humor / Todays Author / writers / writing

15 Traits Critical to a Successful Writer

At times, writing seems impossible. I wonder if I have what it takes or if there’s some critical piece I’m missing that means it just won’t ever happen. I do a lot of the right things-writer

  • I read, a lot
  • I’m observant
  • I’m a loner (or, the flip side–I don’t mind being alone)
  • I bloom where I’m planted

But is that enough? I went in search of other traits friends who I consider successful writers have that might inform me in my endless quest to succeed in a craft that few can. I found that more is required to become that person who can proudly, eruditely consider themselves a writer:

  1. Writers have a selective memory–they forget the bad stuff people say and remember the good. Otherwise it’s depressing
  2. Writers are conversant with their muse. Anywhere, at any time, on any subject. It doesn’t matter. When s/he starts talking, writers listen.
  3. Writers are tethered to their voicemail in case that Big Call from an agent comes through. If there is no call, they check the machine to be sure it’s plugged in and working properly.
  4. Writers understand the importance of taking a break an do something fun, like read a book. If they are one of those unlucky folk who get writer’s block, this will suffice.
  5. Writers never show fear in front of their computer. It’s like a dog–it smells fear. It’ll then do nasty things like eat your manuscript or freeze in the middle of a scene.
  6. Writers embrace the words of Winston Churchill: Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
  7. Writers can be categorized as plants or sharks. Plants take whatever life throws at them, hoping to survive long enough to publish. Sharks never stop moving, always hunting. Successful writers are sharks.
  8. You can tell a lot about a writer by the way he/she handles three things: rejection, fame, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
  9. Talking about a WIP is almost like writing it, but not as frightening
  10. In golf, one of 14 clubs has to be the right decision. In writing, all 14 are wrong because readers want unique.
  11. Don’t judge a writer by what he does between the lines.
  12. Writers believe in the impossible, miracles, and Santa Claus. They will spend hours trying to literarily square the circle and consider it time well spent.
  13. To rephrase Voltaire: No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking from a thriller writer.
  14. Where the engineer thinks of his equations as an approximation to reality, and the physicist thinks reality is an approximation to his equations, the writer thinks it doesn’t matter if the prose are elegant.

And #15: The most prevalent trait: We are dreamers, positive thinkers, and don’t know how to quit even if it would be in our best interests to move on. That above all else was part of the heart and soul of so many writers I admire.

How about you? What makes you a writer even if your job title says Accountant?

More about writers:

My Writing Style Doesn’t Work

How to Talk to a Writer

You are not Superwoman

I’m a Failed Writer (Well, Yuvi Thinks… doesn’t really ‘think’ that–Never Mind–just watch the videos)

14 Things Writers Do Before 8am

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she writes technology training books for how to integrate tech in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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37 thoughts on “15 Traits Critical to a Successful Writer

  1. First of all, writers must be able to sit many, many hours. Secondly, they must love to share thoughts and dreams. Need to earn money is a wonderful stimulus (it might be stronger than muse).
    Finally, I was an accountant for three years. I published four books, many articles and short stories but I doubt that I am a writer. What do YOU think?

    • Great additions to the list, JF. And yes–you are a writer. You can write any genre of stories/novels/articles and they can be published/unpublished. You are communicating with words to a varied audience. Accountant may be your passion and/or where you earn money, but writing is who you are.

      • Thank you for your kind words. I am sorry that nobody ever wanted to pay me for telling stories to kids. This was and is my passion. Kids and I became older.

  2. Ha ha. I’m always having conversations with myself. When I get my teeth into something, I can’t get up, even to visit the loo because I keep telling myself, “In a minute, in a minute. :-)

  3. Wow, Jacqui!! You nailed that “board” of being a writer sssooo well! Miniscule Moments said it well, regarding caffeine–I gotta have my bare minimum of 2 cups of regular coffee!! Thanks, Jacqui, for the good laughs to oxygenate those brain cells of this aspiring writer, on a Monday!!

  4. I’m a writer because I see a story in every situation. My friends don’t understand. I’m a physical therapist, and the tiniest glimpse into a patient’s life, or a word they say, or even the way they’re dressed for the day can inspire a short story, character, plot point, or poem. Writers KNOW that there is a story in everything in this world. And we always see the potential.

    Thanks for a great post! I loved the part about squaring the circle. I swear I’ve tried to do this so many times. And the comparison between physicists and engineers. I treat a fair amount of those type of people in my job, and it’s always interesting to hear/see their minds at work. And then I compare them with my mind. Yeah… WAY different.

  5. Good list of what writers need to embody, Jacqui. Here’s a personal mantra: if you tried writing a novel but failed many times in the past, you have to become a different person in order to succeed.

    • I can see that. A different person-different voice. I just made a radical change in my writing based on input from people I trusted. I think it’s made my writer self ‘different’–a better communicator is my hope.

  6. Great list! It’s funny, but almost every single piece of good news I’ve ever gotten about my writing has come through email. So I’m pretty compulsive about checking my email.

  7. At my house EVERYONE is forced to hear about what’s happening with my characters over supper. “You won’t believe it but Buck Crenshaw suddenly turned vengeful today.”

    I’ve been accused of neglecting my real friends and family for my fake ones, but I can hardly tell the difference. :)

  8. Pingback: Changes | The Claire Violet Thorpe Express

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