5 Traits of the Successful Author
I am off to THRILLERFEST in NYC, and I’m sure it will be thrilling….bada bump *snare*. Today, I want to talk about some fundamentals. We can have all the talent in the world, but without these five ingredients, we will be hard-pressed to ever reach our dreams.
This should be a, “Yeah, no duh,” but, sadly, it isn’t. I meet a lot of people who say they want to be a professional author, but the second they face any opposition or criticism they give up. Here’s the thing:
If we truly LOVE it, we won’t give up.
One of my favorite stories is about a music master who traveled village to village in search of proteges to train. A young boy who played the violin practiced extra hard in anticipation of being chosen. On the given day, he played for the master and, at the end, the master said, “No, you don’t love music enough.” Heartbroken, the boy ran home.
A year later, the same master came to the village and spotted the boy. The master asked if he was going to audition. The boy crossed his arms and replied, “No. Your comment hurt me to the core. I put the violin away and haven’t touched it since.” To which the master replied, “I told you you didn’t love music enough.”
If we love writing, NOTHING can stop us. My motto in regards to writing comes from Hannibal:
Aut viam inveniam aut facial.
I will either find a way or I will make one.
Again, writers write. One of the main reasons I am such a proponent of blogging is that it trains writers for a professional pace. It trains us to meet deadlines. Disciplined people work no matter what, and they finish what they start. Amateurs and the immature flit from thing to thing. Professionals and genuine artists dig in and complete the task.
Will all of us have this self-discipline in the beginning? No. Most of us don’t. Self-discipline is a muscle of character, and it needs to be trained and built just like biceps. Every time we stick to something when the siren’s song of a new shiny tempts us to start something new, we get stronger.
Great writers know they always have more to learn. Read, find mentors, and learn to admit shortcomings. None of us are perfect. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Those who readily admit flaws and seek help and training? We stand far better chances of succeeding long-term.
I used to have a problem with deadlines and self-discipline. I had the attention span of a crack-addicted fruit bat. That was why I began blogging. I knew that those character flaws would always limit me. Even though it was embarrassing to admit I had some deep flaws, it would have been impossible to ever combat that weakness if I hadn’t mustered the courage and humility to recognize where I fell fatally short.
It is okay to be imperfect. It is okay to be new. It is okay to not know everything. When we are humble enough to admit we need help, that is the first step toward authentic growth and change.
Healthy Relationship with Failure
I have said this many times, If we aren’t failing, then we aren’t doing anything interesting. Expect failure. Better yet, embrace failure.
We will learn far more from failure than success. The trick is to learn. What went wrong? How can we do it better? What ingredient is missing?
One of my favorite quotes is, “Persistence prevails when all else fails.” We must have bulldog tenacity to do anything remarkable. Anyone can start something. We have feelings and other people cheering us on. It’s when the new wears off and the dream looks more like work that most of us fall short. Hey, I’ve been there. This last leg of trying to get out my new book before Thrillerfest (my own self-imposed deadline)? I thought it would kill me. It’s so easy to be just in reach of the finish line and tap out.
DON’T. Keep pressing.
What are some character traits that you might add? What do you struggle with? What area gives you the most trouble? What have you done to make it better? What is some advice you would like to share?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.
At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!