5 Steps to Writing Success From Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers

These steps to writing success are from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success. To be a successful writer, you don’t need to be brilliant, talented, or even all that creative. Here’s how to increase your chances of getting published — key writing tips from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success.

Gladwell is Canadian, like me! 🙂  Here’s a quip from his interview with David Hochman, a Reader’s Digest writer:

“What surprised me most were the ordinary methods successful people use to achieve all they achieve,” says Gladwell.



Fellow scribes, this means us. We don’t need brilliance or overwhelming talent to become successful writers…we just need to stick to ordinary tips for success. Read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers: The Story of Success for more info, and read on for five steps to writing success…

5 Steps to Writing Success From Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers

In Outliers, Gladwell explores that which separates highly successful people from everyone else. Here are some of his findings, which apply to writers of all genres…

1. Tackle your limitations or constraints. What are your biggest obstacles to writing, getting an agent, getting published? To succeed as a writer, find creative ways to overcome them. “Sometimes constraints actually create success,” Gladwell says. “Not being able to swim made me run. And running taught me the discipline I needed as a writer.”

2. Put in your time (practice, practice, practice). Did you know that Bill Gates programmed computers at university for 10,000 hours before he started his own company? Gates is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in recent history (or perhaps of all time) – but he spent 10,000 hours practicing before he took the leap. That’s 416 days of working around the clock. So, a step to writing success from Gladwell’s Outliers involves writing as much as you can, as often as you can. “Talented? Absolutely,” says Gladwell. “But they [successful people] also simply put in more hours than anyone else.”

3. Focus on the magic number. Gladwell says the magic number for success is 10,000 hours of time pursuing your passion. To become a successful writer, you’ll probably need to scribble, edit, and polish for 10,000 hours. That’s how Tiger Woods, Gates, and even the Beatles succeeded: they practiced for more than 10,000 hours.

4. Don’t expect to be an overnight success. According to Gladwell, there is no such thing as an overnight success. “And that’s my concern with a show like American Idol,” he says. “It encourages the false belief that there’s a kind of magic, that you can be “discovered.” That may be the way television works, but it’s not the way the world works. Rising to the top of any field requires an enormous amount of dedication, focus, drive, talent, and 99 factors that they don’t show on television. It’s not simply about being picked.”


Gladwell’s Five Steps to Success

  1. Find meaning and inspiration in your work.
  2. Work hard.
  3. Discover the relationship between effort and reward.
  4. Seek out complex work to avoid boredom and repetition.
  5. Be autonomous and control your own destiny as much as possible.

To become a successful writer, focus on these tips from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers for six months. I can almost guarantee that your writing will improve…which takes you one step closer to success.

Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published
Writer's Market 2020: The Most Trusted Guide to Getting Published - Yes, you CAN get published! It's not impossible - but only if you're willing to do the work. Writer's Market 2020 offers thousands of opportunities for writers, including listings for book publishers, consumer and trade magazines, contests and awards and literary agents — and even new playwriting and screenwriting sections.

If you have any questions or thoughts about these steps to writing success, please comment below. And, read 10 Tips for Achieving Your Writing Goals for an extra push!

To read David Hoch’s entire interview with Malcolm Gladwell, go to Malcolm Gladwell on Outliers: The Story of Success.


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