One thing all successful writers have in common

The other day, I was walking past a building whose walls were made entirely of glass windows. In the lobby, there was a little boy (probably about two years old) who was toddling around. It was dark enough outside that I could see him clearly, but he would have been staring directly at his reflection in the glass. He was fascinated by himself and began walking gleefully toward the other little person in the room (him), over the moon with excitement until he smacked his head into the glass and fell down on his bum. I paused, waiting for the keen wail of a disappointed child. Instead, he stood up with a huge grin on his face and walked toward the window again. And hit his head against the glass again. And fell again. And picked himself back up again.

Behind him, his mother was cracking up with laughter just like I was. That little bit of pain was obviously totally worth the prize of running into himself -- an experience nobody else has ever had.

That little kid would be a great writer. 

Writers share a lot of common characteristics. Obviously, not everyone fits the mold, and that's absolutely great. But overall, with the hundreds of writers I've met, no matter the genre or method of writing they have, they share a few things.

  1. Writers are generally introverts. That's not to say they're all socially awkward, or that good writers have to totally Howard Hughes it and hide away in a room for months, peeing into jars while they write their magnum opus. It just means that we get energy from time spent by ourselves, and we often burn out after hours in the company of a bunch of people.

  2. Writers blend insecurity and confidence like pros. Did you know you can be both confident and insecure? Both assured and terrified? Both optimistic and bitterly negative? Writers can. We can go from the high of getting a short story published with rave reviews to the gut-plunging lows of reading troll-ish comments on a blog post within seconds.

  3. Writers read. I don't get writers who don't. I certainly wouldn't want to read their books. It's like a musician never listening to music or a filmmaker never watching films. If you love something so much, you immerse yourself in it.

  4. Writers have to work harder at their relationships. Family, friends, and partners of writers dread the words, "I need to do some writing." It can often mean hours of silence, interrupted by the occasional swear word or maniacal laugh from the study, where one wonders if dinner will ever get made or the laundry taken from the washer to dry. Writers have to balance our propensity for solitude with the needs of our loved ones to actually spend time in our company. It can be difficult, but balance is the only way, and that balance is hard-earned.

  5. Writers are addicts. Marijuana, alcohol, coffee, cocaine, mescaline, speed, heroin, morphine -- don't worry, these aren't in my drawers or anything. It's just a short list of substances that writers are famous for being hooked on, and I don't know a single writer who isn't using one, even if it is just an inordinate amount of coffee (my own personal poison).

Again, these are the highlights, and they may not apply to everyone. Just to the writers I know. But there is one thing I know all successful writers have in common, and it's this:

Writers are persistent. 

Basically, if you look at this kid and feel some level of camaraderie, along with the desire to tell him to get up and keep on freaking going (instead of yelling at the parent who's no doubt filming this and laughing his/her butt off), then you might just be a writer.


Disappointed? I hope not. Because if you can't pick yourself up after getting smacked on the head with a rejection, get a giant goofy smile on your face, and charge forward again in the hopes of reaching your goal -- then you probably won't be a successful writer.

Don't worry, the goofy smile isn't required. But it does make things a whole lot more pleasant.

Feature image: Flickr / / 2012