Every writer is unique, but there are some things we tend to have in common. Following is a list of things you might consider getting into place if you want to succeed as a writer.
1. A clear definition of “success.” Many writers’ definition of success includes an audience or the money having an audience can bring. Perhaps a fan-base with 30K subscribers defines success for one where another with 30 Quora followers feels successful. Some writers have no interest in an audience but feel that success is defined by word counts and create a certain number of words per day, week, or month. Still others feel like they’ve reached success’ pinnacle simply by writing regularly regardless of audience or length. Either way, success is not always defined by numbers in terms of dollars, fans or counts, but simply by accomplishing your own clearly stated aim or purpose. What’s yours?
2. Regular Practice. The same is true of any artist, whether painter, dancer, writer, or whatever “er” you are. The more you practice, the better you get. The better you get, the more you want to work on your art. The more you work on your art–well, you get the picture. I know some writers who practice in a journal, others who practice in online forums, while still others take courses to make an ongoing practice of writing in the classroom. Wherever you exercise your writing muscles, be sure to keep at it. I doubt any of us have heard of a writer who got worse with practice!
3. Time spent on the other side of writing, reading. “The best writers are readers” isn’t just a pithy phrase youhr high English teacher fed you to get you through Don Quixote so the class could move onto more fun things like creative writing. It’s actually true…as well as relaxing, fun, and a great way to recharge your intellectual batteries between drafts of your own work. My current addiction is young adult and juvie fiction writer, Neal Schusterman. Who’s yours?
4. Equipment. Whether it’s a chewed-up pen and a ratty notebook or a high-tech laptop with the perfect keyboard, a lightning-fast processor, and magic writing dust spouting from the fan, you’re going to need something to write on or with. For me, that means having both tech and traditional writing implements at my fingertips. After all, it’s very hard to transcribe a poem or a remember a great metaphor when the napkin on which they were scribbled has disintegrated into shreds in your pocket. What do you write with?
5. Time. It’s not just the time to actually do the writing, but also the time to let that writing sit so we can come back to things with fresh eyes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written something and thought to myself, “This is amazing!” and posted them without having given the writing–and myself–the time to settle. Usually, this leads to opening the document back up later, reading it, gasping, and spending the next hour wondering, “Is it really true that you can never really get something off the internet?” The best way I’ve found of avoiding this agonizing scenario is time. Likely, the more the better. That way, when you come back to your writing, it’s with the clear, objective eyes of an editor, rather than the rheumy, love-struck ones of the writer toward his or her baby-fresh creation.
6. As I mentioned at the outset, not every writer will agree that all of the items on this list are necessary to success. Take the above idea of time, for example. Duke Ellington,
American composer and pianist, clubbed that very idea saying, “I don’t need time; I need a deadline!” Chris Baty, author of No Plot? No Problem! seemed to agree. He wrote: “A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most kickass form. It’s a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path.” I’ve also heard it quoted in still other forms. Writer of the posthumously collected works The Salmon of Doubt, Douglas Adams, said it best though, when he said “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.” Care to share your deadline story?
7. I’d like to tell you at this point what number seven is, but I’d like even more for you to tell me what it is. Post your answer to the question, “What is something you think every writer needs?” in the comments, on our Facebook page, or email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next week–