Friday, November 19, 2010

My Take on the Successful Writer

We see the lists everywhere - techniques of the success entrepreneur, 7 habits of the highly successful, the top ten rules of the accomplished. While it's nice knowing how a successful writer earned his stripes, that doesn't mean his way is your way.

I love advice, but I take it like I  do critiques in a writer's group. I read them all, ponder them a moment, then discard the ones I don't like, keeping the ones I do. The last thing you want to do is become the cookie cutter image of someone else.

But it's scary navigating that path to success. That's because it's not a path. It's raw jungle with the occasional bare spot where someone's been before you. Truth is, you have to find your own way. If that petrifies you, beware. If that enthuses you, don't run so fast you fall off a cliff.

My take on the successful writer is that he tends to make his own rules. No two writers succeeded traveling the same way. Each has a different story with a unique ingredient mixture of diligence, daring and creativity. Following is my list of their characteristics:

1. Focus - almost to a fault. Kind of like that fine line between crazy and genius.

2. Routine - without fail. They write like fiends.

3. Failure - not an option. When most give up the ghost and go home, they keep plugging away.

4. No end in sight. They always feel the need to improve.

5. They write more than they talk about writing.

6. No excuses. They find ways to follow through instead of reasons why they can't.

7. THE MOST IMPORTANT - a positive outlook. How can you be successful if you don't believe you will be?

Now that's the best note to end a week. Enjoy the weekend and keep on writing.


Unknown said...

100% in agreement.

Anne R. Allen said...

Fantastic list. Especially the last one. Hardest to do, sometimes.

Writing Nag said...

I agree with Anne, number 7 is the key! Thanks for the reminder.

Anonymous said...

I keep telling myself that if I don't succeed the first time keep trying until I do. It may take 10 or even 100 tries, it's the end result that I'm focusing on. I won't stop until I attain that desired end result. Great post!

Jennifer Brown Banks said...

This is a good post, Hope. But afraid that I'd have to respectfully disagree with some of it. Though we each must navigate the path to publishing sucess differently, there are some "universals" and industry norms. Just as there are with other professions--be it lawyers, teachers, doctors, etc.

And far too often new writers forego what editors and experts advice, and find that they have a pretty bumpy road on their path to publishing success.

Hope Clark said...

Yes, there are norms, and I'll be the first to say you cannot be different until you know what those norms are so you can make intelligent deviations and personifications. I used to train ambitious employees that way, saying they could take short cuts until they knew the long way there.

Midlist Writer said...

Nice list, Hope. I'm happy to say I do all of these, although I occasionally fall down on number 7. Every writer has those dark days when they think they should throw in the towel. After a few years with bouts of self-doubt, you end up realizing that it's just part of the game. I just signed a contract for my eleventh book and I still have to fend off that little voice saying, "You're doing what? Are you CRAZY?"