What Does It Really Take to Be a Die-Hard Writer?


 By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Over the past several years of blogging, I've met hundreds of new writers who are excited about writing and eager to learn. They jump on the writing bandwagon with gusto, hang up a writer's sign on a website or blog, and maybe even publish a book.

But sadly, I've watched as many of those writers eventually drop off the bandwagon.

I can't help but wonder why so many close up shop and fall away?

Obviously there will be seasons in our lives. Some writers go through times when they need to take a break for one reason or another. I've been there, done that.

But what about everyone else? Why do so many quit?

There are probably hundreds of reasons why so many start writing, get excited about it, but then fade into oblivion. But what does it take to keep going and beat the odds?

During the past five years, I've written 7 full length novels (100k each). Over that span, I've learned a lot about what it takes to have a die-hard commitment to writing.

Here are just a few of my conclusions:

1. Write with consistency: I haven't always had the same weekly schedule, and I haven't always had the same daily word count goals. In fact, there have been periods in my life when I considered 500 words a day a huge accomplishment. However, no matter my life circumstances, I always set daily goals in one shape or another and then discipline myself to consistently work toward them.

2. But also write with flexibility: While I set daily word count goals, I also set a weekly goal. That way, if I have a bad day or something comes up that prevents me from writing, I can allow myself to make up for the missed words on another day. The daily goals act as guidelines, but ultimately I shoot for a weekly total. I don't beat myself up with my goals. I show myself grace. And because of that I can keep going even on the days I fail.

3. Write with purpose: I often take time when I'm between writing projects to read a writing craft book. Then when I begin a manuscript, I try to incorporate a new technique or pay particular attention to a poor habit. I slow down for a little while in my writing to consciously practice and implement what I'm learning.

4. But also write with abandon: While I like to be intentional, eventually those things I'm learning become second nature so that I'm able to write without having to work so hard to remember everything I'm trying to incorporate. Most of the time, I lock the internal editor away and give the story permission to take me where it will. Writing with abandon is one of the greatest pleasures of the writing life.

5. Write with your dreams in hand: In all the years I've been writing, I've never given up on my dreams, whether they were getting published or making a bestseller list or whatever. I let those dreams motivate me and fill me with determination to keep going. And when I reach one milestone, I set another. And those dreams continually fuel the drive to become better.

6. But also write with realism. At the same time I hold onto my dreams, I attempt to keep my feet on the ground. The industry today is more competitive than ever before. There are more books being published now than in the history of the world. And it's tough for any author, no matter how good, to build a readership. We'll do best if we go into the writing and publishing process with realistic expectations.

7. Write through the pain. Over the years, I've learned that writing isn't all rainbows and roses. I don't always enjoy the process every time I write. In fact, some days it's just plain hard work. But the other thing I've learned is that I can't wait to feel in the mood or for inspiration to strike. I just have to sit down, put my fingers on the keyboard, and type through the pain.

8. But don't write if it doesn't also bring you joy. Ultimately, even though writing can be hard—really hard—it also brings me incredible joy and satisfaction to weave a story from beginning to end. I'd honestly love to write whether I ever saw the book in published format or not. At heart I'm a story-teller. I love words. And I love putting my stories and words together.

What about you? Have you seen other writers fall away? What do you think it takes to be a die-hard writer?