Test: are you a born editor or a born writer?

Word count: 757 words

Reading time: About 3 minutes

Is there anyone — apart from school students — who doesn’t enjoy taking an easy, self-revealing test? Today, I’m giving you the chance to take a quick quiz for writers. Sharpen your pencils!

If you want to be a better writer, it’s important to know what tools you have to work with. I believe that people are either born editors or born writers. When I say that, I’m not claiming that you can’t learn to become better at the other. Of course you can. But we all have certain natural skills, preferences and tendencies.

Figure out whether you’re a born writer or editor and you’ll have a better understanding about what you need to do to improve.

Here’s the test:

  1. Do you have a reflexive urge to edit just about every sentence as soon as you’ve written it? This is called editing while you write. Score: 1 BE
  2. Do you tend to leave your work-in-progress in the bottom of your desk drawer for weeks at a time, hoping the editing fairies will work on it while you’re living the rest of your life? Hope springs eternal. Score: 1 BW
  3. Would you rather vacuum behind the refrigerator, have a colonoscopy or work on your income taxes than write a first draft?  I call this the procrastination paradigm. Isn’t it amazing how so much other yucky stuff suddenly becomes desirable when you need to write? Score: 1 BE
  4. Even if you have a hard time getting started writing, do you find that time always slips away while you write? You find it so easy to get in the zone it’s like the zone has your name on it. Score: 1 BW
  5. Do you spend time doing so much research you feel you could produce an encyclopedia on the topic? Research is necessary. But how do you know enough is enough? If you have a hard time drawing that line, score: 1 BE
  6. If given the choice between editing something you’ve written OR reading an incredibly boring book, would you always choose the reading? If the boring book is your choice, score: 1 BW
  7. Do you usually read your own writing out loud when you edit it? Good editors naturally read their writing out loud. This is one of the best possible ways to learn what you need to fix. Score: 1 BE
  8. When writing, do you naturally focus on telling stories? Stories make writing more interesting – not just for the reader but for the writer as well. Score: 1 BW
  9. Do you continually fret that your writing is dull and that you – and your boss and all your readers — will never be satisfied with what you do? The fear factor paralyzes many people. If it holds you back, score: 1 BE
  10. Do you never worry about what your readers are going to think of your writing ability? While others fret about the quality of their prose, you’re still able to write as though it’s no more difficult than typing. Score: 1 BW
  11. Does it take you 10 times longer to write than you had anticipated? Perfectionists are terrible at gauging the time a job will take. Score: 1 BE
  12. Do you naturally use similes and metaphors? Persuasive writers understand that writing becomes more interesting if they can work in lots of intriguing comparisons. Score: 1 BW
  13. Do you obsess on structure, certain that if you could only divine the right organization, your work-in-progress would more or less write itself? Ah, the promise of a magic bullet. Score: 1 BE
  14. When Microsoft Word puts a red squiggly line underneath a spelling error you’ve made, are you able to ignore it until you’ve finished writing the piece?  If so, you’re a better person than I! Score: 1 BW.
  15. Have you spent more than $500 on writing books? Like me, you may love books. But if you’ve spent this much on writing books, score: 1 BE
  16. Does it take you 10 times longer to edit that you had anticipated? Perfectionists are terrible at gauging the time a job will take. Score: 1 BW


5 or more BEs – you are a born editor. Quick, learn 7 ways to stop editing while you write.

5 or more BWs – you are a born writer. Consider declaring first thing in the morning as your editing time, while you are still fresh and energetic. (Substitute the word “editing” for the word “writing” in the article hotlinked.)

4 of each – You’re suspiciously well-balanced. Either that or you’re a former born editor (or born writer) still in recovery.

I suspect that Born Editors outnumber Born Writers, at least three to one. Please prove me right (or wrong) by sharing your quiz results in the comments section below.  (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)

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