SWF 2014: Four Traits Of A True Writer

The 2014 Singapore Writers Festival has gathered various renowned authors, both local and visiting, to celebrate an age old art form – writing.

After two weeks of event lectures, panel discussions and interacting with spirited individuals, it is almost impossible not to ponder about, first and foremost, the very nature of writers. Who are these writers? Do they all write for the same cause? Must a writer be published before he or she is considered a true writer?

To be honest, I have always imagined writers to be people who sit at their desk at 2am, swallowed in darkness, and typing away furiously about their deepest struggles.

But, SWF taught me that these writers are so much more than night owls – they are daringly beautiful explorers, stepping up to become a voice for humanity.

The following are common traits and characteristics that writers (should) possess, concluded from attending the various programmes at Singapore Writers Festival 2014.

1. Desire

Paul Theroux On Being A Travel Writer

Writing is both a desire to flee and to pursue. The writer chooses literature as a form of escapism, and in doing so, attempts to find self-identity in this realm of art so distant yet intrinsic to life itself. A true writer knows what it is that he or she wants to pursue, and stops at nothing to explore its realms.

2. Vulnerability

Festival Director, Paul Tan giving away balloons at Little Lit!

The writer is a servant of memory. It is an act of involvement with cultural and personal memories and, if necessary, exploring darkness. A true writer is not afraid to explore the unknown, be vulnerable, choose tutors carefully, and then bring back these stories to let imagination unfold.


3. Beauty

Naomi Wolf On Her Bestseller Book “The Beauty Myth”

The essence of art is the imagining and rendering of patterns, where in a text there is nothing unnecessary and everything necessary. The writer carefully chooses from a pool of words and literary techniques to compel the reader. The prospect of beauty is best identified, also, in hope. A true writer tells stories with wit and compassion, with beauty, that helps people understand the nature of humanity’s dilemma, but they never take away hope – for the simple possibility that some of the readers are taking care of children.


4. Responsibility

Panel Discussion on “Lasting Legacies”

Writing, a timeless method of self-expression, concerns both the author and the audience. This in turn, causes a ripple effect to the rest of society. Writers have a social responsibility in addition to being engaging and appealing – an ethical obligation to be of use to the person to whom the writing is offered. A story has a social function, and the meaning of story is to help. To befriend the reader, and serve as a reminder of meaning in our lives.

The Book of Daniel: Adventures of a Fashion Insider by Daniel Boey


Let us speak as we once spoke into the void. That on some nights, it was just a story, only a story, that was keeping us alive. –Barry Lopez

Photos: All photos taken from Singapore Writers Festival official Facebook
Special Thanks: Main organiser National Arts Council, authors and audiences involved, and you for appreciating the art of writing.


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