What it Takes to Become a Professional Writer

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Writing is an art. For some people, it’s a passion. And for a few lucky people, it’s a career, too. Writers of fiction and nonfiction get to work doing what they love, and they can make good livings while working on their own terms and, in many cases, from the comfort of their own homes.

But not everyone gets to succeed as a professional writer. It takes a lot to get by in this unforgiving business, and the professionals who break through are the ones who have what it takes to manage the many obstacles between themselves and their dreams. It takes talent to become a professional writer, but it takes more than just that. Here are a few of the things you’ll need if you want to succeed in the writing business.

Work ethic

Talent matters in writing, but — as is the case with so many other things — it’s also extremely important for writers to work to develop their natural talents. Professional writers like Stephen King don’t just trust that every word they put down on paper will be genius. In fact, they know that most of their words won’t be much good at all. So what do they do? They write — a lot.

Stephen King writes thousands of words per day. Other writers may write more or less quickly, but all great writers dedicate time in their busy days to putting down words by hand or by keyboard. Writing a lot creates lots of writing to choose from and increases your chances of finding the perfect word or turn of phrase. It’s also good practice— you’ll be a better writer, of course, if you spend more time writing!

Thick skin

Writers face a lot of rejection. There are countless stories of talented writers who found success only after incredible amounts of rejection and failure. Some of the biggest literary hits of all time were initially rejected by publishers. Some writers tack up rejection slips and printed rejection emails on their walls as a way of tracking their progress and their resolve. Some writers don’t break through until very late in life, and all writers must grapple at some point in their early careers with the possibility that they may not break through at all.

A writer needs to know how to take criticism well. Writers need to consider the points raised by critics and editors, while still managing to maintain their own vision and self-esteem in a way that helps them keep moving forward and producing more writing.

Inspiration

How can a writer keep writing thousands of words per day while suffering the kind of criticism and rejection that we just talked about? It’s not easy, that’s for sure. But it’s a little easier if you know where to look to find inspiration.

One of the places places to look for inspiration is in other writers. Take Caesar Rondina, for instance. Now well-known for his fiction and nonfiction books, there was a time when he didn’t have his place in the literary world. And he hasn’t forgotten those days: his writing includes a memoir and other books and pieces that make great inspirational guides for writers hoping to follow in his footsteps. Rondina also works as a public speaker.

Read and reread books that matter to you, and remember the stories of writers who have fought through adversity and succeeded professionally. Mix self-help books and books about art into your reading list, and keep photos or mementos on your desk that will inspire you to keep pushing. There are a lot of challenges to face down if you want to become a professional writer, but you can be strong than them if you have the right inspiration.

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