As I work to complete my first novel, I’m studying to master the art of writing. But my aspirations don’t end at composing a masterpiece; I dream of becoming a successful author.
I’ve come to realize that there is a huge gap between writing great stories and enjoying the life of a best-selling author.
I’ve met (physically and virtually) a good number of writers. Some are already successful, most aspire to be, someday. I’ve studied the successful writers (and those I believe will become successful), looking to identify common attributes to emulate. In other words, I’m seeking the keys to success.
Some are introverts while some are extroverts. Some are young and some are old. Some are pantsers and some plotters. They are all so different; it’s hard to find common traits.
I’ve finally identified one. The successful ones all share the same type of skin. Allow me to describe it to you.
In critique sessions, most writers are seeking honest feedback on where improvements can be made. But some seem unable to accept criticism. When I hear writers get defensive, talking instead of listening, I mentally move them into the “won’t be successful” category.
When the first draft is complete, it’s time to edit. I’ve watched writers chop their favorite scenes, characters to whom they have become attached, even whole sub-plots from their story – weeping the entire time; while others couldn’t face these difficult decisions and clung to their original work. Once again, I could easily pick future winners.
I visit a lot of writer’s websites. When I find a blog post that is meaningful, I like to leave comments. Occasionally, I’ll find a blog that doesn’t accept comments. Each time, I think, They’re so afraid of negative feedback, they’ve closed the door to the positive feedback, too… before I move on.
Writers who have persevered through years of rejection before finally becoming overnight sensations are legendary. In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King describes a nail on his bedroom wall becoming thick with rejection letters during his early years. Those who are unable to handle rejection move on to other careers.
Finally, when a work gets published, others review it. No one gets 100% positive reviews. Readers have different tastes. Every author receives bad reviews. Recently, one author who received a less-than-stellar review reacted by publicly bantering with the reviewer. It didn’t end well.
My conclusion: Thick skin is required. It is a key ingredient to becoming a successful author.
I’m smiling as I write this because I was born with thick skin. I’m looking forward to your comments on this post.
Update: I just stumbled across this list of 50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected from OnlineCollege.org.