THE PSYCHOLOGY OF BEING A SUCCESSFUL WRITER

Creative Visualization

Imagine success. Even the words we use show our attitude in a positive or negative way. Do we say “I’m not really a writer because I haven’t had anything published” or “I am a writer, but as yet, unpublished.”

Determination

Working towards goals is a good way to focus determination. One survival technique if someone is lost in the bush is to climb a tree, sight a recognizable point in the distance, then walk towards it, climbing every so often to check direction. Otherwise, without an object on which to focus, humans tend to walk in circles. It is easy to become disorientated. It is the same with our aspirations. Choose something to aim at, then let nothing stop your progress, making sure to check regularly that you are on the right path and the goal is still in sight.

Accept Failures

Thomas Edison was a famous inventor. A man asked him how it felt to have failed so many times in his efforts to produce an electric light bulb. Edison replied that he hadn’t failed at all, but successfully found thousands of ways not to make a light bulb.

Thomas Hardy wrote a poem called “Neutral Tones” that was rejected for thirty-one years. Oddly, some modern experts insist it is his best poem.

Failures and mistakes are an accepted part of success. It means we’re trying.

Commitment

There is truth in the old saying, “We reap what we sow.” How much effort do we put into becoming a writer? A half-hearted attempt will most likely yield half-hearted results.

One of the things that commitment demands is time. I’ve heard people say, “I’d love to write, if only I had the time.” I don’t believe anyone “has” time. We have to take it from other things. If we wait for the perfect time, we’ll never start.

John Grisham got up at 5 am to write, before heading off to the legal office where he worked; Charles Dickins woke himself up in the early hours by taking a cold bath; Annie Dillard put clothes pegs on her fingers to keep herself awake when she wrote at night.

Okay, so you’ve made up your mind to write and just as your bum hits the seat, there’s a knock at the door and it’s a long lost friend. Or the phone rings and it is Auntie Mary debating whose turn it is to organize this year’s family picnic. What can you do?

* Work out a schedule, allowing regular time for writing (even if it is only fifteen minutes a day, or a few hours a week).
* Let family and friends know that this time is yours and only to be interrupted if your cat is on the roof threatening to jump.
* Take the phone off the hook.
* Buy an answer machine and leave it on.
* Get up at night when everyone else is asleep. Then the phone doesn’t ring and people will only knock on the door at Halloween.
* Go out. Libraries, cafes or parks are a good option.

If you’re kind, but persistent, family and friends will eventually get the picture. Sometimes they don’t realise how important your private time is to you.

On the other hand, jealously can be a problem. When my children were little, they would play up every time I turned on the computer. So I chose the option of getting up at night when they were asleep. Or I finished writing by the time they came home from school, to give my attention. I also read them chapters and scenes from my stories and invited feedback to make them feel included.

Courage

Cervantes said, “He that loses wealth, loses much, He that loses courage loses all.” Talent alone might not make a person successful. We have to do something with that talent. The further we reach, the more we risk failure. And courage is required to keep believing in ourselves in the face of doubt, our own and that of others.

Those who have someone to encourage them, pat them on the back, are lucky. Sometimes we have to struggle against the negative opinions of others. A friend told me that when he was studying art, his tutor said, “Your work makes me want to throw up.” At last count, my friend has illustrated almost one hundred books and has had his cartoons published around the world.

It is always fascinating to read lists of former jobs of the rich and famous. Sean Connery was a coffin polisher; Whoopi Goldberg worked in a funeral parlour doing makeup on the bodies for funerals; and the singer, Cindy Lauper, was a dog kennel cleaner. It must have taken courage to climb to where they are now.

The life of a writer is a roller-coaster ride. A slap and a kiss always seem to come hand-in-hand: an acceptance and a dodgy review; a rebuke from an editor and an affectionate fan letter; a rejection from a publisher and an invitation to speak at a writers’ festival. It takes courage not to look at how far you could fall, to hang on no matter what happens.

Positive thinking

The effect of thinking on our actions and bodies is well documented. One of my relatives married into a family, who had an elderly grandmother, diagnosed with stomach cancer. They had the x-rays to prove it. But shortly after this, she lost her memory. When she was put into a nursing home, staff took an x-ray to check the growth of her cancer. The x-ray came up clear. Her cancer had gone. The grandmother had forgotten she had cancer and it disappeared.

Virgil said, “They can because they think they can.” Success begins in the mind.

by Christine Harris

What you have in your mind?