The No. 1 Question Successful Writers Ask

The No. 1 Question Successful Writers Ask: Do You Know It?

M. Scott Peck opened his book, The Road Less Traveled, with the line, “Life is difficult”.

He borrowed that line from Buddha, who said, “Everybody suffers,” which simply means everybody is doing it hard, no matter who they are. It’s an age-old truism. Life is difficult. Everybody does suffer, at least in some part of their life.

I’m about to reinvent the adage, however, and say, “Writing is difficult.”

It’s difficult for a number of reasons, and the reasons are different for different people, but there are common difficulties faced by all writers.

Self-doubt is certainly one of them. The doubt of not being good enough. The doubt of not knowing how to say what you want to say. The doubt of not being able to finish what you’ve started. The doubt that nobody will want to read what you’ve written.

Time, or the lack of it, is another difficulty. We seem to be incredibly time poor and overwhelmed by doing other things that even the thought of writing is too much. And writing does take a lot of time. Even if you managed to complete 4,000 words a week (which is a lot for your average working person), that’s 25 weeks, or half a year, of writing even before you get into the editing and proofreading.

Then there’s the marketing and selling of your book (if that’s what you’ve written). There’s a saying in the publishing world: “It’s the easiest thing in the world to fill your warehouse with books, but the hardest thing to empty it.” With over 45 million titles on Amazon (2019), your marketing also has to be spot on for your book to stand out above all the others.

So, yes, writing is difficult in many aspects. What, then, does a writer need to do to make a success of his/her endeavours along the writing journey?

The answer, in fact, is a question. And the question is this:

What would a successful writer in my position do?

Note that the question implies that it doesn’t matter yet what you are writing or doing. What the question is actually requiring is for you to identify what a successful writer would be doing given they face your current situation.

What will help to identify this is to list everything that a successful writer in your current position would be doing, no matter how large or small those things would be, and pose them as a question.

I’m going to list 4 examples, but you may well be able to list more.

  1. Would a successful writer have a strong, positive mindset?
  2. Would a successful writer be a better time manager?
  3. Would a successful writer devote themselves to greater learning?
  4. Would a successful writer establish and grow their author profile?

These are the things a successful writer would be doing. Let’s go through the list.

Would a successful writer have a strong, positive mindset?

Firstly, a successful writer will have developed a positive mindset in order to respond to the difficulties they face during their writing journey. Why is that? Why would a positive mindset matter?

Simply because writers with a negative mindset allow the doubts to keep piling up and prevent them from doing what they need to do. They won’t find the time to write. They won’t believe they are good enough. They won’t believe they can be successful. The Doubting Thomas will never finish, let alone start, their writing journey.

A writer with a positive mindset, however, won’t allow the doubts to dictate their behaviour or belief in themselves or abilities. Sure, every successful writer faces doubts, but they don’t allow them to run amok and derail them from their writing. They are like teachers, getting a class of rowdy kids to stand quietly in line and behave. The doubts are there, but they are controlled and kept in line.

Would a successful writer be a better time manager?

So it is with time management. A successful writer knows how to be disciplined and manage their time in such a way that they always write their set quota of words per day or per week. They allocate time every week for their writing and are extremely protective of it. That is, no interruptions – no phone calls, no visitors, no meetings, no emails, no distractions at all – because they know how valuable their writing time is and nothing is going to take it away from them.

Would a successful writer devote themselves to greater learning?

Successful writers are also dedicated to a lifelong learning of their craft. Always wanting to be better today than they were yesterday, and to be better tomorrow than they are today. They aim for the highest goal, to be a master of their craft, a raconteur, and they know that a master never stops learning, that they are a perpetual student in life and in writing.

Would a successful writer establish and grow their author profile?

A successful writer is also very well aware that the writing journey doesn’t stop at the end of the book with the words ‘The End’. In fact, it’s only just the beginning of another, and no less important, aspect of writing – marketing and selling. In this manner, a successful writer strives to be more than just a hobby writer, who just writes for the simple pleasures of it, just as a they would take in a pleasant walk to take in the sunshine and smell the roses in the garden.

A successful writer, on the other hand, takes a professional approach to writing and as such treats it as a business. They take the time to not only educate themselves in the mastery of writing, but also in the business of selling. They take time to develop their author profile, to build a selling platform, to identify their ideal readership and create a marketing message to pitch to that readership.

And maybe there’s another question that should be added to the list:

What would be the real cost of not doing these things?

What would the cost be of not having a positive mindset, of allowing doubts to take over your behaviours and beliefs?

What would the cost be of not being a good time manager, to be ill-disciplined and not protect your valuable writing time?

What would the cost be to not bother learning how to write, to educate yourself in order to master the craft of writing?

What would the cost be to allow yourself to think that somebody else should sell your book and leave you alone to sit at home in front of the computer screen and not engage with your audience, the people that actually pay to read your words?

Is writing difficult? It sure is. All writers know that.

The question therefore becomes: What would you do to be a success at writing?


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*This article first appeared on and is re-published with permission.

‘Remember, success like writing is a habit’

Dr. Scott Zarcinas
Director, DoctorZed Publishing
Founder, The Life Leaders Club

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