Four habits of successful writers

When I tell people that I’m a writer, the first thing they say (usually), is:

How to be a successful wrier

Credit: Death to Stock

‘I wish I had the time to write.’

To which I (usually) reply with heavy sarcasm, which (usually) also goes way over said person’s head:

‘I know what you mean; I wish I had the time to be a brain surgeon too.’

What is it about writing that makes people think that all you have to do is to pick up a pen or keyboard, write whatever you want and millions of adoring fans will fall at your feet, crying at the sheer brilliance of your written work?

My first book was published in 2004. Since that time, I’ve forged a career in writing in various guises — freelance, employee, business owner — and like most writers, usually all at the same time. In all honesty, I can say that writing is one of the hardest things to do and professions to break into. I know that most people have a romantic notion that it’s a hobby, something we do with a harp playing in the background, from the comfort of our quaint ramshackle cottage in the remote countryside, but it is not. And anyone who embarks on a writing career or tries writing anything in general finds this out soon enough.

Consider the latest findings from the UK-based Authors Licensing and Collection (ALCS), the society that collects money for authors from secondary uses of their work:

  • 90% of writers earn an income from sources other than writing
  • The average income of a professional author (those who earn an income solely from writing is £11,000, way below the minimum wage in the UK
  • A writer earns on average £4000 a year from their writing.

Read the full, depressing report.

I’ll stop with the depressing figures. But before I do, here’s a startling statement from the report: ‘There is a high concentration of earnings in a handful of successful writers whereas most do not earn much at all.’

Most writers I know work very hard. They know that there are no short cuts to success, so they set aside the time to work on their craft and also learn about the business of writing.

What is success, anyway?

I think that a successful person is someone who inspires other people in more ways than one. So, as far as I am concerned, the writers who work on their craft consistently, and never give up on their writing dream, even as the rejection pile threatens to overload their inbox, are successful. And even if they do give up, I still think they’re successful, because they’ve tried to do something that a lot of people talk about, but never actually do, because ‘they haven’t got the time.’

Here are four other habits of successful writers:

  • They make time for what is important

A wise person once told me that Jesus had the same 24 hours as everyone else and all he had was a pair of leather slippers. Today, we have the internet, airplanes, 100s of television channels, social media… and we complain we don’t have enough hours in the day to do what we need to do.

Most writers I know write after a long day at work, after putting the kids to bed, after a tired argument with their partner/children/whoever and they wake up an hour early to do some more writing before taking care of their family and going to work.

So if you think you haven’t got time to write, even though you really, really want to, think again. If writing is that important, you would make the time. Seriously.

  • They’re willing to grow and develop

I may be the author of eight books and counting, but I do not know all there is to know about writing. I also run my own business (, thanks for asking), and I can tell you that I do not know everything about writing, either.

How to write a novel

Before running, I freelanced for well over 10 years. Freelancing is tough. I knew I had to be good, so I went on at least three training courses a year, some of them costing thousands of pounds.

As for writing books, I went on courses and made sure I read every book three times (the first for pleasure, the second to learn the author’s writing techniques and third for both pleasure and writing knowledge), so that I could become a better writer. Nowadays, I just read the books twice.

You want to be a successful writer? Great. However, I must ask: how are you growing and developing your skills as a writer? You may not have the time to go on a course, but there’s a practical solution, right here; this ridiculously affordable ebook, which is currently available for USD$2. It’s a practical, easy-to-follow guide that will help you develop your novel writing skills.

Get it, read it and apply the techniques you learn to your own writing. Permit yourself to grow as a writer.

  • They do not give up

I’m sure you’ve heard that the road to publication is strewn with the dead dreams of discouraged writers. Writing is tough, but that does not mean that you can’t make a career out of it.

The most important thing is starting: set up your own blog with either Wordpress or Blogspot, two of the most popular blogging platforms and start writing away. If you’re not ready to share your writing with the world, set it to ‘Private’, and when you’re ready, change it to ‘Public’.

And if you’re not sure what to blog about, sign up for our Blogging for Authors course (click on link and choose from dropdown on the contact form to pre-register, and you’ll be notified at launch).

Seeing your work on a public platform (even if you set it to ‘Private’) is a great confidence booster. I know people who have done this and testified of the difference having the blog made to their writing dream: ‘It made it more real’.

Even better, buy your domain name, e.g., and host your blog on your website. That way, all your digital assets are built on your own website/platform, which is much better for your author brand.

Having set up your blog, as you build your confidence, start sending out pitches to editors of your favourite publications. The web is built on content. You may not get paid for your work initially, but if they say yes and publish your work, it means that you still get some exposure as a writer.

And remember, every rejection is just an opportunity to work and improve your craft.

  • They start their day right

Everybody’s busy these days, aren’t they? Of course, we are now under more pressure than ever before, but that is no excuse to neglect your spiritual self.

I start my day with a good meditative session armed with nothing else but my Bible and a fabulous cup of coffee. Afterwards, I go for my power walk. This lovely balance of the spiritual and the physical keep me centred and energised me for the day ahead.

If Bible reading and coffee are not your thing, then find an alternative; it really is worth the investment.

Develop these traits and you will be well on your way to becoming a successful author (whatever your definition of success is).

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