What traits do you think lead to success?
The traits that I feel are most important to success in the writing industry are: social acuity, endurance, and thick-skin. Keep in mind that my own success is debatable, depending on your definition of success and that most of this is from what I’ve observed within the industry.
There are a lot of rejections in this industry. Some of these rejections are impersonal, leading some people to feel downtrodden because they don’t feel like they’re being read or considered. They don’t feel like they’re even getting a person on the other end. So the rejections feel automated.
Some of the rejections are personal, which can feel even more personal depending on what’s said. Some point out flaws in a particular story, while others point out flaws in writing ability. While still others might even go as far as pointing out potential flaws in the author themselves. And these are all, generally, from strangers across the world, people who you have no idea whether they have the training to be saying what they say or even if they’re someone whose opinion should be taken.
Not only do you get told NO a lot, but we also get reviews. Reviews can be sweet and wonderful and the best things in the world. Or they can be downright cruel, some of them going as far as deriding the author instead of the work.
On top of rejections and reviews, many authors seek out critiques in order to try and improve. Some people can handle critiques. Some people can’t. [Also, some people give helpful critiques and some people…don’t.]
The people who learn how to layer on tougher and tougher skin, upgrading themselves with metal armor when needed, are the ones who can handle the critiques and learn from them, who can get back up after every rejection no matter its contents, who can hold their chin high even when the worst reviews come in. These are the people who don’t respond angrily to those trying to help them, especially not in a public forum. These are the ones who realize that they can’t please everyone. So they shouldn’t try.
2) Social Acuity
No one gets anywhere by themselves. That’s a fact in almost every industry. Whether it’s your dad buying a company so you can be a pop star or it’s your family coming to your comedy show or your friends hyping your book online, everyone needs a little help. Your ability to present yourself online, to recommend yourself to people while appreciating those people as individuals with their own passions and aspirations and goals, the more a part of the community you’ll be.
[I know this sounds silly coming from me since I don’t look like I’m part of the writing community at large…but that’s just over here. I’m far more involved on a personal level when sex isn’t in the books because my mom exists, yo.]
There’s some sage advice someone or other once said: “Don’t be a dick.” This is good advice.
I’d like to take it one further though, for those of us who took a long time to figure out how to come out of our turtle shells: “Exist in other people’s minds.” In other words, be in their feeds, be in front of their eyes. Your face, your name, your stories. Put them out there so people see you, so they recognize your name. It takes 30 times seeing something before you remember, so getting your name and face in front of each person 30 times should always and forever be your goal…as long as you’re not being a dick about it.
Many an amazing writer stalls out, stutters, or struggles. Life doesn’t slow down and it doesn’t get easier, so building endurance to keep going, to keep writing, to keep putting one foot in front of the other is all important. It’s not about what you do today. It’s about what you do every day. It’s about how far can you go and can you keep going even when you feel like breaking, even when you feel like you’ll never get there.
Endurance is especially important because eventually you’ll realize that there isn’t actually a place to get to, that you’ll be doing whatever you’re doing forever. And that’s okay.
So make sure that you’re happy doing what you’re doing, that it gives you a sense of satisfaction. And never let the thought of other people’s judgements dictate what makes you happy.