For writers who hope to become published authors of fiction and nonfiction books, there are a lot of obstacles lying in between daily reality and future goals. To get through and become a successful published writer, aspiring writers will need to work very hard and cultivate the right mindset and habits.
So what sorts of habits can turn an amateur into a professional writer? To find out, we can look at the careers of some of the successful authors who have gone before us. Here are some of the habits that you’ll need if you’re going to make a living as a professional writer.
To write books, you first need to read them. Before you ever considered putting pen to paper —or finger to keyboard— you were almost certainly inspired by books that you read. Those books gave you the idea that you, too, could create things that moved and inspired readers.
Now that you’re working hard at your own writing, you may feel like you don’t have as much time to read as you used to. You may feel like reading for fun is something that you simply can’t afford to do. But the fact is, writers don’t just read for the fun of it. In order to be the best that you can be at choosing and using words, characters, and plots, you’ll need to study how the masters do it. You’ll want to be reading constantly. Read voraciously and omnivorously— don’t just consume the sorts of books you are usually inclined to read. Make a point of seeking out books in disparate genres and from far-flung parts of the globe. See what works in different contexts and what doesn’t, and try to spot the things that are universal about good writing. Reading this way really will make you a better writer.
Sure, you probably already knew that writers have to write habitually in order to succeed. But it’s worth noting just how much of a commitment succeeding in writing is. Far too many aspiring writers end up writing sporadically or for too-short periods of their work days. Compare that to the work ethic we’d expect from a prolific writer like Stephen King, who famously writes thousands of words every day. You may not achieve that much, but you should be writing as many words as possible and spending hours a day on your craft. It will make you a better writer, and it will allow you to produce enough raw material to eventually find a masterpiece within your output.
Join the community
Like some other artists, many writers have a habit of working in isolation, but this can be a mistake. Other writers can be incredibly valuable resources. You can and should seek out other aspiring writers for companionship and support. And you should attend talks and readings in your community. You might get to hear an inspiring story about achievement in writing from an established pro like Caesar Rondina. Or maybe you’ll hear the latest work from an underground author who works right in your area. Either way, you can expect to run into other fans of great writing and more than a few aspiring writers like yourself.
When you have established trust with a close group of writers, you may even find that you can rely on these fellow writers for feedback. Getting the right amount of well-intentioned and supportive feedback can be absolutely critical to a developing writer, and friendships and professional connections are your best bet for building a writing group outside of an educational environment like an MFA program.
The journey to become a professional writer is a long and a difficult one. But if you have the right habits, you’ll find the inspiration, productivity, and support that you need in order to succeed in this very tough business.