There are 101 different ways to define success among the writing community. Some of us might put high priority on making friendships, others in completing a difficult manuscript, and still others in seeing their book in print regardless of how many people buy it.
However, in the writing industry, whether we like it or not, professional success is usually determined by our numbers—our sales figures, how many times we make a best seller list, how many prizes our book wins, etc.
In traditional publication numbers are critically important for published authors. Without stable or growing sales figures, a publisher will often have to let an author go. In indie publishing, an author who consistently spends more on covers, editing, etc, than she makes would have to seriously consider whether to keep putting herself in the red.
Regardless of how we define success personally, I think at some level most of us want to reach a level of professional success as well. Of course, it goes without saying that we need to have compelling books. But there are plenty of great writers with well-told stories who stall in their careers.
What can help us forge ahead? What qualities are important in reaching for success?
As I brainstormed the character traits that have helped me achieve a modicum of success in the publishing industry, here are five qualities that have helped me enormously:
1. Maintain a vision.
I believe in myself and my abilities. Throughout the ups and downs of the writing journey, I’ve clung to the dream of being published. Sure, occasionally I hit depressing dips that have made me feel like giving up. But I always crawl through them and make it to the other side. I brush off the gravel, ignore the bruises, and plod steadily onward toward my goals.
I’ve also realized how important it is to have people beside me who support and believe in me. They’re there to cheer me on, remind me why I’m doing this, and inspire me to stay on the course.
2. Work extraordinarily hard.
From a young age, my parents taught me how to work. And I’m not talking about just making my bed. I mean real, sweat-inducing work. First, they modeled hard work. Then they expected it without exception. Because of their training, I’m not afraid to demand much of myself, put in long hours, and stick to a job until completion.
Sometimes I don’t think people realize how hard I’ve worked to reach this point in my writing career. I’ve sacrificed a lot, dedicated endless hours, and labored with both diligence and determination.
I haven’t had magical fairy dust sprinkled over me. My relatives aren’t in high places pulling strings for me. And my luck hasn’t been above average. Instead, I’m just an ordinary person who’s worked extraordinarily hard.
3. Facilitate humility.
Yes, we have to believe in our abilities and that we have what it takes. But we also need an attitude of “I always have room for improvement.” It’s that ever-present feeling of needing to do better that motivates us to try harder, to accept difficult feedback, to push ourselves to rise to the next level.
Without humility we risk becoming complacent and stagnant. Our books will follow suit.
4. Cultivate professional savvy.
If we hope to achieve professional success, then at some point we’ll need to emerse ourselves in the publishing industry and learn how everything works. I see far too many writers jump into publication without doing their homework. Ignorance can be the kiss of death in this competitive and enormous industry.
As I moved closer to publication, I studied everything I could get my hands on to learn about the current state of publishing and all that it entailed. Then I began to act on all that I was learning, taking risks but being wise about it.
5. Embrace inner passion.
When we’re passionate about something, that usually comes through in our actions and words. We live in such a way as to let our passion pour out into our stories, into our relationships, and yes even into social medai.
When we live genuinely, openly, and passionately, people are drawn to us, our posts, and our books. They crave a piece of that passion for themselves. Hopefully we can inspire them to reach for their own success.
There’s my short list! Now I’d love to hear yours!
What qualities have helped you? What trait do you think is THE most important in helping writers reach a level of professional success?