If you think natural talent – the ability to write well – is a personality trait of a successful writer, you’d be wrong. “Talent is cheaper than table salt,” says bestselling author and writing teacher Stephen King.
What traits do published authors, freelance journalists, and working writers have in common? What characteristics are essential for success in the writing world? Before you scroll down for the six most important personality traits of successful writers, answer me one question: do you believe you’re worthy of being published? I hope so…because if you don’t feel good enough to be a writer, you’ll never succeed.
“Success seems like kind of a fluke to me. It’s not based on merit, since not everyone has the same opportunities. For me, it was just something that happened. I was in the right place at the right time,” wrote Elmore Leonard in Writers Dreaming: 26 Writers Talk About Their Dreams and the Creative Process. “In 1985 I became an overnight success after 30 years…I didn’t think that I would ever have a bestseller. I never thought that my writing was either good enough or bad enough to make the list.”
Elmore Leonard wasn’t just in the right place at the right time. He had been writing for 30 years before he became a bestselling author…and that is one of the most important personality traits of successful writers! Perseverance. Determination. Grit. Stick-to-it-iveness.
Luck – or being in the right place at the right time – helpful. But lady luck alone will not make you a published author. You can be everywhere at once but if you have an unpolished, unedited, uninteresting manuscript then it doesn’t matter where you are. You won’t get published.
6 Personality Traits of Published Authors and Successful Writers
“Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.” ~ Stephen King.
The good news is that many of the “personality traits” of successful writers can be learned by regular people like you and me. You don’t have to be Stephen King (or JK Rowling, or Isaac Asimov, or Ernest Hemingway, or…well, you get the picture) to get published or make money writing.
1. Successful writers set and stick to a schedule
A writing schedule isn’t exactly a personality trait – but self-discipline is. Since writers who work from home aren’t supervised or monitored (unless they’re under house arrest, of course), they need to be comfortable setting and sticking to a writing schedule. Successful authors have to know how to set and meet their self-imposed deadlines and writing goals. Successful writers know how to motivate themselves to be productive even when they don’t feel like writing.
2. Productive writers often have introverted personality traits
Successful writers are often introverts who prefer to be alone. There is such a thing as an extroverted writer, but she struggles with being alone. She wants to be part of a team – or even on stage! One of the most important personality traits of a successful writer is the ability to enjoy working in isolation and solitude. Introverts are energized by silence and solitude. Even social media is draining for truly introverted writers.
Published book authors and freelance journalists can tackle tough writing assignments – or break into tight writing markets – alone, without supervision from an editor or publisher. Working writers need to find or create habits that keep them motivated and disciplined to achieve their goals.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Introverts would rather be alone; extroverts are energized by the company of others. Take my quick little Test for Introverted Personality Traits if you aren’t sure.
If you have extroverted personality traits and you want to be a writer, read 7 Ways for Extroverts to Increase Their Writing Productivity.
3. Successful writers know how to boldly brand and market their work
Published authors and working writers don’t have the luxury of waiting for their books to sell themselves, nor can they wait to be told how to market and help promote their books. Freelance magazine and newspaper writers have to come up with article ideas, tackle writing assignments, find experts to interview, keep drumming up business, and sell their work. They need to know how to promote themselves without being shy or fearful of attention.
One of the most important personality traits of a successful writer is what I call the “skin of a rhino.” They have to be able to take rejection and criticism without making it personal.
4. Successful freelance writers are detail oriented
This is one of the personality traits I do not have (yet I am a successful writer, which proves that there are no rules for writing or even specific personality traits for writers!). When I first started freelancing in 2008, I didn’t realize how important it was to pay attention to administrative and financial details. Successful writers are entrepreneurs who know how to run a business.
Freelance writers and journalists have to track queries and book proposals, follow up with editors, send professional invoices, keep track of their checks received and expenditures, and save all their receipts and write-offs. Published authors may also do their own taxes, maintain lists of experts, and handle technological and digital equipment.
5. Successful writers maintain a professional image
If “entrepreneurial” isn’t a personality trait of all writers, it should be! Developing a professional image is part of learning how to run a successful writing business.
Freelance writers must submit their assignments on time, follow up when they say they’re going to, and treat editors, experts, readers, and fellow writers with respect. Writers may have once had the image of being disorganized or disheveled – the creative spirit at work – but not anymore.
6. Successful writers don’t procrastinate
Waiting until the night to write your essay or research an assignment may have got you through college, but it won’t get you far in the freelance writing business. Editing and revising is the name of the game – and it should the first personality trait of writers who succeed. Working writers don’t need reminders, prompts to find great sources, or reminders to send in invoices. Successful writers know what their job is – even if it’s not a paid writing assignment, even if it’s “just” to send out four queries today – and they take care of business.
“Writing is a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” ~ John Green.
Why are you searching for personality traits of successful writers? If you want to be a writer, don’t worry about having the right personality. Just worry about writing. Let your personality be what it is.
You are good enough, just the way you are.