Discipline and perseverance—the key qualities of a successful writer.
People who don’t write for a living tend to romanticize writing and writers. They think talented writers have some kind of God-given internal Dictaphone; when they sit down at their desk, the truly talented writers simply turn up volume and voila, out comes a story, an essay, a novel. That image is reinforced by legends about people such as Jack Karouac, who supposedly wrote On the Road in a single draft on a roll of linotype.
Don’t we all wish?
The truth is, to succeed as a writer, two qualities are essential: discipline and perseverance. (Notice that I did not mention talent!) Discipline means sitting down at your desk, doing the work—whether you feel like it or not. Waiting for the so-called “muse” can be a hopeless proposition and, at best, produces sporadic periods of writing.
As with achieving success in any endeavor, perseverance separates the real from the want-to-be writer. Writing is a messy process, sometimes easy, sometimes not so easy, and sometimes hard. As a writer, you’ve got to be willing to wade through a jumble of ideas, working through various drafts until you discover the essential kernel that ties the story together. You’ve got to believe in yourself, even when it seems as though no one else does. And, above all, never give up.
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www.pw.org Poets and Writers, Inc., publisher of Poets and Writers Magazine
www.awpwriter.org The Association of Writers and Writing Programs
www.writersmarket.com Writer’s Market offers detailed information about editors and agents.