7 Habits of Highly Successful Writers and Authors
By Patricia Fry
What distracts you from writing? Do you have cats wandering in and out of your office while you write? Are there children in the house? Maybe your spouse is retired and at home a lot. Perhaps you’re distracted by something as simple as a sunny day or friends going out to lunch or for a round of golf.
Do you allow temptations to lure you away from your writing? Or do you stand strong against the call to read a novel, watch a cooking show or mow the lawn? How do you handle the lure that threatens to take you away from your writing? If your writing is suffering, your earnings are down and you’re missing deadlines, you probably tend to cave in the face of distraction. On the other hand, if you collect enough money each month to pay the bills and add to your nest egg, you’ve probably established some excellent work habits.
What are some of the habits of highly successful writers? Read on.
- Establish a schedule and stick to it.
Hobby writers write when they feel like it—when inspiration strikes. Most successful career writers write according to a schedule. At least they begin their career by adhering to a strict schedule. After time and practice, for most professional freelance writers and authors, writing is so much a part of their life that it has become second nature. They write according to the needs and expectations of their publishers, agents, readers and themselves.
- Say "No" to distractions.
Most people find it difficult to write amidst activity. Barking dogs, a blaring TV, frolicking children, constant interruptions are not conducive to the process of writing. Choose your writing time and place carefully. Be prepared for invitations that you can’t always accept—learn to say no to lunch dates, shopping trips and those other luxury outings you enjoyed before you decided to become a career writer.
- Set rules.
Retrain your friends, family and neighbors to respect your writing time without totally alienating these people. I recommend that writers give when they take away. When you decline an invitation to lunch on Thursday, offer, instead, a jog together with your sister Saturday morning or offer a Sunday afternoon trip to the swap meet with your neighbor.
- Look at rejection as an opportunity.
Rejection is often difficult for a writer at any stage of his/her profession to accept. But it is part of the career package. I once met a writer who said he had never received a rejection letter. I say that he either lied or he wasn’t a career freelance writer–he only submitted a story now and again to a targeted magazine. Rejection is part of this profession and a writer or author must learn to accept this fact. Now, how can you turn a rejection into an opportunity? By not giving up. If your article or short story is rejected, send it to another similar magazine or change it to fit a different niche magazine. If your book proposal is rejected, look it over carefully–have a professional take a look at it and, when you are sure it is perfect, send it to some of the thousands of other publishers out there.
- Say "Yes" to unexpected opportunities.
Sometimes we ignore opportunities. We are quick to decline an invitation that might ultimately move our career forward. Sometimes we don’t recognize an opportunity when it kisses us on the cheek. I’ve learned to say YES to most opportunities even when I’m unsure about the situation at first. For example, let’s say you get an invitation to speak on the topic of your book in another state. Here’s what you might temporarily perceive as obstacles:
- I don’t know how to get there.
- Travel is expensive.
- I don’t know the people there.
- I’m not a good speaker.
- What if someone in the audience knows more about the subject than I do?
Instead of running these negative tapes, say, "yes" and then figure out the rest. List the positives:
An editor will sometimes ask me to write an article on a topic that I don’t know much about. I am often invited to give workshops or give speeches in places that are unfamiliar to me. I might get more editing work than I can comfortably handle. Most of the time I say "yes" and most of the time things work out. Sure, there are some challenges along the way, but, for me, once I’ve committed to something, I can usually find a way to make it happen.
- I might sell books.
- I might have fun.
- I might meet new people and make important contacts.
- Take risks.
Writing for publication involves constant risk-taking. You’re always trying to write what the editors and the public wants—what publishers want. You do your research to find out what they want, but it’s still a constant process of second guessing them. What if you fail? There are risks in public speaking, in traveling and in investing in your book or a travel opportunity to promote that book. You could fail–or you could perceive that you failed. But one thing is for sure, if you don’t take those risks, you won’t succeed.
- Promote, promote, promote. Whether you are a freelance writer or an author, you must constantly promote yourself, your work and/or your products. Highly successful writers do not sit around waiting for success to happen to them, they are out there making it happen.
–Patricia Fry is the author of 24 books, including, "The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book" (Matilija Press, 2006). Order it at:
Find many more articles like this at Patricia Fry's blog, http://www.matilijapress.com/publishingblog.