Maybe. Maybe not.
One thing is correct, though. Every successful writer started out like every other writer, with hopes and dreams of making a living out of the pen, of gaining an audience of avid readers, of maybe even a NY Times bestseller. JK Rowling famously wrote Harry Potter in cafe as a single mum struggling to pay the bills. Stephen King was a teacher before Carrie was accepted for publishing after 30 rejections.
There are innumerable accounts of struggling writers making it good. Each has their own unique story and circumstances they had to overcome. Yet there are probably 5 things they, as unknown writers, did well to help them succeed when their circumstances weren’t as rosy as they are now.
If we were to travel back in time and meet these writers before they made a success of their writing, we’d more likely than not discover that they were putting into practice these success writing traits:
- They Persevere
- They have Purpose
- They Promote themselves
- They Prioritize
- They stop Procrastinating
Let’s now discuss each of the 5 ‘successful writing traits’ briefly.
Perseverance is something successful writers do well. They never give up. When the going gets tough, the writer keeps writing.
They take to heart the advice of Winston Churchill when he said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, was rejected 20 times by publishers before being accepted.
Margaret Mitchell’s classic, Gone with the Wind, was rejected 38 times by publishers before being published.
But the award for most perseverance goes to Robert M. Pirsig who’s book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was said to have been rejected 121 times before being published.
At times they surely gave up hope and thought they would never succeed. But they kept persevering nonetheless and eventually succeeded.
They Have Purpose
Having a purpose helps you to persevere when all else seems lost. Successful writers believe in them self. They believe in their writing. They believe what they’re doing is for a greater cause. Because belief keeps you moving when you’re tired and unmotivated. It keeps you writing when you’ve lost all other reason to write.
Having a purpose also helps to develop your content. Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, talks about in his ‘Golden Circle’, having clarity about your Why?, your purpose, leads you to your What?, which leads to your How?
But it all starts with your Why?, your purpose. When you are crystal clear about the reasons for why you are writing, everything else – your what and your how – falls into place.
Although self-promotion is viewed with skepticism and even frowned upon by many writers, self-promotion is something successful writers do well.
Whether it’s attending book fairs, writers’ events, workshops, and seminars, successful writers know the value of networking their local and wider community of book readers.
In today’s world of online communities and social media marketing, building a following of interested readers on a worldwide scale is now easier than it’s ever been for writers and authors.
Self-promotion also means spending time with people. Writing can be a lonely endeavour, it can be easy to sit at the desk day after day, week after week, month after month typing away at the keyboard. But it’s important to interact and engage with people face-to-face, if only to get great material for your book.
Furthermore, you are the average of the 5 people you surround yourself with, as psychologists like to point out. Therefore, if you want to be a successful writer, surround yourself with successful writers and learn from them.
Prioritizing is also something successful writers do well. Setting time to write is a priority for successful writers, but it’s also protected, like an endangered species.
Time has a habit of slipping away if it isn’t protected and cared for. Successful writers allocate time each day or each week specifically and only for writing. Life gets in the way, life distracts us, but if we’ve allocated specific time for our writing and protect it from those distractions then your words have a much greater chance of getting out of your head and onto paper or onto the screen.
Successful writers also set writing goals. Whether it’s word count goals to reach per day or per week, or whether it’s a set number of articled per month, even books per year, setting goals helps to prioritize what’s important, what can wait for another time, what’s urgent, and even what can be discarded.
They Stop Procrastinating
Procrastination is a book killer. Many great ideas have fallen victim to the inaction of procrastination.
Procrastination is something successful writers do not to well. They are pro-active in their writing. They take action, even when they don’t feel like it. They focus on getting started and keeping motivated, keeping the writing inertia going.
To keep procrastination at bay, successful writers do not focus on what can go wrong, but imagine how great it will be if their writing works out. They keep one eye on the end result, their vision of where they want to be, and one eye on what needs to be done now.
Which is write.
To improve your chances of writing success, take note of the 5 things successful writers do well:
- Persevere and never give up, especially when the going gets tough.
- Be crystal clear on your Why? and your purpose for writing.
- Promote yourself and your writing at every opportunity.
- Prioritize your writing time and your tasks.
- Be pro-active and stop procrastination in its tracks.
‘Remember, success like writing is a habit’
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