Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Keys to Success as an Author

While looking through the MacArthur Foundation 2013 Fellows I came across a Psychologist by the name of Angela Duckworth.  Ms. Duckworth studies the role that intellectual strengths and personality traits play in educational achievement.  Her work examines two traits that she believes predicts success in life “grit - the tendency to sustain interest in and effort toward long-term goals, and self-control - the voluntary regulation of behavioral, emotional, and attentional impulses”.

Exploring these traits in regard to the endeavor of writing fiction it is clear that the best work comes from authors who possess imagination, character, and self-control. 

When Ms. Duckworth says grit she is referring to a person’s character.  The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines Grit as: firmness of mind or spirit:  unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.

The act of writing in no way forces one to be strong in the face of hardship or danger, but it does require perseverance.  The act of sitting down to write day in and day out takes a firmness of mind or spirit.

Albert Einstein once said “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.” He also said “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

It takes imagination and character to build scenes, construct a plot, and culminate the two into a great story.

One of the most challenging parts of finalizing a manuscript is editing and rewriting.  As an author matures he finds that his best work comes from rewriting.  It is in the rewriting that the imagination takes over, and over time the author molds a story that will entertain those that read it.

Self-control comes in when the author slowly becomes sick of their work.  They’ve read and edited the piece over and over, and are growing tired of it.  I’ve heard it said that by the time an author publishes their work they are over it and ready to move on to something else. 

Here’s a question to all of you fellow writers out there.  What do you think it takes to be successful as an author?



  1. I agree with the part of editing and rewriting. A great writer has someone who will edit him clearly and without fear. Then the author needs to accept what he finds useful and do the rewriting.

    1. I totally agree Bill. Having a good editor and being able to accept their edits is a huge part of polishing one's manuscript.