Life has been good to me as a stay-at-home mom, but in three years my children will all be away at school and I will be out of a job. I know it is time for me to embark on a new career path. I returned to school, took a couple classes, and did some career testing. Interpreting the test results, along with my brewing book idea, soul searching, and journaling, made it clear to me that a livelihood in writing suited me. For close to a year I have read, researched, camped out in book stores, and chatted with other writers trying to figure out what it takes to be an author. What I came up with is that successful writers must be: Visionaries. Every author needs to have a vision for precisely what our writing project is to accomplish. A vision should describe who you want to write for and how best to reach them. To make that vision clear, we need to read everything we can get our hands on about our topic; run our idea by other people in the profession; give ourselves time to think it over; and write and rewrite until that vision is like a neon sign in our minds.
Passionate. We should fall in love with our writing topics. The words seem to flow and it feels like second nature when we write about what we’re interested in. We have the burning desire to research, read, interview, and learn more because we just can’t help ourselves. When we look at our watches and see that it is two hours later than we expected, we know we are passionate about our topics.
Self-motivated. A strong will to succeed and type A work ethic are the keys to self motivation. Many of us work on our own so we have to be motivated to stick to the task. Daily, weekly, and monthly goals must be set. To-do lists, writing schedules, and deadlines must be adhered to. Sometimes we have to say no to the temptations that call us.
Avid Readers and Researchers. So many books, not enough time must be our motto. We must always try to learn one more fact either through the web, the paper, magazines, or whatever we can get our hands on. Equally important is keeping good records of our findings. Whether on our desktops, in journals, folders, binders, or all of the above, we must have a way to keep track of all our new information so it is at our fingertips when needed.
Confident. This is different than just being a nice, friendly woman. We have to be nice AND we must believe in ourselves, speak and write with enthusiasm about our projects, and act like we have the world by the horns! When we do this people can’t help but catch the fever for our writing projects. We must also remain optimistic, saying no to the inner voices that tell us we can’t write and listening intently when we hear those voices telling us to push on.
Curious. You are curious if you enjoy asking questions of everyone to find out more. Curiosity is what it takes to get answers. There is always something else to be discovered about the topics we write about.
Courageous. There is no room for cowards in this profession. It takes a lot of nerve to ask people who are more accomplished writers than you to write for your book. It takes guts to send query letters to the best agent in the field.
Thick-skinned. Everyone knows about the rejection and criticism, but it’s what we do with it that matters. Remember that people who edit and proofread are only doing their job and trying to help. Rejection is tough, especially when we think we have the perfect publisher for our book
and they aren’t interested. Always believe that everything happens for a reason and maintain that confidence and optimism we talked about earlier. Don’t listen to the negative inner voices.
Patient. Writing can be a slow process. It takes patience to do something constructive while waiting to hear from agents, publishers, and editors. Maybe we should try writing, rewriting, and editing some more, starting another project by reading and researching, or taking a
much-needed break while waiting. Let the creative juices flow while doing something else we enjoy.
Market Savvy. Whenever dealing with people, whether it is to learn more about what we are writing or to solicit our books, we must be friendly, tactful, and professional. There must also be a salesperson in us if we want to get our books published. This requires us to analyze data on
readers, agents, book sales, etc. and to develop a plan on how to present our work for publication.
Clear. Clarity should be a given for anyone who writes. If you are one who can get your point across when speaking, just do the same when you write. We can still be creative and express our ideas clearly. Just go for it and put honesty on the paper.
So there are my thoughts on the writing profession. While some of us may be better writers or organizers and others may be better marketers or researchers, being an author certainly takes more than a little writing talent. With this list of skills we can all be on our way to greater
Dotsie Bregel is writing her first anthology to give baby boomer women a voice. She is passionate about women connecting through the telling and reading of their stories and believes that love and connections heal people. If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you are invited to write. To learn more about her project, please visit her web site at