Everyone’s walking around with a book in them. How do I know this? Whenever I tell anyone I’m an author, people tell me they want to write a book. I reckon most Bucket Lists have "Write a Book" somewhere between "Climb Mount Everest" and "Run a Marathon."
But most people have no clue what writing a book entails. Many people start, and don’t get very far. Or they don’t start at all. Or they write a whole lot of bits and don’t know how to put them all together. Or they get stuck. Or they finish and they can’t get published.
Here are the 10 things that successful writers do differently from the rest:
1. They make time to write.
To write a book, you have to move writing from the hobby zone into the commitment zone. It’s very difficult to do it "on the side" and "when you have time." You have to make the time. It has to be a priority, or it just never gathers the momentum, and you never accumulate those 10,000 hours.
2. They don’t take NO for an answer.
Writers learn to get really skillful at handling rejection. They don't fold the first time an agent, magazine editor or publisher tells them, "This isn’t for us." Writers become resilient with each rejection. It only makes us hungrier, savvier and want it more. They keep trying until they find someone who says YES.
3. They feel the fear and they go for it anyway.
Of course writing is scary. It’s terrifying. Writing is all about putting yourself out there, and it can cause serious knots in the intestines. But for those who succeed, the need to write is stronger than the fear. They stand in the storm and transform.
4. They don’t care what others think (and if they do, they don’t let it stop them).
Many writers don’t have the support of friends or family. Often these loved ones keep saying, "That’s no way to make a living." Successful writers just smile and write, smile and write. They know their hearts, and they tune out to the toxic white noise of "you can’t."
5. They learn the craft.
Great writing takes years of practice, patience and humility, and great attention to detail. Successful writers commit to learning how to improve their writing every single day.
6. They read.
Reading is the next best thing to writing. Reading great writing is how writers grow. They grow in vocabulary, story images, story arcs, inspiration and motivation. Reading terrible writing is how writers learn what works and doesn’t work.
7. They get feedback.
It takes a village to write a book. Writers need to choose their village members carefully — but without mentors, writing groups and editors, a writer will never know how her writing reads to a reader. Feedback is the fuel that helps us rewrite and rewrite until our writing is as clean and clear as it can be.
8. They remain curious.
Successful writers remain curious about their inner worlds, the material world, unseen worlds, imaginary worlds and to ask, "What if?" and "Why?" If nothing excites or fascinates you, why write?
9. They are emotionally connected to their story.
Writing is all about touching readers, and to do this, writers need to be plugged into their own emotional worlds. Successful writers aren’t numbed out to their own pain, grief, joy, lust and longing — they’re in touch with it all. In the words of the poet Antonio Machado, they’re making "sweet honey from old failures."
10. They’re doing it for the love, not the money.
Writing to make money will often end in tears and frustration. Writing because you love to write might one day make you money. Successful writers do it for the love — that’s why they’re able to do the nine things listed above.