliance in a particular area — for instance, no one could write an addictive spy thriller better than the late great Tom Clancy. Malcolm Gladwell can connect seemingly disparate events in refreshing new ways. And, David Sedaris has a knack for finding the hilarity in the tragic.

What about you? Where do your unique strengths as a writer lie?

Here are 3 Ways to Tap into Your Own Brilliance:

1. Pay attention to your own reading list.

Are you drawn to quiet stories that explore the characters’ inner lives? Or do you love being swept up by tales of exotic places or fantastical settings? Do you devour mysteries and thrillers? What you love to read may reflect what kinds of storytelling you connect to, and the stories you would enjoy telling.

Try this: Reread your favorite books with an eye to dissecting the author’s technique. Look for how the author does what she does. This will help demystify the process for you.

2. Go with the flow.

When you begin writing, what comes easiest for you? Is it dialogue? Is it description? Is it ideas? That’s a good place to pinpoint where your strengths lie.

Try this: Begin your writing, just using your strengths. Avoid getting stuck on those elements you tend to struggle with. See what develops when you remove the difficulties from your writing.

3. Ask others.

What do other people admire about you? For instance, if you’re a fabulous chef, maybe you should write about food. If people fall over laughing at your stories, use humor in your storytelling. If you tend to notice small details that others miss, then mysteries may be your thing. If you’re great with animals, perhaps you have a talent for writing through their points-of-view.

Try this: Ask people who know you in various circumstances to name one thing you’re really good at. You may be surprised at the answer. That could be a key to try something in your writing you may not have thought of previously.

For many writers, it can take years to pinpoint and develop particular strengths. Enlisting the help of a professional writing coach or book editor as early in the process as possible can be pivotal in nourishing a writer’s brilliance.

An editor is not simply trained to pick apart what’s wrong with a work, but also to hone in on what a writer is doing right, and help develop those talents.

6 comments on “3 Ways to Discover Your Brilliance As a Writer

  • I enjoyed this article, and I definitely agree with the first point.

    I used a color coding technique (explained on my website/blog) to study and compare authors whose work I did and didn’t like.

    This helped me to distill the techniques that I wanted to learn.

    Thanks again,


  • I really have to say that free writing is key. Take time to be by yourself and write without any outside influences. When I committed to being a writer I also didn’t read anything too close to what I saw as my own style. Lots of poetry!

  • Bees, wonderful bees! I’m actually glad you brought up Malcolm Gladwell, as I ended up thinking about him in reference to your first paragraph. I found that his books, while incredibly engaging and interesting, were missing the lyrical quality and gonzo approach that I so love in the works of Hunter S. Thompson, Didion, and more. This is leading me to write more literary nonfiction. It sent me off toward my voice.

    Great post as always.


  • As a nonfiction writer as well as an aspiring fiction author, I can tell you how difficult it can be to pinpoint precisely what my writing style — much less genre — is. I write narrative nonfiction as well as young adult fiction — it’s quite a leap, but I do love the challenge. Yet, it has helped me to examine my reading list. I’ve found similarities in tone and theme across the board. Sometimes all it takes is some determined analysis.

  • I really do love your advice on here. I enjoy that you provide comprehensive ways writers can develop their craft through activities, and not simply ways to “think” about writing differently. Give me a break! If I sit here “thinking” and not “writing” (of course, you must think AFTER you write, aka revise), I won’t get anything done!

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