Guest Post: The Seven Virtues Every Writer Needs to Succeed

Today’s post comes from Emlyn Chand over at The Ambitious Ambigue.  If you haven’t stopped by her blog, please do!  Emlyn is taking the web by storm with her proactive approach to getting her work noticed and I have no doubt she will do very well.

And now I present, “The Seven Virtues Every Writer Needs to Succeed” by Emlyn Chand

What makes a good writer?  Is it a talent for seamlessly styling prose?  A working knowledge of proper grammatical techniques?  The simple ability to write productively?

Technical skills are important, it’s true, but much more important in defining a good writer is virtue.  It cannot be denied that there are a certain number of personal traits that come in handy when the going-gets-tough, and let’s not deny it, the going is tough most of the time.

So here they are, my seven virtues of writing success.  These may look a bit familiar:

1. Reverence—The would-be writer must have a profound respect for the craft.  She must look upon the written word as something that is sacred, something that is vested with the enormous, all-important power of both entertaining and enlightening.

2. Knowledge—To be a writer, one must write.  To write, one must know how, at least to some level.  It is not for others to pass judgment on how well you understand the craft (that part comes a bit later in the process).

3. Wisdom—Beyond this basic knowledge, the writer must possess wisdom.  She must know when her writing is ready to be sent to agents and when it is not.  She must know which rearrangement of her daily routine is the most conducive to productive writing, and then she must ensure that she follows this itinerary—to not only know how to write, but also know how to make the most of her writing.  If she has this wisdom but chooses to ignore it, then she is a fool.

4. Understanding—The true writer understands that she must lose sleep, lose friends, and lose her sanity, and that even then she has no guarantee of ever being recognized as a writer.  She must understand, yet she must not dwell.  She must keep her feet firmly rooted on the ground as she allows her hopeful head to drift towards the heavens.

5. Courage—To write is to bear the soul.  It is to relay the intimate details of our inner minds, hearts, and sometimes even our bodies.  The artist of words paints her soul onto a billboard-sized canvas.  She publicizes and celebrates her own life’s secrets.  The writer must be brave and work steadfastly toward her goals.  She who can submit her soul’s work to the scrutiny of others and continue to smile, continue to believe in the value of her contributions, even upon repeatedly being told “sorry, this isn’t for us” is very courageous indeed.

6. Counsel—The wise writer takes up counsel.  She must become intimate friends with the characters she creates—for if she does not believe than to be real then who else will?  She must engage with others who understand her plight and are able to offer her support when the enormity of her task sometimes overwhelms her.  The intelligent writer will also take up the company of other writers, walking hand-in-hand with them toward their own literary lights.  The savvy writer knows that if one can succeed than others may too.  Plus, the path of karmic retribution is strong for we who write.

7. Wonder—Throughout all of the toil, the heartbreak, and the internet-induced procrastination, the writer must maintain a sense of wonder for her craft.  She must every day be overjoyed that today she had the opportunity to set pen to page and, in some small way, join the ranks of Shakespeare, Joyce, and Rowling.  The true writer will never turn her back on the craft.  She will always derive pleasure from reading a good book, from writing a snappy line of dialogue, and from sipping a steaming cup of coffee.

The writer who possesses these virtues is not far from success.  She must be steadfast in her self-belief and continue to aspire toward her dream.  For if she believes in herself, it’s only a matter of time before someone else will too.

Follow Emlyn on Twitter @emlynchand

Check out Emlyn’s blog

Happy Writing!

About Jodi

Jodi L. Milner is a writer, mandala enthusiast, and educator. Her epic fantasy novel, Stonebearer’s Betrayal, was published in November 2018 and rereleased in Jan 2020. She has been published in several anthologies. When not writing, she can be found folding children and feeding the laundry, occasionally in that order.
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19 Responses to Guest Post: The Seven Virtues Every Writer Needs to Succeed

  1. Emlyn Chand says:

    Great post, thanks for sharing. 😀 Just kidding. Thanks for giving me a bit of publicity, Jodi. I still think your blog just might be better than mine. Glad to have met you, truly.

  2. nrhatch says:

    For those who define “success” as reaching the distant and somewhat elusive destination of publication, these qualities may help them get “there.”

    I define “success” differently. I am a success right here, right now, if I am being who I want to be while enjoying the journey through life.

    What lies before us, and what lies behind us, are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (or Oliver Wendell Holmes)

    Success comes not from what we do, it comes from who we are.

    Success on the outside begins on the inside.

    Security and status simply don’t matter. Courage, faith and aliveness do.

