I’ve seen a number of articles discussing what not to do when it comes to writing, but when it comes to habits to emulate the advice seems to dry up. After all, every writer is different – what works for some may not work for all. So rather than habits, let’s talk about three virtues that all successful writers seem to have and how to translate those into success for yourself.
A Diligent Work Ethic
“I don’t like to write, but I love having written.”
It’s a common sentiment among writers to prefer accomplishment to the work that goes into actually writing something. But if you’re ever going to be successful you have to learn how to finish what you start. “Finishing” can mean any number of things from polishing a not-quite-there piece to actually sitting down to write in the first place.
It takes self-discipline to practice your craft, and not just the writing part. You need to read your contemporaries as well as the classics. You should have an idea of the history of your genre and be aware of where it’s headed with new publications. You have to market yourself and engage in writing communities. You have to research possible publishers and polish your work until it’s ready to submit. Successful writers put in the work.
Successful writers acknowledge their flaws and want to improve their craft. You can’t do that without a dose of humility. It can be tempting to write off publishers because they don’t understand your genius, but is it really helpful to tune out legitimate criticism? When publishers tell you “No,” respect their decisions and use it as an opportunity to reflect and improve. Listen to your editor, your beta readers, and anyone who is willing to read your work and offer helpful suggestions. You don’t have to take every piece of advice you get, but humility means accepting that your work may not be perfect as it is.
In the same vein, humility can mean respect for fellow authors. Sure, we’ve all read something we didn’t like and secretly wondered “How on earth did this get published? My stuff’s better than that!” But with some humility you can take a long, hard look at what it is that made them successful and learn from it. That will translate into success for yourself, rather than jealousy. And as you get more experience, respect the up-and-coming authors who are trying to break into the market. Successful writers pass on what they’ve learned to those who share their aspirations, rather than viewing everyone as competition.
A Resilient Spirit
This is sort of the opposite of humility. It takes a lot of self-confidence to stare down a contest and say “Yeah, my story could win that.” Submitting is an act of bravery, and perseverance in the face of rejection is the most important of all virtues. Success does not come easy. As I said above, you have to put in the work. You finish what you start. You revise. You take advice where you can get it. Sometimes you do it all over again and the answer is still “No.”
Successful writers don’t give up, even after all that. The great thing about writing is that you can do it for your entire life. You never stop learning. You never stop improving, so there’s no reason to get impatient with a lack of success. The submission you send out today is bound to be better than the one yesterday because you’re always improving and evolving. And if you put in the work and are humble enough to actively seek to improve yourself it’s really only a matter of time before that effort is rewarded. But you can’t give up before that happens – not if you want to be successful.
What say you, readers? Is there anything I’ve missed? Anything you disagree with? Leave your suggestions below in the comments so we can all learn from each other!