Attitude Makes the Writer

I made an observation on Twitter this week that a lot of people really seemed to graviate to:

"The more I think about it, the more I think writing success comes from the right attitude, not talent."

Because so many people liked this quote, I thought I would take some time to talk about it more in depth. As a soon-to-be-published author, I'm straddling the fence a little. I still feel very connected to the aspiring writer community. I have a lot of friends there, critique partners, casual aquaintences. But on the other hand, I'm meeting this fabulous network of published authors, many of whom I've been long-time fans of, and now I'm becoming friends with. It's one of my favorite parts of this job--the YA community (both published and aspiring) is amazingly fun and smart and supportive. 

As I'm getting to know more published authors, I keep recognizing similar traits popping up again and again. That's what led me to the observation above: all of them are talented, some insanely so, but I think what truly made them successful is their attitude toward writing. Lots of aspiring writers are heart-breakingly talented too. Some are so talented that I just want to grab them and shake them and tell them to get their act together, because the world needs their talent. But they can't manage to actually find time to write an entire book or revise it or submit it. Or they write a story that's good, but they aren't willing to put in the effort to take it to that next level. Or because they are talented and they know it, they just want to dash something out in a burst of inspiration and voila, have a career. They work at it, but not hard. Or not hard enough.

That's the main attitude difference I see. My published writing friends got bit hard by the writing bug, figured out exactly what they wanted, and then kept working like a dog until it happened. This means hours a day instead of hours a month. And if you have the right attitude, you can't help but write that much. Sometimes it's fun; more often it feels like work, but work you simply must do. And do and do and do, for days or months or years, until you're holding that contract in your hands (and then, of course, comes even more work). Sometimes I think author friends of mine (and I feel this way too) barely even stop to take a breath, they are so determined to reach their goal.

And what they want is a career. Not just one published book, not just something to tell people they do at parties, but a lifetime of writing. They work nights and weekends while holding down a day job, working while their kids are napping, working while in line at the bank, working EVERYWHERE. And if they have written a story and submitted it widely, and it hasn't gone anywhere, they assume the problem is with their story, not with the publishing industry. No one likes to abandon a story they've poured heart and soul into, but they aren't afraid to let it go and start something new, because they know the only way to succeed is to keep moving forward.

But here's the thing: all published writers were aspiring at one point. If you're not published yet, it doesn't mean you aren't talented or you don't have the right attitude. Several of my aspiring writer friends are SO talented and have SUCH a great attitude, that I believe for them it's just a matter of time (and timing) until they sell their first book.