The One Essential Ingredient to Your Success as a Writer


In the movie “Rocky III,” the fighter Rocky Balboa loses his title of Heavyweight Champion of the World to Clubber Lang, played by Mr. T. To get it back, Rocky Balboa agrees to be trained by Apollo Creed, his former rival. Creed takes Balboa to Los Angeles, back to the streets where he grew up. As the two of them enter the boxing club where Creed used to train, the scores of would-be young boxers stop what they are doing to stare at the two former champions.

“See that look in their eye, Rocky,” Creed says. “That’s the eye of the tiger. Somewhere you lost that, but we are here to help you regain it. The eye of the tiger.”

Rocky III called it the Eye of the Tiger. Other places you might have heard of it as a hunger. I refer to it as Fire in the Belly. Regardless of what you call it, it is absolutely essential to the success of a writer. You have to want it–badly. You have to be willing to put up with time, trial and tribulation to get where you want to get. But wanting it is not enough. I am surrounded every day on Twitter by thousands who want to someday be so successful at writing that they can quit their day job. It’s not enough to want it. You have to be willing to pay the price. And that can be a tall order. What am I talking about?

* Investing a million words, 10,000 hours or 10 years of your life learning the craft.

* Giving up your weekends, early hours or late nights.

* Dealing with years of rejection, not only from publishers, but from friends and family who think you are wasting your time–and theirs.

* Accepting that you are not–and most likely will never be–a master of the craft. That the writer who stops be a student is doomed to failure.

* Surrendering an otherwise lucrative career in something like accounting, law or business in order to live a step away from the welfare line in pursuit of a dream that might not happen.

Many, many people dream of becoming a writer. As the old saying goes, if you can do anything else, do it. But if you can’t see yourself as anything but a writer, then pursue it.

But it’s not like going to the pool and dipping your big toe in to see if the water’s cold.

That water IS cold, but you have to plunge in, head first, and only into the deep end.

It’s the only way.

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2 thoughts on “The One Essential Ingredient to Your Success as a Writer

  1. A terrible thought of plunging in completely; and I suppose those who want to write but choose not to will, possibly in later years, find that writing is something they cannot run from, and will be forced to plunge in by some Greater Force. Well, that’s how it is with me. I richochet back and forth, with doors opening, closing, and some of them re-opening. A lifelong frustration it seems. Though, I am sure, I am no where near a dedicated writer as are you and Tiff.

  2. I have been writing on and off for the past twelve years or more. Am I dedicated I believe so! I started writing historical works complimenting my photography, then moved across to fiction stories. But every so often have to return to my roots, like a breath of fresh air. I have never made up my mind which genre I should write. I just love writing Science Fiction, Murder Mystery, Ghosties and History.

    They announced they had found Richard III’s bones. My first thought was to write an article and post it on my blog, so I believe I have what it takes to become a true writer, but the years are passing me buy, and at this rate will be drawing my pension before I finish my first book.

    Recent personal commitments in the home have slowed down my writing process, but I always find ways around them, even if it means working to the early hours of the morning.

    Over the years have had rejections and acceptances, but every time I get a rejection, I examine the story again, and see what I can do to improve it, then submit it elsewhere, or back to where it had been with attached memo.

    As far as I can see, writing is a learning process from the first day you pick up a pen. It is also a way of keeping the brain active!

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