No matter what topic you’re writing about, creating a book from scratch requires a unique fortitude and strength of character. In the words of Dorothy Parker, “I hate writing, I love having written.”
The harsh truth is that writing can be hard, lonely, and can quash your confidence. The good news is that if you try to develop certain personality characteristics, then writing can be joyful, productive, and fulfilling. It’s all a matter of attitude and perspective. Here are 8 personality characteristics that we recommend for all aspiring authors.
“Patience is bitter, but its fruits are sweet.” —Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Writing a book is not an overnight process. It takes time!
When you decided to become a pro author, you decided that you wanted to write forever. Part of learning how to be an author means you have to cultivate discipline and focus, and display patience. Without those characteristics, you’ll certainly throw in the towel before any of your books see a publication date.
The good news is that patience, like any skill worth having, is something that can be learned with practice. Suzannah Windsor Freeman, author of The Busy Mom’s Guide to Writing found that infinite patience was the key to her eventual success. Freeman says, “When I talk about writers and impatience, I’m talking from a long history of personal experience. If your dream were to be a concert pianist, you wouldn’t expect to sit down and just play. You’d take lessons for many years, practice every day, and sacrifice a great deal in order to achieve that dream. So, why do we expect ourselves to be able to write well without the same level of commitment and patience?”
The basic takeaway for authors is that the best way to cultivate patience is to work every day, practice your craft, and learn over time. With those strategies, you’ll get your book written and published before you know it.
Becoming an author means that you need to be consistent with your schedule and honor the writing process. Writing is now your job, and you’ll need to treat it as such. This can be a hard thing, especially if you’re not yet earning a paycheck for your work.
Consider the following strategies to make yourself more consistent as you start the writing process:
When up-and-coming comic Brad Isaac met superstar Jerry Seinfeld, he asked if Seinfeld had “any tips for a young comic.” Isaac recalls, “He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
If you have a dog, you know they’ll do anything for a savory treat. Guess what? Us humans like our treats, too. Scheduling rewards for each milestone in your writing process is an amazing way to motivate yourself. You’ll look forward to celebrating your small steps, and you’ll look forward to your next well-deserved treat.
Have a Place of Your Own
Having your own place to write puts you in the right frame of mind for creativity. Find and create your own space where you’re most comfortable and happy—an office, a coffee shop, even a nook in your kitchen. Then use that space as your writing space. Your brain will start to make the creative connection for you.
Whatever flavor your current work takes, you need to show up, stick to a plan, and stay consistent. Treating authorship like your job means that you’re making the commitment and doing the work.
3. Outgoing Nature
Writing is a solitary endeavor, but becoming an author is a team effort. You’ll need to network, market, and make speeches and appearances. You’ll need a village behind you to cheer you on.
Your village will take many forms. You’ll need friends and family supporting you. You’ll need pros to help you make your books the best they can be. And you’ll need social media promoters and influencers to help spread the word about your work. Your village will ultimately be the key to your success.
Make an effort to expand your social circle. Force yourself outside your comfort zone—attend a party or event you would not typically go to. Try something new—eat at a restaurant alone and make conversation with those around you. Over time, as you practice, the more comfortable it’ll feel.
4. Optimistic Outlook
To be an author you’ll need to believe in yourself. A sunny, positive attitude will help you move past the roadblocks and keep you focused on your next goal. Optimism can also help you finish your book and weather any inevitable bumps—such as writer’s block—along the way.
How do you keep looking for the silver lining when it’s raining? Psychologists say that optimism can be learned. By developing “explanatory flexibility,” you can become more optimistic. What does this mean? It means that you should avoid the pessimistic, self-explanatory style, “This is all my fault” or “This isn’t fixable.” Instead, adopt a realistic optimistic self-explanatory style. This forces one to “evaluate the causes of negative life events without surrendering our sense of power and control over them.”
Which is to say, the stories we concoct about our own failures and deficits can impact how we think of them. So, learn to train your brain to reframe the way you think about bad things. You may be surprised at the outcome.
5. Thick Skin
Developing a thick skin is an important personality characteristic if you want to become an author. Knowing how to use criticism to better yourself is key. You’ll want to develop a way to view constructive criticism as feedback that will make you a better author.
Feedback from editors—or even readers—can elevate your book, as well as your writing style. At the same time, you’ll want to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff and let the flippant, unkind remarks roll off your back. There’s a fine balance between allowing criticism to fuel better work and letting it torpedo your effort, tanking your self-confidence.
Building a thick skin is no easy task and, like many of the other personality characteristics, takes time to build. Experience Life has a list of 5 great strategies to build resiliency. Make your best effort to integrate them in everyday life and you’ll find yourself better able to roll with the punches.
No matter what you write about and how amazing it is, there’s going to be somebody who objects or takes offense. Whether that’s family, friends, critics, or the general public—you can’t please everybody all of the time. Don’t waste time trying to make everyone happy. Focus on what you want your message to be for your unique audience.
All writers worry about what will happen if they expose shameful secrets. Guess what—many famous authors have launched successful careers by exposing their own vulnerabilities! Readers respond to real, human voices, so don’t be afraid to share yours.
Brace yourself for the inevitable—some people might hate your book. So-called “experts” might disagree with you and make you question your writing and your professional knowledge. But if you want to be an author, you must be impervious to haters and objectors and publish your book anyway.
Janette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, worried about exposing her raw childhood memories. But Walls found it was one of the best things she’d ever done. “One of the lessons I’ve learned from writing this memoir is how much we all have in common,” says Walls. “So many of us think that certain things only happened to us and somehow they make us less of a person. I’m constantly urging people, especially older folks, to write about their lives. It gives you new perspective. It was hugely eye-opening for me and very cathartic. Even if the book hadn’t sold a single copy, it would still have been worth it.”
Writing a book is an innately generous task. Those who share their words and their experiences with the world tend to possess a certain generosity of spirit.
Know that by sharing your words and your story, you’re helping someone else. Your unique experiences will connect with readers. People draw strength from those who’ve walked in their shoes, and lived to tell about it.
Professor and father Randy Pausch was faced with a terminal illness at a young age. Rather than wallow and fade away, he used his last days to create a legacy. His book, The Last Lecture, resonated with readers as a tale of courage and inspiration. His generosity to share his life with his readers was a gift to anyone facing a similar diagnosis.
Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Eat, Pray, Love while going through a devastating divorce. Her memoir about food, travel, and love made her a household name. She connected with readers by sharing her painful story of loss and regrowth. Her amazing story was even made into a movie!
Writing can be akin to running a marathon. The first few miles are fun. Then your legs cramp up, there’s a gross port-a-potty to use, and you still have 13 miles to go. But, at the end you get a shiny medal and applause, and it all seems worth it! Just as you need to stay determined to make it past mile 26 in a race, you’ll need to stay determined to finish your book and promote it.
There are a couple of strategies you can leverage to build determination. First, consider beginning with an outline. Outlining before writing gives your story structure and helps keep you stay on target. And second, build your mental strength. Just as one would strengthen their muscles in the gym, one can also strengthen their willpower.
Find ways to intensify your determination and become your own warrior of your message. You will hit roadblocks. But you need to keep going and learn your way around them.
Nurturing certain personality characteristics can mean the difference between seeing your name on the best-seller list and giving up completely. Actively striving to build these characteristics will help you not only become a better author, but also a better person.
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