Although the rewards of writing a book have been extensively documented in books like Mitchell Levy’s 42 Rules of Driving Business with Books, purchase the underlying habits needed for writing success and author thought leadership are not as widely known.
The big idea
The starting point is very simple, and beautifully described in books like Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt’s Power of Focus and a slim book by Robert Maxwell entitled Make Today Count. Both books stress the same idea:
Your daily habits determine your future
How you approach each day in general, and how you approach writing in particular, determines your future–and the future of those who depend on you.
Everyone has the same 24 hours each day to live, work, play, and sleep. However, somehow, some people write books and advance to the front of the room, while others dream, read books, and remain in the back of the room.
Habits of writing success
During the past decade, I’ve interviewed hundreds of authors (plus their editors and publicists) who have changed their lives and written their way to success, building lucrative, high-visibility author thought leadership in their fields.
I’ve studied their habits, as well as the habits of writing coaches who got their training in the world of media, where deadlines are non-negotiable. What I’ve listened to and read has convinced me that a few crucial habits spell the difference writing success or continued writing stress and frustration.
The 8 habits of writing success
Here’s a distillation of what I’ve found. Successful, branded authors share these traits:
- Daily progress. Successful authors don’t participate in writing marathons; they commit to writing a little every day. They commit to consistent progress. You can make significant progress in 30 minutes a day, even more if you spend a little extra time reviewing what you’ve written and what you want to write tomorrow right before you go to bed.
- Delegation. There is usually a team behind a successful author; sometimes co-authors, sometimes ghost writers, sometimes book coaches and development editors, and sometimes a variety of contributors. Success does not have to involve martyrdom!
- Planning. Few nonfiction authors depend on their creativity and inspiration to get their books written. Instead, they begin with outlines or mind map that identify the topics they’re going to write about in each chapter. When they sit down to write, they know what they’re going to write about. As a result, they never start with an empty screen.
- Purpose. Successful nonfiction authors recognize that their books aren’t purchased for entertainment or style. Instead, books are purchased for reader change; the goal is to help readers solve problems or achieve goals. By focusing on what their readers want, rather than showcasing their knowledge, authors write books that attract the readers they’re interested in serving later on.
- Efficiency. Successful authors are efficient authors; they choose the right tools and take maximum advantage of them. When working with Microsoft Word, they use keyboard shortcuts to save time and eliminate the need to remove their right hand from the keyboard and reaching for the mouse. They write short, concise books with focused, actionable content. Most important, they harvest and recycle previously-written ideas and content, such as blog posts, newsletters, reports, and speeches. They use templates whenever possible to speed content creation and formatting.
- Standards. Successful authors refuse to be intimidated by the authors held up as role-models by their their high school and college teachers. Writing is typically taught from a “classic” point of view, rather than a pragmatic, information organization and sharing point of view. Successful authors write for efficient information transfer, striving for brevity and clarity. In doing so, they forgive themselves for the C’s and D’s they might have received.
- Rituals. Most important, successful authors establish rituals, which can be considered “habits on steroids.” Whenever possible, they write at the same time and in the same place. They print-out and back-up their work at the end of each writing session. They track their blog posts and teleseminar topics, identifying which topics generate the most response.
- Confidence. Most of all, successful authors are confident in the expertise they want to share and the people who are around them to help them succeed. Successful authors recognize that lousy first drafts often result in excellent final drafts. They are confident in the process of writing, reviewing, and rewriting.
In short, successful authors reject the idea of write their way to success, one word at a time. They reject the view that writing as a talent-driven special skill, and–instead–are willing to do what it takes to cultivate their own skills. (Many of the authors I’ve interviewed don’t consider themselves especially proficient or talented writers.) The basis of writing success are found in simple daily habits that anyone can put to work.
Roger C. Parker invites you to explore Published & Profitable‘s Sample Contents and sign-up for his Writer’s Writer’s Tip Blog. You’re also invited to e-mail your writing questions and concerns.