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4 Traits Every Writer Needs to Cultivate

They’ll greatly increase your chances of success


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Chandrayan Gupta

3 years ago | 6 min read

Despite what you might’ve read online, there’s no such thing as “overnight success” when it comes to writing. Especially in today’s world, which allows anyone and everyone to become a published author in virtually no time.

I’ve written two well-received novels and dozens of articles over the past two years, and yet am nowhere near to being a “success”. Of course, success is a subjective word which means different things to different people. Some write for money, some for fame, some for the simple pleasure of having their work read.

My motivations include these three, and many more. Which is why, while even the smallest bit of recognition or praise makes me giddy with joy, I always want more. Over the past two years, I’ve scratched and clawed my way to a place where I now feel comfortable, and I’ve had to change myself profoundly in order to do that. I was almost a completely different person two years ago.

Today, with the advent of self-publishing and the increased importance of marketing, it’s become more about the author than their work. I won’t name names, but I’ve read a few books that were objectively full of plot holes and grammatical errors, but which have sold many copies and are rated at almost five stars. On the other hand, I’ve read works which deserve a wider audience and critical acclaim, but which are languishing at the back of the field.

Like it or not, the author has assumed a greater importance in this world. Which is why, in order to be successful, every writer must develop the four traits listed below.

1. Patience

Here, I’m not talking only about self-published authors. I self-published both my novels because I didn’t have the patience to go through the traditional process. But even though my novels reached the market within a week of my having completed them, I still had to exercise a lot of patience.

As I said before, there’s no such thing as overnight success. It’s a slow and time-consuming process, one which lasts years. Before my first book came out, my publisher told me it’s a well-accepted rule that no writer (at least in India) becomes a true success, a force to be reckoned with, until they’ve written at least four books.

That shows they’re here to stay, are willing to put in the hard work, and gives the reader an idea of their consistency.

Even after your book is published, you’ll have to endlessly market it. You’ll have to purchase ads and reach out to book bloggers. You’ll have to run promotions and giveaways, establish a social media presence. You’ll have to build an entire brand around yourself.

I thought I’d simply have to release my books and then retreat to my cave. Never once did I think I’d have to keep promoting and marketing them for years.

It often gets frustrating to see your book not selling as many copies as you wanted. It feels like there was no point to all the hard work you put in, like you’ll never achieve the success you wanted to. During such times, it’s imperative to be patient and remind yourself that writing is a long game. If you keep consistently pumping in the hard work, no force on Earth can prevent you from eventually becoming a success.

2. Politeness

To become a writer, you’ll have to do a lot of networking, both on social media and in real life. Be it meeting with your publisher or agent, or responding to tweets or comments about your work, or gracefully accepting constructive criticism, you’ll have to talk to a lot of people.

It’s critical for you to make a good impression on them. Take the following scenario for example. You’re at a gathering, and a stranger accidentally spills coffee on your shirt. Instead of going for the instinct reaction, you gently wave off their apologies and somehow get to talking. You reveal you’re a writer.

When the person reaches home, it’s very likely that since you’ve made a good impression on them, their interest will be piqued and they’ll check out your work. Had you shouted at them, they would never have considered supporting you.

I’m not asking you to be fake, though. I’m asking you to always treat others with grace and gentleness. There have been quite a few times when, after promising a review within one week, a book blogger didn’t contact me for a month. Had this been 2018, I would’ve sent them a strongly-worded email out of frustration.

But now, having instilled in myself patience and politeness, it’s no longer even my first instinct to do that. I can now handle such situations with much more politeness and equanimity, by sending them friendly reminders after a couple of weeks. Every person has problems in life, and it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be able to meet deadlines. A little compassion goes a long way in this world.

3. Honesty

If I’ve received one persistent piece of feedback for my articles, it’s that they’re honest. Because they’re honest, readers can connect with me, and don’t hesitate to contact me. Even when it comes to my books, reviews often mention how the protagonists feel relatable. Like flesh and blood. Why? Because I was honest while writing them.

Even though I write fiction, I put a lot of myself in my characters. When people read my work, they feel they can connect with it. That’s the beauty of honesty — it makes people trust you, and by extension trust your work.

Let me give you an example. I suffer from depression and anxiety. To vent, I created a character in my image, and began living vicariously through him. Whenever people read my books, they say how relatable he is, how honest his words sound, how justified his emotions feel. This leads to good reviews and consequently more readers.

The more personal your article or book, the more people will be able to connect with it, and the more they’ll like it. Dishonesty doesn’t get you very far in this world. Everyone wants a human connection. By making yourself vulnerable, you’ll be ensuring the integrity of your work remains intact, and that it gets more readers.

4. Flexibility

By this I mean you must always keep an open mind. As writers, we often feel superior to others when it comes to grammar (or is that just me?). But you must always remain open to improvement. The first book I wrote was a mess. If I could re-write it now, I could edit it so much better.

I’ve only been able to improve my writing over the past two years because I’ve kept an open mind and haven’t considered myself a perfect writer. There’s a story someone once told me.

There’s a bird who can’t fly high. He sees all his friends rise up to the clouds, but he languishes at the bottom. He keeps improving himself, and over time, is able to fly higher and higher. When he reaches the clouds, he feels he’s perfected himself, that he couldn’t possibly get any better.

However, when he flies above the clouds, he finds himself at the bottom of another level of birds. Once again, he has to put in hard work to be able to reach the next tier of clouds.

Self-improvement is a continuous process. Always remain open to suggestions. I, for example, now produce entirely different covers to the ones I used to design back then.

Whenever someone makes any suggestions as to how I can edit my writing better, I always consider it carefully. This has led to me becoming a better writer overall than I was two years ago. And two years from now, I’ll be an even better one.

Conclusion

There was a time, not so long ago, when social media didn’t exist and budding authors didn’t have to live in front of a camera. But that time is gone, and it’s up to you to adapt yourself to the new reality. Now, the author is more important than the book.

To sum up, the four traits you must try to develop are —

  • Patience
  • Politeness
  • Honesty
  • Flexibility

I’m not saying inculcating these four traits will guarantee your success, but it will increase your chances. As they did mine.

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