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As a professional copywriter, I’m often asked by aspiring copywriters what they need to do to succeed. Most of their questions center around writing ability. They want to know how to find out if they have the talent to succeed, or if there’s a “test” they can take that will tell them if they’re a good enough writer to actually get paid to write.
Well, for better or for worse, writing ability has very little to do with a writer’s ultimate success. (Business owners who want to write to promote their business, take note — I’m talking to you as well.)
If there was a test out there (and there isn’t by the way) but if there was, I would say the test would deal only with your attitude about writing and leave ability flat out of it.
Yes, you heard me right. Attitude over ability. That’s the key to success.
I know. It’s hard to hear. As writers, we want so badly to be told our work is good, that it has merit, that we truly are talented. I’m not sure why so many of us need that exterior validation — perhaps because writing is such a solitary, inner activity that when we do finally come up for air, we want to make sure we haven’t been wasting our time.
But to be honest, it IS possible to become a professional writer, to be paid for your work, and not be terribly talented. (In fact, I’ll do you one better. It’s even possible to force overworked, exhausted college students in English Lit classes to read your books and not be all that talented. Case in point: Thomas Hardy.)
When I look at professional writers (and I include authors in this category) the common denominator I see isn’t writing talent. It isn’t even a desire to write — I know, it’s kind of strange, but there’s more than a few of those folks out there.
It’s a desire to succeed as a writer.
If you’re determined to succeed as a writer, and have the will and the mindset to do it, then you’ll succeed at it. Period.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can skip working hard, honing your craft or, yes, actually putting pen to paper or hands to keyboard and churning out words. You have to be determined enough to do what it takes. To make the necessary sacrifices. To actually do the work. And, to know setbacks will happen and obstacles will appear and learn to take them in stride.
Not everyone is going to like what you’ve written. I don’t care how good you are. You’re going to get some, if not a truckload, of criticism along the way. But, again, that’s part of your attitude. You have to be able to take the rejection, the criticism, or the just plain mean comments in stride. You have to pick yourself up and keep going. Because you know in your heart you’re on the right path and you won’t allow those nasty people derail you.
And that, my friends, is what it takes to be a writer.
Creativity Exercise — Get the right attitude
People have written books about changing your attitude, so I’m not going to pretend this exercise is the end-all, be-all. But it’s a start.
Twice a day, place your hand on your chest and say out loud “I choose to become a successful writer. I have the attitude of a successful writer.” This is a declaration, not an affirmation. According to T. Harv Eker, author of “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,” declarations are more powerful than affirmations. Declarations simply declare your intent rather than state your goal is already happening (which is an affirmation.) When you state your goal as if it’s already happening, a little voice inside you usually pipes up and says “that’s a load of crap” thus making it harder to change your attitude. But if you simply state the intention, then no little voice chimes in to tell you otherwise.
And, when you say it out loud, you’re letting your subconscious know, the universe know, and the cells in your body know (because they can feel the energy) what you’re intending to do. Placing a hand on your chest allows you to feel that energy. So change happens faster. If you also look in the mirror, you’ll accelerate that change even more.
Above all, remember this: Believe and it WILL happen.