Warning: this blog contains cricket.
There are several definitions of “weakness” in the dictionary. I choose, today, to sidestep those, and look more at the source and nature of some weaknesses.
Just as darkness gains its definition from the existence of light, so weakness can often be defined by strength. And can, in fact, become a strength itself. That wacky ol' Newtonian “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” kind of territory.
Here in Australia, the sport of cricket is very popular. One of our greatest players ever was a man named Steve Waugh. In his early days, he showed a propensity for getting out to a particular kind of shot (the hook shot). It was his greatest weakness in that facet of the game.
It cost him his place in the national team for nearly two years. Upon eliminating that shot from his repertoire, he regained his place and eventually became the national captain.
Not a particularly exciting tale, of course, but the point I’m getting to is that he recognised his own weakness (or had it pointed out to him enough times that he could no longer deny it). And he worked around it. That weakness stayed with him for the rest of his career. He just didn’t give it a chance to weaken him.
That weakness, in fact, became a strength. How? The opposition players knew very well his flaw in technique, and tempted him with it by delivering the ball at the perfect height and width for the hook shot. By refusing to play it, he forced the bowlers to change their game plan.
Closer to home (writing), and adopting essentially the same metaphor, there’s a popular meme floating around on Facebook.
Synonym (noun) – a word used in place of the one you can’t spell.
Every one of us, as writers, has flaws, gaps, habits... in short, weaknesses. The inability to spell a word, uncertainty in the use of a semi-colon (or whether semi-colon is, in fact, hyphenated), or phrases we use on a regular basis.
One way we can address those is to adopt a Waugh-like process of elimination. After all, a weakness suppressed is nothing more than a secret. It's effective, though it's arguably a dour way to write. A real "defence wins matches" philosophy.
But then there’s another kind of weakness (laboured metaphor warning ahead!) The weakness which consumes us, and which we consume, until we cocoon ourselves in it. The weakness which changes us and allows us to bloom. It's that “equal and opposite” situation.
I’ve said before on here, and many other places, that I have a particular weakness for the more curvaceous and voluptuous female form. It’s not my only weakness when it comes to women, but it’s certainly my most acute. Yet that very weakness has become a focal point for my writing.
Similarly, though I’m about as Anglo as you can get, and so is my wife, I profess a great (and growing) weakness for the beauty of darker skin tones. That, too, has infused my writing, though so far it’s mostly sitting on my computer, idling until it’s ready for release.
To admit a weakness can take great strength. Again, equal and opposite. Yet just as in the world of physics, the two parts need to co-exist. One without the other is an utter imbalance. There can be no "equal and opposite reaction" without first having the action. In my example, there can be no strength without first having the weakness.