Movies will have you believing that successful writers write from a choice location in Paris that overlooks the Eiffel Tower, that they do their writing with a sophisticated 19th-century typewriter as they type under the influence of unending inspiration. But if you’ve decided to become a writer, you already know that’s not the general reality.
Successful writers did not get their achievements because of the brilliance of their writing space. Neither is it because they are always inspired to write. The truth is, many writers write looking dishevelled from the comfort of their—most likely unmade—beds, and often after they have dealt with spells of no inspiration.
Despite the absence or presence of this, however, there is one characteristic that determines whether you’ll be successful as a writer or not. To be clear, this characteristic works together with other qualities to make for a successful career in writing. But without it, you might as well say goodbye to being on a bestsellers list someday.
What is this thing, you ask? Well, every successful writer has discipline. It’s as simple as that.
It’s not about having the perfect location to write or being always inspired. Becoming a successful writer depends on how much of a disciplined writer you are. And this is important because, without discipline, you will never finish your book idea. Neither will you submit it to publishers who will give you the opportunity you need to reach millions of readers globally.
Now that you know the most important characteristic of every successful writer, how can you cultivate it?
- Set a timeline for your book: If you already know what you want to write about, saying you will write it within a year is a much better bet than just saying you will write the book. The reason is that when you have a clear timeline, it’s easy to create smaller chunks of goals that’ll help you complete the book. It’s also a perfect way to write without waiting for inspiration which is likely to delay you.
- When writing, separate the times for research from the times you’ll dedicate to writing: This is quite useful in today’s social media age. Don’t be deceived—writers are not immune to the distraction of social media. This is why you will find some innocent research turning into hours on Instagram. Therefore, it is much easier to highlight the details you want to research and return to them at a later time so you can complete your writing.
- Always re-visit what you have written: Writing can be frustrating, and it becomes more pronounced if publishers keep rejecting your work. Sometimes though, that rejection is because you have sent in a first draft. See, discipline also involves submitting the best version of your story. No matter how brilliant you think that first draft is, it’s a lazy attempt at telling your story, so if you need a break before coming back to your book, take it. Just ensure that you’re not sending in your first draft.
As Ernest Hemingway rightly said, “…there must be discipline…” in the writing process.