Helpful factors for success

In a discussion on another writer’s board, the subject of success came up, and writers wanted to know what factors equate success. Obviously this is a subjective thing because what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. However, my dear friend and talented writer, Sally Zigmond over at The Elephant in the Writing Room, wrote what I felt was the broadest and most helpful list I’ve seen in a long time.

I asked dear Sally if I could share her tomes of wisdom, and she readily agreed because she’s rather shameless that way, and I had to promise copious amounts of chocolate and a pitcher of the beagle’s margaritas. Sally, dear, both are winging their way across the pond to you.

I’ve been asked how I achieved my (small) writing successes. I like to think it’s my sheer unadulterated genius (joke) but in my case it’s many things, including:

Listening and learning

  • Listening to the experiences of others.
  • Listening out for opportunities and acting on them.
  • Learning the craft and learning by reading everything that’s humanly possible in your genre.
  • Learning the difference between those who are worth listening to and learning from and those who can safely be ignored.

Good manners

If I’m published or a win anything, I thank the editor/judge/organiser.

If someone says something that upsets you, think twice before leaping in to query their parents’ marriage certificate.

A sense of proportion

Being rejected isn’t fun but it’s no big deal. You’re still alive, aren’t you? Your children are well. Agents and editors are like the rest of us. Some are fantastic, some can be rude or even crooks, but they don’t have a secret plan to crush your dreams. They’re just doing their job. Doctors tell people bad news all the time but it’s not their fault. The same with agents and editors.

Your writing may be very special to you (And so it should be) but it’s just a collection of words to anyone else. Don’t be precious about not changing a word and try and see it through another’s eyes as well.

A sense of humour

Essential.

It’s all that and a bag of potato chips. Many thanks to you for your wonderful insights.I hope all writers can look at these tips and incorporate them into their personal tackle boxes. It’ll make the path to writing a much nicer place to walk.

Oh, and Sally? Should the beagle return home wearing a Bowler hat, carrying an umbrella, and barking with a British accent, I’ll hold you personally responsible.

6 Responses to Helpful factors for success

  1. Pelotard says:

    …plus determination and persistence. Still hanging in there long after the terrier threw in the towel. (Or, in the case of a beagle, “sobered up”.)

    Of course, that sort of permeates her list: it’s pretty obvious that the thought of just giving up and chucking the MS in a drawer never entered her miund 🙂

  2. Actually, Pelo, it has, many times–but not for long. I’m far too stubborn.

    And Lynn, the beagle is more likely to return to you sporting a jaunty flat cap and a taste for Theakston’s Old Peculiar. We leave softie southerners with their bowler hats and umbrellas out on the moors where they either succumb to frost-bite or are mauled to death by sheep. Just ask Jane.

  3. “Your writing may be very special to you (And so it should be) but it’s just a collection of words to anyone else. Don’t be precious about not changing a word and try and see it through another’s eyes as well.” Well put, Sally. I’m going to read that out at one of my talks at the Edinburgh Bk fest. I hope you get even more blog readers out of it. (And so will you Lynn – in fact, your blog URL will be on the screen behind me during the Q&A …)

  4. Mauled to death by sheep! Really, Sally, have you no shame? I laughed my morning cuppa straight through my nose, which does not feel good, thankyouverymuch.

    Pity about the bowler, thought. It would have looked so cute on the beagle. As for Theakston’s Old Peculiar, well, all I can say is that the name alone perked the beagle right up, and she’s catching the next flight out.

    Nicola – how utterly sweet of you to post my blog. Blushing furiously.

  5. Peter Mc says:

    “As for Theakston’s Old Peculiar, well, all I can say is that the name alone perked the beagle right up, and she’s catching the next flight out.”

    Old Peculiar is North Yorkshire’s finest falling down juice. I used to work in a pub that served it. A warm summer evening would often have a cameo like this: man from outside the area walks in, sees OP pump, tells me it’s gnat’s urine compared to his local (insert rustic ‘funny’ name of beer here) and will drink of our ale to prove it. Four pints later he gets off the barstool and goes down like he’s been hit by Ali.

  6. Dear me! This could either be the beagle’s Waterloo, or her finest hour (and latest addiction).

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