In one of my favorites of Bell's writing books, The Art of War for Writers, there's a workbook chapter on what it takes to make it as a writer over the long haul. Bell lists ten necessary characteristics, which I've produced below. Plus, in his book, there's a follow-up question section of questions/statements where you write in your own personal responses to determine where you might need to adjust your attitude or whether you're off and running in the right direction.
Here are the ten characteristics and what Bell says about them (The Art of War for Writers, pp. 11-13) :
- Desire. It's got to be a hunger inside you. You're going to have to sacrifice time and money and endure frustrations galore. If you don't have the desire, you won't last long out there on the battlefield.
- Discipline. It's all about production. A quota of words, six days a week.
- Commitment to Craft. You can't just dash off a book. Leonard Bishop wrote, "Dramatic characters, inventive plotlines, exciting and intense situations are not achieved through accident or 'good luck.' The writers of great books zealously learn the craft of their profession so they can release the power and depth of their imagination and experience."
- Patience. It takes time. But you can cut down the time if you have 1, 2, and 3.
- Honesty. Be willing to confront your weaknesses as a writer.
- Willingness to Learn. No chip on your shoulder. Check your ego at the door, or wherever else is convenient.
- Business-Like Attitude. Develop business savvy and professionalism.
- Rhino Skin. Learn from every rejection, and never let any rejection hold you back.
- Long-Term View. Don't think: "Do I have a book inside me?" Think: "Do I have a writer inside me?" And answer: "Yes!"
- Talent. The least important. Everyone has some talent. It's what you do with it that counts.
So, I know you were measuring yourself against each of these ten points. How'd you do? That business about being honest about your weaknesses, plus, at the same time, never letting rejection hold you back, is where a lot of us get caught up in our own fear of failure. So, of course, actually paying attention to these things and working at them consciously (if these are areas that resonate) can be the key to breaking through from average writing to great writing.
Which of these ten points resonates most with you? Or are there others?