We all love the idea of an overnight success, don’t we?
The idea that someone writes something on a whim, submits it to an agent, lands the agent, gets the book published, and some Hollywood type hits the writer up to make a movie out of the book..and all of that happening within a week is enticing. It’s what we all dream of. But we know the truth. We just don’t want to face it.
I need a little motivation myself. That’s why I decided to write this post so I could face reality and remember that “overnight success” takes about 15 to 20 years. I’ve put together this list of habits some of the most accomplished writers in history chalk up a bit of their success to, as well as a lot of talent. This helped motivate me and I hope it motivates you as well.
1) Write Whether You Feel Like It or Not
In this interview on The Daily Beast, Khaled Housseni, author of best-sellers Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, talks about writing even when you don’t feel like it:
“I have met so many people who say they’ve got a book in them, but they’ve never written a word. To be a writer — this may seem trite, I realize — you have to actually write. You have to write every day, and you have to write whether you feel like it or not. Perhaps most importantly, write for an audience of one — yourself. Write the story you need to tell and want to read. It’s impossible to know what others want so don’t waste time trying to guess. Just write about the things that get under your skin and keep you up at night.”
2) Make Time to Write Every Day–No Matter What
In this interview on The Daily Beast, Jodi Picoult, author of New York Times #1 Best-Selling books like Sing You Home and Lone Wolf, says you’ve got to make time to write:
“I don’t believe in writer’s block. Think about it — when you were blocked in college and had to write a paper, didn’t it always manage to fix itself the night before the paper was due? Writer’s block is having too much time on your hands. If you have a limited amount of time to write, you just sit down and do it. You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”
3) Eliminate Distractions to the Best of Your Ability
Nathan Englander, an award–winning short story writer, says in this interview on The Daily Beast that you’ve got to eliminate distrations (Hello Facebook addicts like me!):
“Turn off your cell phone. Honestly, if you want to get work done, you’ve got to learn to unplug. No texting, no email, no Facebook, no Instagram. Whatever it is you’re doing, it needs to stop while you write. A lot of the time (and this is fully goofy to admit), I’ll write with earplugs in — even if it’s dead silent at home.”
4) Focus on One Project at a Time
In 1932, Henry Miller, author of The Tropic of Cancer and other acclaimed books, wrote about his practice of focusing on one project at a time in Henry Miller on Writing:
“Work on one thing at a time until finished. Start no more new books, add no more new material. Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand…Forget the books you want to write. Think only of the book you are writing. Write first and always. Painting, music, friends, cinema, all these come afterwards.”
5) To Create Something Amazing, You’ve Got to Put in the Hard Work
In a 2013 interview with The Daily Beast, Maya Angelou, the American author and poet shares her wisdom on putting in the hard work:
“Easy reading is damn hard writing. But if it’s right, it’s easy. It’s the other way round, too. If it’s slovenly written, then it’s hard to read. It doesn’t give the reader what the careful writer can give the reader.”
What are your habits? Do they support your goal as a writer? I’d love to hear from you!
Thank you to James Clear for inspiring this post!