Tuesday, December 15, 2009

7 Habits of Successful Writers

If any of you have ever played a sport or musical instrument, then chances are you first took lessons from someone that already knew how to do it. After you moved past the clarinet-that-sounds-like-a-dying-duck phase or the sending-almost-every-tennis-ball-soaring-out-of-the-court phase, you probably started noticing people that played very well. And if you're like many others, then you started watching--and often copying--the professionals to get better yourself. Sports magazines are filled with articles on "How To Serve like Federer" or, until recently, "How to golf like Tiger Woods."

If you want to be successful in any field, then you watch and learn from those who are already successful. And that applies to this crazy world of writing that I'm spending so much time and energy in. I've been following successful authors on their blogs and Twitter, and I've been noticing some patterns, or habits, if you will.

So...Drum Roll...

The 7 Habits of Successful Writers

1. They write. Even when they don't feel like it or when the muse is being stubborn or when they feel a little under the weather. They write even when the story seems to merely held together by spit and paper clips.

2. They read. They read to see what's being published, what's out there, and what's not. They do their homework and their research. But above all they read because they love it, and that's why they write.

3. They aren't afraid of change. I'm talking about in their writing. They revise, change, re-write, and try new things.

4. They treat it like a job. Just like any job, writing has it's boring and monotonous moments, and those moments when you'd rather have a vacation day. But if you want to be successful, you have to treat your writing time like a job that you're getting paid for--even if you aren't. Yet.

"I only write when I am inspired, and I see to it that I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning."--Peter de Vries

5. They listen to music. This is sort of iffy, but it comes up so often that I think there has to be something to it. I like to write to music, because it helps get me in the right mood for a scene. If I pick the wrong music then it goes against me.

6. They don't hide in their shell. They get out and experience life and other people, even if it's just watching them. Otherwise what would they have to write about? These days, authors also have to do a lot of their own marketing, which means that they have to interact with the public, too.

7. They keep writing. They don't wait around to see what the editor/agent/critics/public thinks about one project; they are already busy on the next one.

Apparently I'm not the only one in the blog-o-sphere with this idea. If you'd like to see what others believe are successful writing habits, here are some links:

10 Habits of Successful Writers at The Writing Journey
Writing Habits of Successful Authors I've Known by Alan Rinzler
Learn from the Greats: 7 Writing Habits of Amazing Writers on Write To Done

I'm sure there are more than 7 habits, but Stephen Covey made the magical number seven catchy, so I'm going to limit myself. What other habits of successful authors have you noticed?


ElanaJ said...

I think this might go with one of yours, but I think writers aren't afraid to fail. Because no one succeeds the first time.

L.T. Elliot said...

This is excellent, Jaime! I'm with you on each of these (although I love Elana's comment too) and I can see where I can improve. =]

Terresa said...

Very good post! I'm over here thanks to L.T.'s shout out. So glad I stopped by. I'll be back.

Terresa said...

PS: The music thing doesn't work for me at all. I have to listen to music separately from writing or it's brain overload for me. That's just me, though.

Bethany Wiggins said...

I'd say the first two steps are the key, but I could NEVER complete the writing of a MS without music! And I did not succeed the first time... or second... or third... but I kept plugging away.

David J. West said...

Block is never a problem because I keep innumerable spiral bound notebooks that are full of ideas. Ideas I make sure to always jot down whenever they come-because you do forget-I can always come back to them and see where I want to use them or even start a new project.
So I cant recommend enough always recording your ideas.