What are the traits of top writers? What makes good writers good – how and why do they rise to the top? The following traits are only one piece of the puzzle — but they’re an important piece.
“Write straight into the emotional center of things,” writes Anne Lamott — a top writer — in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. “Write toward vulnerability. Don’t worry about appearing sentimental. Worry about being unavailable; worry about being absent or fraudulent.”
One of the most important traits of top writers is being real, authentic, and vulnerable. Top writers learn how to write to make a difference.
If you want to spice your writing up — and increase your chances of getting published — learn how to let your true self show up in your writing.
Remember that all writers are different. I like James Patterson’s approach to storytelling: “I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”
I’ve been learning how to be more of a storyteller in my writing, and less of a dry factual “just the facts, ma’am” writer. How? By spending more time thinking about my past. And, by sharing insights into my life – such as in my post How I Became a Blogger – Laurie’s Story.
5 Traits of the Most Excellent Writers
Here’s a short list of the personality traits of successful writers.
1. Top writers break writing rules
One of my favorite books about freelance writing is The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell. They’re top writers, and they encourage freelancers to step outside the box — especially when it comes to pitching queries to magazine editors. It’s important to learn the rules of writing, and then let your own writer’s voice, personality, and traits shine through.
2. Top writers express their ideas, no matter how zany
It’s easier for an editor (you, in many cases) to tone writing down or edit the zaniest bits. Top writers push the envelope — and in doing so, they learn to recognize how much is too much.
3. Top writers think of themselves as revolutionaries
They’re not “just writers” — they’re the creators of new worlds, new creatures, new possibilities! Top writers know they’re creating something new and exotic for their readers — and timidity is not one of their traits. Successful writers have the “risk taking trait” — and they know that risks make good writing good.
4. Top writers expose their weaknesses and flaws
I’m not sure if this is a good writing tip, but I’ve heard that writers need to share whatever it is they don’t want people to know. Their secrets. Their dirt. Their mistakes, regrets, woes. While I’m not 100% convinced this is a trait of a top writer, I do believe that good writers share their authentic voices and selves.
5. Top writers accept edits and rejections gracefully
Editors and publishers request changes, kill articles, or sometimes even revamp the whole article in-house. Sometimes, they reject article pitches or book proposals with a stilted form letter — or sometimes you’ll see your idea plastered on the cover of their magazine a couple months after you pitched it! One of the most important traits of top writers is the ability to shake it off — rejection, dejection — and move on.
Another trait of a top writer is “bouncebackability.” To learn more, read When Your Publishing Contract is Cancelled – How to Save Your Writing Career.
“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write,” writes Lamott in Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. “It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”
The best writers take it one step at a time. Bird by Bird.
What do you think makes good writers good? Comments welcome below!