15 Traits Critical to a Successful Writer

At times, writing seems impossible. I wonder if I have what it takes or if there’s some critical piece I’m missing that means it just won’t ever happen. I do a lot of the right things-writer

  • I read, a lot
  • I’m observant
  • I’m a loner (or, the flip side–I don’t mind being alone)
  • I bloom where I’m planted

But is that enough? I went in search of other traits friends who I consider successful writers have that might inform me in my endless quest to succeed in a craft that few can. I found that more is required to become that person who can proudly, eruditely consider themselves a writer:

  1. Writers have a selective memory–they forget the bad stuff people say and remember the good. Otherwise it’s depressing.
  2. Writers are conversant with their muse. Anywhere, at any time, on any subject. It doesn’t matter. When s/he starts talking, writers listen.
  3. Writers are tethered to their voicemail in case that Big Call from an agent comes through. If there is no call, they check the machine to be sure it’s plugged in and working properly.
  4. Writers understand the importance of taking a break to do something fun, like read a book. If they are one of those unlucky folk who get writer’s block, this will suffice.
  5. Writers never show fear in front of their computer. It’s like a dog–it smells fear. It’ll then do nasty things like eat your manuscript or freeze in the middle of a scene.
  6. Writers embrace the words of Winston Churchill: Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
  7. Writers can be categorized as plants or sharks. Plants take whatever life throws at them, hoping to survive long enough to publish. Sharks never stop moving, always hunting. Successful writers are sharks.
  8. You can tell a lot about a writer by the way he/she handles three things: rejection, fame, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
  9. Talking about a WIP is almost like writing it, but not as frightening.
  10. In golf, one of 14 clubs has to be the right decision. In writing, all 14 are wrong because readers want unique.
  11. Don’t judge a writer by what he does between the lines.
  12. Writers believe in the impossible, miracles, and Santa Claus. They will spend hours trying to literarily square the circle and consider it time well spent.
  13. To rephrase Voltaire: No problem can stand the assault of sustained thinking from a thriller writer.
  14. Where the engineer thinks of his equations as an approximation to reality, and the physicist thinks reality is an approximation to his equations, the writer thinks it doesn’t matter if the prose are elegant.

And #15: The most prevalent trait: We are dreamers, positive thinkers, and don’t know how to quit even if it would be in our best interests to move on. That above all else was part of the heart and soul of so many writers I admire.

How about you? What makes you a writer even if your job title says Accountant?

More about writers:


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she writes technology training books for how to integrate tech in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

Follow me.


8 thoughts on “15 Traits Critical to a Successful Writer

  1. Regarding #9… I find it much more terrifying to talk about a WIP than to write it. I mean. “terrifying” may be too strong a word, but it’s certainly less comfortable. I don’t know… when I’m in the midst of a work, I guess I don’t want to say anything about it because I never know how it will end up going (being a “pantser” as I am). Maybe that’s it?

    I think what makes me a writer is that I have stories to tell and I’m not afraid to tell them… even when telling them may be uncomfortable. So the items in your list which refer to having no fear, I’m all on board with those.

  2. I think I’m a writer because stories just pop into my head at the most inopportune times (like siting in the dentist chair or standing in line at the shops!) 😀

  3. I’m reading Stephen King’s book On Writing and he says something similar about persevering. I agree. You have to love it. You have to play your music. The writing has to sing.

  4. It took me so long to declare myself a writer. Insecure is my middle name, self-deprecating is what I see in the foggy glass in the shower, and that big step to say, “I am a writer,” took a giant leap over an abyss. I can’t go back now – the abyss has grown larger than I can leap backwards.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.