Someone I know has been reading Dale Carnegie’s book HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE and they read this quote to me.
First, Carnegie Quotes Alfred Adler: “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life and provides the greatest injury to others. It is from among such individuals that all human failures spring.”
Then Carnegie goes on to say: “I once took a course in short-story writing at New York University, and during that course the editor of a leading magazine talked to our class. He said he could pick up any one of the dozens of stories that drifted across his desk every day and after reading a few paragraphs he could feel whether or not that author liked people. ‘If the author doesn’t like people,’ he said, ‘People won’t like his or her stories.’”
As writers we are analyzers of people, of emotions. We take that information, break it down, then rebuild it in a fictional setting. The trick is making sure to build it realistically. Have you ever read a book and thought “wow, that author must not like people”? I have, and those books aren’t comfortable to read. It’s like looking at life through a veil of frustration and discontent.
Our work is people. Our work is knowing them; what makes them tick, how they think. How can we do that if we don’t like what we’re studying? It would similar to someone with arachnophobia trying to do a study of Tarantulas. They wouldn’t like them enough to get near them, or care enough about them to be detailed. Why would people want to read our stories if we don’t like what we’re writing about?
We often hear of the reclusive writer, and indeed many of us would probably prefer to stay behind our computers writing than go out and lead a parade. But that doesn’t mean we don’t like people. In fact, I would be willing to bet that writers, even the most reclusive of them, are avid people watchers.
The person who read that quote to me did so because they worried I would never be a great writer. I was a little surprised. I may never be a great writer but it won't be because I don't like people. I do. But because I prefer to be at the back watching them, rather than performing in front of them. I would guess that this is not uncommon among writers or other artists.
So if you want to be a good writer, learn to like people. That doesn’t mean you have to be center stage, but it does mean you need to spend time among them. And who knows, the next time you go to that activity you thought about ditching you might just end up with a great story idea.