Do all poets, poem writers, scribes and verse makers possess the same essential personality traits? You get to be the judge! These traits of a poet’s personality begin with a brief glimpse into the writing habits of famous writers and poets.
This article was inspired by a reader who wants to be a writer. Here’s his question is about the personality traits of published poets and authors: “Is it possible to learn to become a great poet, or is the ability to write poetry part of his personality?” asked John on 6 Personality Traits of Successful Writers. “I’m not sure why but my thoughts are that it is more the second one. Writing, especially poems and songs, is a talent that is given to only a few people. A poet has different personality traits.”
I disagree. Writing poetry isn’t a God-given talent or natural personality trait that is given to successful poets. Creativity, curiosity, and perhaps eccentricity are natural personality characteristics of published poets…but the ability to write is not a personality trait. It is a learned skill.
Poets may be more creative and eccentric, but writing poetry is a skill that can be learned. Yes, some poets have personality traits that help them writer better poems – just like some people are naturally talented horticulturists, trombone players, horse whisperers, physicists and preachers. We all have natural strengths and abilities that feed a certain skill or passion. But we all also have the ability to improve on whatever natural talent we have.
If you feel like you’re not a natural poet but you want to write poems, then learn. You WILL improve your skills if you practice the basics and keep growing forward. Whether or not you have “essential” personality traits of a poet is less important than your ability to keep writing poetry and remain in a state of childlike awe and wonder (which are both essential traits of a poet’s personality!).
Research on the Personality Traits of Famous Writers
In a Northwestern University study called How would Einstein use e-mail? published by the journal Science, researchers found that famous poets and writers who wrote letters using pen and paper – long before electronic mail existed – did so in a pattern similar to the way people use e-mail today.
The researchers examined extensive letter correspondence records of 16 famous writers, performers, politicians and scientists. Einstein, Darwin, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Ernest Hemingway were among the men studied. The most noteworthy result was that all 16 writers sent letters randomly…but in cycles.
This study of a writer’s personality traits and organizational behavior revealed that no matter what exactly they wrote (eg, poetry, political treatises, personal letters, bestselling novels) their profession, all the writers behaved the same way. More specifically, they adhered to a circadian cycle. These writers and poets tended to write a number of letters at one sitting, which is efficient and productive. When they wrote had more to do with chance and circumstance than the more logical, organized approach of writing the most important letter first.
How does this relate to a poet’s personality traits? You can decide for yourself; I believe that the most successful poets and bestselling authors are organized and efficient. They have patterns and habits – such as batching their writing – that help them write more, write better, and write happier.
Batching your work is a great way to become more successful and productive. Whether you’re trying to get your poetry published or simply writing a haiku for a Language Arts assignment due tomorrow (which you knew about two months ago), the best way is to hone the habit of batching you work. You’ll get stuff done faster. And the faster you outline, research, write and edit your work, the higher your chances of succeeding as a published poet.
The 8 Essential Traits of Every Poet’s Personality
These aren’t the scientific results of a research study – though I did write about personality traits in Are You an Introvert? A Test for Introverted Personality Traits.
Rather, these personality traits are based on my own experience as a writer. I’ve been working (and earning a healthy living) as a full-time freelance writer and blogger for over 10 years. I don’t write much poetry, but I believe the personality traits of poets and writers are similar…if not exactly the same.
1. Pattern-oriented and rhythmic
Poets and writers see patterns not only in their writing, but life itself. A poet sees patterns and rhythm in each line and verse of every poem. Sometimes every word hold rhymes and rhythms! A poet’s personality is the essence of pattern and rhythm. A poem or verse without pattern is chaos.
Productivity experts call this “batching.” It’s simply a system that allows writers to do all like-minded things at the same time. For me as a blogger, this means collecting a dozen images at once, finding the best quotations from poets and writers at once, writing at once, and editing at once.
2. Protective of their time
If “people pleaser” is a personality trait, then the most successful published poets are not people pleasers. They know how to say no. Successful poets close their door so they can work in peace, prioritize their writing, and refuse to be distracted for long.
Successful poets and published writers simplify their lives so they aren’t too busy to write. This means saying no to friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, strangers, and their own children. Some people don’t understand this need to set boundaries – especially if they aren’t familiar with a poet’s personality traits and passion for penning poems.
3. Internally motivated
Successful poets possess the laudable skill of internal motivation and inspiration. They write for themselves, for their own personal reasons. The best poets and writers are driven/led/guided by their failures/experiences/heartaches; they want to spread the misery/insights/information to help readers live fulfilling lives.
One of the key personalty traits to any type of success in life is internal or intrinsic motivation. This simply means that if you do something for your own internal reasons and rewards, then you’re more likely to succeed. If you’re trying to chase trends or please people (external motivation), your drive will fade. Eventually you’ll fail because only a famous few actually stay popular for a long time.
If you have a poet personality, read Best Jobs for Introverts and People Who Like to Be Alone. Is writing poems for a living on the list?
