Nov 052008
 

bird by bird ann lamott

Do writers’ personality traits make a difference in getting published? You betcha! Published authors and professional writers have specific personality traits that help them succeed.

These six personality traits will help you figure out if you’ve got what it takes to be a successful writer…

But first, writing advice from Anne Lamott:

“E. L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night,” writes Lamott in Bird by Bird. “You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’  You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way.  You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.  That is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”




Writers need the ability to take it one step at a time — one article at a time, one page at a time, one paragraph at a time, and even one word at a time. I don’t know if that represents a particular personality trait, but it’s key to a successful writing career.

If you haven’t read Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Lifeget it now. It’s one of my favorite books on writing.

And, here are several characteristics of successful writers…

Writers Personality Traits – The Key to Getting Published

To persevere after constant rejection and keep pitching into the editorial abyss, writers need personality traits that go beyond talent and creativity. Self-discipline and motivation to write are qualities that writers need to get published — but there’s more!

Here are a few thoughts from some of my fellow scribes over at AbsoluteWrite.com:

Stubborness, and a drive to succeed as a writer

“I think stubborness and ego are two biggies. I know they have served me well,” says Barb Nefer. “An example of the stubborness: my mother was very non-supportive and said I would never sell my writing consistently. Instead of believing that and letting it hurt me, it hardened me and made me even more driven to succeed and get published.”

Perseverance, patience, attention to detail

“An unwillingness to give up in the face of constant rejection is a personality trait of a successful writer,” says Monica Shaw. “I’d also add patience – we all know how long it can take to get a response to a query letter, if we get a response at all. But we also need to be thorough, taking the time to research our markets before pitching a query letter. We must also be bold, willing to call a magazine to find out who the editor is and how to pitch, and willing to talk to people in order to get those great quotes that will sell our stories!”

Consistency and the ability to meet deadlines

“Too many people are flaky,” says Casey. “A freelance writer can make a successful career of being reliable and delivering on time with quality. Unlike other jobs that allow you to slack off and make up for it, writing has deadlines that need to be met or not only do you lose a client, but you lose your reputation.” Casey Quinn

key to getting published

Ezra Pound - A Poet With VERY Interesting Personality Traits

A healthy ego – perhaps the key trait for getting published?

“One of my first sales occurred when I read an article on horse training and thought, ‘I can do better than that!'” says Barb. “A writer isn’t going to get very far if she’s crushed by rejection slips or intimidated by everyone else out there who might be a better writer or who is getting published more. You have to have a healthy coat of Teflon and faith that you can run with the big dogs, and that you deserve to!”

A few more writers personality traits…

Faith and hope

I suffered through most of October without a single magazine assignment (but, luckily, was working on two previously assigned articles). Then, when I thought I wouldn’t meet my financial goals for the month, three editors emailed me four assignments within 12 hours! Four business days later, I had six assignments due. So, another personality trait of a successful freelance writer is having faith that another article will turn up. Eventually. You just have to hang in there if you want to get published.

Humility and gratitude

I’ve been learning to thank my editors for the changes and suggestions they make to my articles. The editors I’ve worked with only want the best, clearest, and most well-documented sentences to be published…and they’re improving my writing. I’m grateful for their help/comments/suggestions/questions/clarifications/changes/notations/aargh!! – and I think I’ll be an even more successful writer if I keep feeling humble and grateful.

To learn more about personality and writing, read The Traits of Top Writers – What Makes Good Writers Good?

What do you think, fellow scribes…do writers need certain personality traits to get published?

laurie pawlik kienlenI'm Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen (but I wish my name was Rosie Frost!). I'm a bookworm, travel bug, flute player, writer. My husband and I live in Vancouver, Canada with our cat and dogs.

Are you happy? My Grade 10 Social Studies teacher, Mr Merritt, always used to ask me that. And I am happy - despite a difficult childhood (schizophrenic mother, no father, foster homes), infertility, an eating disorder, and a chronic illness. The source of my peace and joy is God; I'm a Christian.

How is your life unfolding - what do you need? I welcome your big and little comments below, about big or little things. I can't give you advice, but writing can give you clarity and insight.

In peace and passion.... Laurie

  12 Responses to “Writers Personality Traits – The Key to Getting Published”

  1. Many authors quit marketing too soon — a key to NOT getting published again and again! It can take many months or years to succeed…that whole “I was an overnight success, but it took 25 years” cliche.

    Just sayin’.

  2. Wanting to write is definitely a personality trait of a successful writer! That, and determination and perserverence. And a thick skin…

  3. I love to read because it takes me places I could never go in real life. I want to write someone elses adventure that they can experience. I have a couple of these traits myself: perseverance because no one thought I would graduate but i’m going to prove them wrong, observation I see things most people don’t take the time to look at, and I believe in myself though most others don’t because i’m so young. And the biggest thing is I want to write.

  4. I have the same struggles with both friends and family, about being “obsessed” with writing and working all the time. They don’t understand that I have to work when work is available, and that there’s nothing I’d rather be doing! I love blogging especially, and don’t want to sit and watch TV or garden or wash the windows….I want to spend my time doing the things I love.

    Thanks for commenting, Lynne — I appreciate it!
    .-= Laurie PK´s last blog post ..How to Write Effective Titles for Magazine Articles and Blog Posts =-.

  5. I really like “ability to tolerate criticism around use of time.” Boy have I fielded criticism on that score! People with regular employment do not understand what it is to be self-employed.

  6. We already have something in common — I want to write a book, too! :)

    If you’d like to get Quips and Tips in your email, just enter your address in the box in box under “Recent Comments.” Each post will then be emailed directly to you.

    Thanks for stopping by…

    Laurie PK’s last blog post..6 Tips for Coping With the Stress of Freelance Writing

  7. hi i want to write a book but don’t really know how to start about i want to get the tips in my mail

  8. Thanks for your Advices! I’m a writer too. When it comes to personal write ups, I add sweetness and naiveness.

  9. Laurie, I think a writer needs all the traits mentioned in your post and in the comments. When it comes to ego, however, while one needs a healthy dose of ego to become a writer in the first place, the ability to put one’s own ego on hold to make the writing (or the person who is the subject of the writing) the star of the show is also needed. Most selling writers are quite skilled at doing that.
    Great post!

  10. I don’t know if “voracious reader” is a personality trait….but I do agree that good writers definitely need to read alot!

    A thick skin is another personality trait of successful writers. You have to take criticism and editing suggestions without taking it personally. I don’t have a problem separating myself from my writing, but I’ve never written fiction – and that could be more personal.

  11. Laurie, I smiled all the way through this wonderful post. Your round-up of successful writers’ traits hits the nail squarely.

    I like Maggie’s #7 and Siobhan’s #’s 2,3,4 very much. Flexibility (mentally) and a sense of humor go a long way, too.

    Would we label “voracious reader” as a personality trait? It’s certainly a common denominator among writers who excel.

    Congrats on your recent slew of assignments, too!

    ~Jim

  12. More personality traits of a successful freelance writer: (1) focus (2) self-discipline, ability to stick to a regular writing schedule (3) ability to set priorities (4) ferocious protection of your writing time in the face of other temptations, ie (5) ability to withstand persuasive, manipulative begging for attention from others during work time, most likely family and friends (6) ability to tolerate criticism around use of time (7) ability to visualize and dream…

    As I write I think generally a successful writer must be a bit like a bulldog refusing to relinquish a desired object.

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