For any entrepreneur, true success starts with the right attitude. You have to go in knowing you, and you alone, will make this happen. As a writer looking to have a writing career, you are an entrepreneur and the same philosophies that hold true for someone opening a restaurant or a jewelry store or law firm hold true for you.
Here is a short list of some of the personality traits every successful writer needs to have.
1. Sense of Purpose
Knowing why you want a writing career and seeking that career for the right reasons is of utmost importance. Becoming a writer to be rich or famous (I hear legions of authors rolling with laughter right now) is not the right purpose. Wishing for the gold ring is never wrong, but you can’t expect fame and fortune if you aren’t focused on the one thing that really matters, the product. Good writers are driven by their passion for the written word and a great story. They are not driven by the payout (although that certainly never hurts).
When we start a business, or even have that first idea for one, the support of others is critical. Sometimes we need them financially, but most of all we need them emotionally. Writers are no different. You need the support of those around you to give you the time and space to write, you need an agent and editor who will give you honest feedback and work tirelessly on your behalf and you might even need the financial support of a family member to help you get off the ground, but in the end you really just need yourself. Don’t become so dependent on what others are giving you (moral support, feedback, finances) that you lose sight of who really runs this career.
From the get-go you need to know that you have the confidence to achieve your dream. That no matter what others say, you are a writer and will build a career on this. I see it all the time, the author who gets feedback from three different agents, often conflicting feedback, and is unable to make the decision on her own how to handle it. In the end, you know your book better than anyone, and while you need to take constructive criticism, you and only you need to make the final decision on how to move forward with it.
4. The Value of your Product
In the world of self-publishing we have seen this problem time and time again. The author who feels that quantity is better than quality and with the advantages of self-publishing she can now drag every book she’s ever written out from under the bed and make millions by publishing it. Just because Trixie Author is publishing one book a month and making millions doing it, doesn’t mean you can too. It doesn’t mean you can keep up with Trixie’s quality at that pace. You are only as good as the last book your reader has read. It is after that book that she’ll decide whether or not to ever read anything you’ve written again. Even if it is better.
5. Giving Yourself Time
So often we set arbitrary deadlines for ourselves without really looking at their practicality. I’m going to lose 10 pounds by the start of summer, stop eating chocolate for 16 days, and finish this book in 4 weeks. What isn’t taken into account is life, hunger, the chocolate fountain at that wedding, or revisions. I’ve always said that you have to give a new business five years. It’s at that point where you have real perspective on whether you’ve succeeded or failed. Now keep in mind, at five years you still might not be making the income you’d hoped for, but you might be on a second, third, or even fourth contract (see #1), which in my book is a true sign of success. Time is something that can’t be arbitrarily set, but something that needs continual reevaluation.