4. Creative and curious (absolutely a poet’s personality trait!)
Successful poets and writers are curious, and love creating new worlds. They’re also open to what it means to create a whole new world! For example, each of my She Blossoms blog posts are their own little world. I’m creating fresh all the time – even when I’m rewriting an article from 2008 (like now!).
Are you a poet who struggles to write more and better? Read The Practicing Poet: Writing Beyond the Basics. Editor Denise Lockward organized this book into ten sections, each is devoted to a poetic concept: “Discovering New Material,” “Finding the Best Words,” “Making Music,” “Working with Sentences and Line Breaks,” “Crafting Surprise,” and “Achieving Tone.”
Creativity isn’t necessarily an essential personality trait of a poet, but it’s helpful. Successful writers and published authors have a strong sense of curiosity and creativity. Many also “need” to write every day – whether it’s poetry, a blog post, private journaling, or even long emails to friends and family.
In A Writer’s Personality Traits – The Key to Getting Published, I shared that I suffered through most of October without a single magazine assignment (but, luckily, I was working on two previously assigned articles). Then, when I thought I wouldn’t meet my financial goals for the month, three editors emailed me four assignments within 12 hours! Four business days later, I had six writing assignments due.
So, another personality trait of successful poets and writers is having hope and faith that another poem, song, composition, article assignment or book idea will turn up. If you lose hope, you lose the edgy thrill of writing poetry and selling your work.
“Writers need to be stubborn,” says publication coach Daphne Gray-Grant in Why stubbornness is a virtue. “Of course, it’s obvious why book authors and thesis writers need to. Their projects are long and time-consuming — I like to describe them as marathons rather than sprints — and they demand a great deal of sticktoitiveness.”
She adds that even shorter pieces can require stubbornness – which is why a list of the personality traits of the best poets and writers HAS to include dogged perseverance. “Certain interview subjects may be difficult to reach or may not give you the information you need. You may have difficulty finding the right lede (story beginning). You may be at a loss as to how to explain something truly complex in simple and plain English. You may have an editor who fails to give you enough guidance or feedback — or, conversely one who gives you far too much.”
7. Detached (an essential personality trait of a poet is the ability to cut and slash)
“Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings,” said Stephen King in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. I think William Faulkner said it first.
Editing is hard, but a good poet detaches from her poem. Writing poetry is personal, but not the crux of who a poet is. Her poems are not her babies, and her work doesn’t define her. If it did, then every criticism would destroy or damage her. Successful poets, writers and published authors need a sense of heathy detachment from their work.
If you don’t edit yourself well, read The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself by Susan Bell.
Bell is a long-time professional editor of both fiction and nonfiction, as well as a teacher of editing at the New School in New York City. “Self-editing is not only possible, it’s necessary and it can be learned,” she says. Bell provides a slew of ingenious methods for viewing your work with fresh eyes – which will help you learn the art of detaching from your poems or prose.
“The idea of detachment is crucial,” adds writing coach Daphne Gray-Grant. “Don’t try to be the best writer ever, working on the most ground-breaking piece/book/thesis ever produced in the history of humankind. Don’t equate yourself with your writing. Don’t think that getting published will solve all of your life’s problems. Madness that way lies.”
In 57 Tips For Writers, From Writers, Marelisa Fabrega says Neal Bowers was told by his first creative writing teacher, Malcolm Glass, to “Trust the process and the reader.”
Glass had a “colorful metaphor of grabbing the tail of a wild hog as it runs by and letting it drag you through the thicket,” writes Fabrega. “Back when he first heard it, that metaphor didn’t help Neal much. However, he adds the following: These days, though, I often look back at those unplanned and unpredictable trails my writing makes through the brush, with me hanging on, and I think of Malcolm’s wild hog.”
A poet’s personality has to involve faith, trust, and a sense of wild abandon.
The 8 Essential Traits of Every Poet’s Personality
- Pattern-oriented and rhythmic
- Internally motivated
- Creative and curious
On his blog Advice to Writers, Jon Winokur offers writing quotations and advice. Here’s a post that relates to our poetic personality traits: James Kilpatrick’s “5 Common Traits of Good Writers.”
5 Common Traits of Good Writers
- They have something to say.
- They read widely and have done so since childhood.
- They possess what Isaac Asimov calls a “capacity for clear thought,” able to go from point to point in an orderly sequence, an A to Z approach.
- They’re geniuses at putting their emotions into words.
- They possess an insatiable curiosity, constantly asking Why and How.
Do you have a poet’s personality? If you’re obsessed with the idea of writing poetry for the rest of your life – whether or not you get your poetry published, then maybe you do have the traits it takes to write poems for until the end of time…and beyond.
“Take up one idea,” said Swami Vivekenanda. “Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”
Whether you want to be one of the best slam poets, freelance writers, popular bloggers, bestselling authors, or New York Times journalists, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have a “poet’s personality traits.” What matters is that you write every day and share your work with whoever needs and reads it.