The 6 Habits of Highly Successful Writers
Updated: Oct 31, 2020
We've all been there. We have a great idea. A dream to turn it into something (script, book, comic, fill in the blank). A great big, crazy mix of passion, determination, and anticipation. We might even have proclaimed to friends and family that we were going to do it, I mean really do it!
And then crickets. Weeks, months, maybe even years go by. At some point, that friend or your mom checks in: How's that story coming along?
"One day," you tell them confidently. "One day."
You're not alone. On the contrary, you're in very, very good company. The world is filled with potential writers who have amazing story ideas. I've worked as a coach with too many storytellers to believe otherwise. Writers who have the potential to inspire, entertain, change lives, and have a ton of fun in the process. But most of those potential storytellers will go to their final resting place never having written a thing. Morbid? Maybe. True? Sadly, yup.
In case you missed it, the operative word in that last paragraph was potential.
Let's be clear, I'm not here to point and judge. Are you kidding? If I'm doing my math right, that would be four fingers pointed right back at me. I've 100% been that guy...dreaming, wanting, wouldn't it be nice-ing. I spent twenty years doing not following my dream, as a teacher, pastor, oil rig worker, and HR supervisor, until I finally took the Big Step and wrote my first screenplay. So believe me, I get it.
But it didn't happen by accident, coincidence, serendipity, magic or luck. And it definitely wasn't just about rediscovering that I had the ability and drive. As we've already realized, talent and passion are super important, but they're not enough. They're just not.
So can we just be honest for a second about what really keeps writers from writing? And by extension, what you can do today to change everything and get that story written?
I'll keep this short and sweet, because you've got a dream to follow. ;)
I have worked with hundreds of writers and here is what I know for a fact. Successful writers, the ones who write regularly, finish their work, and go to bed every night enjoying the sweet sleep of the accomplished, have 6 things:
Training (yes, training) in the core fundamentals of storytelling. You may have dissected a frog like a pro in high school and really paid attention in biology class, but that doesn't make you a doctor. Similarly, you may have written a story or two in high school and read books like a champ, but that doesn't make you a professional writer. Trust me, there's a ton you don't know about what you don't know. Get training.
Laser-focused writing goals. "A goal without a plan is just a wish," the old adage goes. So what specific project are you working on? Format-wise, is it for film, TV, fiction writing? Roughly how many pages do you expect it to be? What's your deadline? How much time are you prepared to devote to writing each week? What are your weekly milestones? What are you willing to sideline? Might sound like a lot right now, but it's totally doable with a little help!
A realistic writing schedule. I use a good old-fashioned calendar with my students and we set goals every single week. We don't beat ourselves up if we don't meet the goals, but guaranteed, a goal + a plan + a schedule will take you a lot further down the field than not having one at all.
Weekly accountability. That calendar helps, but it's having a real live human being checking in with you on a regular basis that increases your chances of writing exponentially. It's the number one reason students take my Master Class and register for weekly coaching.
Guidance from a professional. If you've got a friend or group you already work with and trust to give you good feedback, hold them close! That is such a gift, truly. But when it comes to knowing how to write a story at a professional level plus know how to pitch it to producers, publishers, and industry platforms (which I promise is equally important as the story itself), you're going to need help from an industry professional at some point. Yes, you can lean on my for that, it's what I do. But there are others out there, too. Whatever it takes, get that help, I promise it will save you time, money, and a bunch of stress you don't need.
A serious business & pitch plan. The sooner the business person in you shakes hands with the artist in you, the more successful you'll be. Any good producer, publisher, or studio executive will tell you that as important as your story is, your ability to communicate and pitch that story is at least as (if not more) critical to your success. Setting up your small business as a writer, writing inquiry letters, preparing an effective pitch, and before all of that, determining what producers are even looking for and how to approach them - these are skills every writer needs.
To sum it all up, successful writers and other content creators don't just have talent, dreams, and passion. Those three things plus five bucks will get you lunch at Subway. The ones who go beyond wishful thinking have a process they use week after week, month after month, year after year. That's the difference maker. That's what keeps good writers writing.
If you're serious about writing and want help building a process that works, let me know. You can contact me directly at email@example.com.
Whatever you choose to do next, I wish you nothing but brilliant success on your journey!
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