I recently came upon one of those inspirational lists aimed toward business people who want to be more successful. Since I am the sort of person who is always open to change and personal improvement I read it. I was impressed. More important (to me and this blog anyway) I immediately noted that many of the author’s observations made as much sense for writers as they did for business people. Often, the bad habits that prevent us from being successful in one aspect of our lives prevent us from being successful in every aspect of our lives.
So I adapted them specifically to apply to those of us who are trying to make a mark in the world of writing and literature.
Do you know why the odds of being a successful writer are so low? Because it is insanely difficult. Unfortunately, many of us have slipped into bad habits that actually work against us as we battle those odds. Changing those bad habits is the simplest way to increase those odds.
Simple, not easy.
So let’s get to it. Below are the nine bad habits that prevent us from writing success:
We have to accept responsibility for every aspect of our writing career. Don’t blame our spouses, editors, publishers, or the buying public. Don’t blame circumstances. Don’t blame luck. The success or lack of success in our writing career is a direct consequence of the choices we make. We need to own it.
Procrastination is like a credit card. It can be fun at the time, but sooner or later the bill will come due. Procrastination is a career-killer.
Perfection does not exist. Anywhere. It is only a great excuse to keep from getting started. Instead of seeking perfection, we need to do our best. We need to strive to be good. We need to strive to be better than we were yesterday. But we need to forget about perfection.
Fear of Criticism
If we are going to achieve anything worthwhile, we must expect tons of criticism and haters. We must learn to handle them. Take the criticism that helps us grow under consideration and ignore the rest. We cannot let the fear of criticism keep us from creating. Trying to please everyone is a sure route to failure.
Fear of Failure
Failure is absolutely necessary. It is a life lesson designed to bring out the best in us. No one likes failing and a little fear is normal. But we must guard against becoming discouraged about our failures. It really is not about how many times we fail, but about how many times we get up and try again.
If we’re working just as hard as everyone else, we have to consider ourselves lazy. Writing is an extremely competitive vocation. If we want to stand out above the masses, we will have to work harder and longer than everyone else. We have to work our butts off. It will show in what we create.
We have to drop all our self-limiting beliefs, all the “I can’t”s. If we want something with a strong enough passion, we will find a way to make the impossible happen. Our only limits are in our own minds. Change them.
Develop the habit of writing all the time, whether we feel like it or not. The pro writer doesn’t make excuses. She just gets the work done, day in and day out. Short bursts of fiery enthusiasm is the stuff of amateurs.
The most successful writers understand that they need to sharpen their skills all the time. We are never, ever, good enough. Once we stop improving our skills, we will immediately fall behind our competition, who are still improving. We need to decide early to become as excellent as we can and to do the work necessary to stay at the top of the field.
Many thanks to Jeremy Ng for the original list.