Helpful factors for success

August 14, 2009

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


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.

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