    We might as well live. ~ Dorothy Parker

    No man is a failure who is enjoying life. ~ William Feather

    I would rather be a failure at something I love to do, than a success at something I don’t. ~ George Burns

    My idea of success: “Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do.”

    • nrhatch says:

      I think what bothered me most about this post was this:

      “The true writer understands that she must lose sleep, lose friends, and lose her sanity, and that even then she has no guarantee of ever being recognized as a writer.”

      Writing and life should be a joyful endeavor, not a punishment to be endured.

      I am a writer, a true writer, if I write and recognize myself as a writer.

      • Emlyn Chand says:

        I consider myself a true-blue writer. I have had to make sacrifices and miss out on other opportunities in order to pursue my craft. However, it is a joy to do it. At the point where one is no longer conent to make concessions (and writing actually does become a source of suffering), well, then the game changes.

      • nrhatch says:

        I guess we define sacrifice differently.

        To me a “sacrifice” is not doing something that I WANT to do in order to do something that I feel I MUST do.

        Writing, for me, is never a sacrifice. It’s how I CHOOSE to spend my precious and limited time here on the planet.

        Others might say that I’m “missing out on other opportunities to pursue my craft” . . . but they are wrong. Because I’m not “missing” them at all.

        • Emlyn Chand says:

          Well said! There are other things I’d like to be doing in addition to writing, but I only have so much time. Writing is important so it wins my attention. It is choosing how to spend my time, as you said.

          Although… I do unequivocally SACRIFICE my sanity for writing at times. It’s quite hard to take rejections from literary agents, putting yourself out there to be, more often than not, let down. This is a choice too, except the chooser cannot decide upon the outcome of such an interacation.

        • nrhatch says:

          You are not alone.

          I think that ONE BIG mistake that writers make is “choosing” to take rejections personally. We can choose, instead, to view the rejection merely as “Not here. Not right now.”

          It takes the sting out. 😉

          I write first for ME, and then for THEM. So if THEY don’t like something I wrote, it rarely bothers me. It’s just another pebble in the path on the journey of life.

          The problem is that our Ego wants everyone to like what we write all the time ~ since that is NEVER going to happen, we set ourselves up for disappointment and *POP* goes the Ego.

    • nrhatch says:

      What I liked best:

      “She must every day be overjoyed that today she had the opportunity to set pen to page and, in some small way, join the ranks of Shakespeare, Joyce, and Rowling. The true writer will never turn her back on the craft. She will always derive pleasure from reading a good book, from writing a snappy line of dialogue, and from sipping a steaming cup of coffee.”

    • I love what you have to say in your comment. I’m very much the same in my thinking. Know who you are and love what you are doing. Be liberated! Such a free feeling!

  3. Thank you, Emlyn for a terrific, thought-provoking post, and you too Jodi for introducing me and all your readers for such a great resource for writers.

    Emlyn, I have a couple of observations. First, this article could easily be titled “The Seven Virtures for Living a Fulfilled Life.” (Or some such). If you were to substitute “live,” “happy life,” or “living” for “writer, or “writing,” the entire post would be equally valid. Mainly because writing is an apt metaphor for living.

    Second, your #4, “Understanding” I feel would be better described as “”Grounded Hope.” “She must understand, yet she must not dwell.” Perhaps equally pertinent, and more to the point, “She must have hope, yet she must be realistic and grounded in that hope, and flexible in her goals.”

    Thank you so much for proviiding such interesting food for thought, and a guided meditation.


    • Emlyn Chand says:

      Thanks for the comments, Paula. I would have liked to change the titles of some categories around, but I was trying to keep them as close as possible to the fruits of the spirit as listed in the Bible (or is it the gifts of the spirit? I can never remember…) Writing, for me, is an almost spiritual encounter–one that helps me feel whole.

  4. MPax says:

    The joy keeps me going. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

  5. oldancestor says:

    Interesting discussion in the comments here. Perhaps the idea of sacrifice is more relevant to the writer whose goal is publication. Which is really a quest for validation. At least it is for me.

    But if the definition of success is enjoying the moment, then one writes for the joy of writing. Enjoying time with friends might be a different, but equal, type of success.

    Those of us who skip time with friends and miss out on beach trips and so on… we’d secretly rather be writing anyway.

  6. Michael Knudsen says:

    Brilliant! I like the focus on “virtues”, not skills. These are emotional intelligence factors that indicate maturity and understanding. Editors and publishers love working with people who are balanced and in possession of these things.

  7. tsuchigari says:

    Thanks to everyone who came and shared their thoughts, and a big thanks to Emlyn for allowing me to feature her work. This was such a success that I will be doing guest features on Fridays for the next while. If you are interested let me know!

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