The only quality a professional writer really needs is the ability to write well, right?
Writing for fun is one thing. When you write for joy, as a creative outlet, or even just to bring in a little bit of extra income, you can approach writing more casually. But if writing is your only way to make a living, certain qualities will make the process easier.
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Here are 5 must-have qualities of professional writers:
An entrepreneurial mindset
Or at least a willingness to learn. Writing itself will only get you so far when you’re writing books, blogs, or copy for clients with the intention of earning money. There are other factors to consider, such as marketing and advertising, branding, social media use, and finances. Learning how to manage those things effectively takes time.
I love writing poems. Unfortunately, poetry isn’t going to pay our mortgage. Instead, I rely on income from my books and blogs as well as occasional freelance work. As a result, I can’t sit around and wait for inspiration to hit. I have to be intentional about sitting down to write every day. (And believe me, as a pregnant lady with an irrepressible urge to nest, sleep, and eat all day, it can truly be a struggle!)
An organized environment
I know I’m talking to writers here, so there’s a pretty good chance most will disagree with me on this. I mean, wasn’t there an article about messy people and how they’re actually productive geniuses? (I can attest to this because of messy, genius Husband.) That might be true, but it doesn’t mean disorganization will make your life easier.
The less organized I am, the more overwhelmed I get. The more overwhelmed I get, the more behind I get. When I get overwhelmed and fall behind on my work, I just want to quit and watch hours of The Office on Netflix while inhaling bowl after bowl sugary cereal instead. However, when I am organized, I operate more efficiently. I don’t get as overwhelmed, and I don’t let myself or my clients down.
The ability to plan ahead
If you’re anything like me, you might feel totally motivated and driven one day, and completely the opposite on the next. That’s where effective planning comes in. When you look ahead to upcoming tasks and deadlines, you can figure out how to space your work so you don’t get overwhelmed.
Planning a novel, for instance, can make your writing process smoother and quicker. It can also keep you from getting confused about what you’ve already written. (For more on effective novel planning, check out Story Planner or this handy Novel in a Month notebook.) I also sat down at the beginning of this year and planned out all of my blog posts for the upcoming year. It was incredibly easy and it only took a couple of hours. (Not bad for a year’s worth of blog posts, eh?) Here’s how I did it.
The ability to look at your writing from multiple perspectives
It’s not enough to look at your blogs or book from a purely creative standpoint. You also have to look at them from a marketing perspective. What to people want to read? What information is in high demand? What sells well? When you can look at your books from a creative and a business-oriented perspective, you’ll have a more balanced view of what you’re doing effectively, as well as what needs improvement.
The ability to process criticism in a healthy, constructive way.
This has always been the hardest part for me. I don’t like criticism. Sometimes even constructive criticism stings more than I’d like to admit. But as a writer, criticism is not just inevitable. It’s also necessary. Learning how to process criticism in a healthy, constructive way will make your job easier. It will keep you from taking offense or getting too discouraged to move forward.
When you receive criticism that’s mean-spirited without being constructive, try to remember that someone else’s negativity is not your responsibility. There are probably other factors affecting that person’s bad attitude. Unfortunately, you happened to be the recipient of some of that negativity. But if there’s nothing constructive about it, then it’s not yours to hang onto. Let it go.
If you write just for fun, don’t worry about the rules. You are free to approach your writing any way you’d like. However, if you want to make a living as a writer, it’s important to approach your writing intentionally. Both intentionality and responsibility take practice, but they’ll make your writing career more productive and enjoyable in the long run.
If you’re ready to step into a writing career but you’re not quite sure where to start, I have something that might help. Ink Blots & Happy Thoughts: 20 Lessons Learned in My First Year of Freelance Writing started as my own personal record of what to do and what to definitely not ever do again. I began keeping notes during my first year as a freelance writer because honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing. I needed to keep myself straight somehow. (Trust me, that’s not an easy task.) Eventually, I turned all of those notes into an e-book with the goal of helping other freelance writers who needed guidance, too.
If you want to write for a living but want to learn from someone else’s mistakes first, you can download the book right here.
What other qualities do you rely on to make professional writing work for you? Let me know in the comments below!