How to Be a Writer: Do You Use these 3 Vital Keys to Success?

    Do you wonder how to be a writer?

    To be a writer is more than learning how to string words together effectively.

    It’s about using the three vital keys to success.

    The good news is that these keys are free.

    Actually, they are already within you – all you need to do is to activate them.

    I’ll introduce you to the three keys of success in a moment, but first, let me ask you a question.

    Are you a Giver or a Taker?

    If you divide people into two camps, Givers and Takers, writers are part of the Givers [tweet this].

    Don’t you agree?

    But what about when you’re exhausted? What about when you come home from work with nothing left to give?

    As writers, we need to receive in order to keep on giving.

    Cultivating the following three vital keys will allow you to receive nourishment on your writer’s journey. These keys will revitalize your creative spirit, raise your confidence, boost your creativity, and lift your motivation.

    1. CURIOSITY: Why asking questions develops writing skills.

    Remember when you were a kid. You were curious about everything, right?

    I’m sure you had lots of questions, maybe like these ones:

    “Daddy, why don’t the stars fall out of the sky?”, “Mummy, where do babies come from?”

    What about now – are you still as curious?


    become a writer 1


    As writers, we need to rekindle that childlike curiosity because the mindset of curiosity is crucial for success.

    Here’s what Jo Marchant, the author of Decoding the Heavens said about writing:

    It’s crucial to have the right attitude. You need a burning curiosity – about how the world works, what people are doing, why they are doing it and why it matters. Think hard about what people tell you and make sure you understand it on the deepest possible level. If you don’t, keep asking questions until you do.

    Tip: Sit in a cafe or bar and observe people. Turn off your phone or other distractions. As you look at the faces around you, imagine what they might be feeling or thinking. What might their lives be like? What have they experienced in the past? Let your imagination run free.

    2. OPENNESS: How to kickstart your creativity.

    Ideas are good. Yet ideas, opinions, and concepts imprison our creative mind. When we know exactly what we’re going to write, we don’t leave room for the serendipity of creativity.

    Openness means letting go of pre-formed ideas.

    In particular, it’s important to let go of ideas and judgements we hold about ourselves and our capability.

    If you listen to the internal chatter of your brain, you may notice a lot of thoughts with a negative slant – especially when you think about your talent as a writer.

    Negative thoughts hold you back from achieving your potential and releasing the power of your creative mind.


    how to be a writer -openness 2


    Having an open mind means becoming aware of judgements and letting them go.

    Tip: When you notice negative thoughts like ‘You’ll never be a real writer’, or ‘Nobody will want to read this’, and so on,  imagine a green gremlin sitting on your left shoulder, hissing the words into your ear.  Now gently flick off the gremlin, like  brushing off a piece of lint, and say to it firmly but kindly, “No!”

    3. Courage: How to overcome write-or-flight syndrome.

    We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master. 
—Ernest Hemingway

    Have you ever experienced the write-or-flight syndrome?

    It’s the moment of fear that sets in when you sit in front of a blank page. That fear can be so strong that you want to flee from your desk. In the grip of this syndrome, even cleaning the bathroom or answering emails seems a more pleasurable option than staring at that blank page!

    The kind of doubts that tend to go through my mind when I’m facing an empty page are:

    ‘Do I have anything to say?’, ‘Is my writing good enough?’, ‘Can I do it?’.

    Does this seem familiar?

    We need courage to put words on an empty page. We need the courage to write badly, to fumble and stumble and grasp for words.

    Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. ~Anne Lamott


    how to be a writer courage


    We need courage to trust in the process of writing. To trust that something will emerge that is worth sharing with the world.

    Tip: If fear keeps you stuck, imagine you’re talking to your best friend. Record a couple of paragraphs on your phone or laptop. Then transcribe what you’ve recorded – and write on.

    Walking the writer’s path

     You fail only if you stop writing. ~ Ray Bradbury

    Writing is a life-long journey. To keep going, we need to overcome obstacles, fight the dragons of doubt and fear, find nourishment along the way, and taste the joy of being creative.

    Talent is not some finite gift we were given at birth; it develops through the act of writing.
    [tweet this].

    If you cultivate the three vital keys to success – curiosity,  openness, and courage – your talent will shine and grow.

    What is your experience of walking the writer’s path? Please share in the comments.

    About the author

      Mary Jaksch

      Mary Jaksch is best known for her exceptional training for writers at and for her cutting-edge book, Youthful Aging Secrets. In her “spare” time, Mary is also the brains behind, a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

    • We’re all writers but we become authors when folk buy our words!

    • Mary–
      I agree with most of what you say, but you begin by grouping writers in the givers camp. I don’t think so. My experience tells me that writers are taking all the time–from what they read, who they know, what they overhear while waiting in line at the post office. No writing gets done without constant, essentially obsessive taking.

    • Alicia says:

      I love “write or flight” syndrome. I’ve never heard anyone say that before.

      For “courage” I’d also say that you have to have courage enough to believe you’re a writer. Once you have that type of courage, you’ll push toward becoming better, and you’ll actually start publishing things, which makes you become an even better writer!

      • The funny thing is that I didn’t believe I was a REAL WRITER – even though a book of mine was translated into eight languages. Then the penny finally dropped:

        “Oh! I am a writer!”

        Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Alicia.

    • Roshan says:

      What you have said about courage is infinitely comforting…knowing that great and successful writers like yourselves also started out by overcoming that feeling of doubt gives me a shot in the arm. Now I just write whatever I’m feeling and get it out, leave the evaluation for later. Thank you for sharing.

      • I’m delighted that I’ve been able to help you even a little bit on your journey as a writer, Roshan!

    • lomboz says:

      Reading your tips is doing miracles to me. I’m Brazilian, and in spite of not being a native speaker of English, I really enjoy studying it, and believe me: your tips are helping me to write much better now, in portuguese. Indeed, my practice in English language is increasing too, and I’m glad to know I can access a website which helps me with that.

      • Brazil is one of my favorite countries – the people are so, so warm-hearted!
        I can see from your comment that your English is excellent. Congratulations!

        And thanks for the kind words 🙂

    • Brett says:

      Great post! During these first few months as a freelance writer, I’ve found that a healthy blend of all three is definitely needed to succeed in the world of writing. Going along with curiosity, I think a big part of writing success comes from developing a true enjoyment for reading, and not only reading, but reading actively. I love to read non-fiction books and take notes in a designated journal. It helps me organize source information for future blog posts. Thanks again for the post!-


      • That’s a good point about reading being important. I’m interested in your distinction of active reading (as opposed to passive reading). This might make and interesting guest post for WTD …..

    • Steve says:

      Write or flight.

      Love it!

      • Yeah – we all know about the moment of ‘write or flight’, don’t we?!

    • LadyLagoon says:

      My expereniece on the writer’s path is a weird experenicence.I may never get myself published,but however I will always see myself as a writer.

      I love to write,because in my darkest times,it saved me from taking my life.Writing is my calling,and I hope to full fill it.

      Thanks for this article,it is amazing!=)

      • Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s wonderful to read, ‘Writing is my calling.”
        All best wishes for your writer’s journey.

    • Andre Cruz says:

      Great tips, I have found it hard sometimes to keep going when faced with rejection, but my desire to give others joy through my writing is too strong.

      • Rejection is always hard to handle, Andre. I think it’s because we identify so much with our writing.

        So if what we’ve written is rejected, we feel that we have been rejected personally.

        It’s great that your desire to give other joy through your writing is so strong!

        Keep on focusing on that desire and on the joy 🙂

    • Curiosity, openness and courage are three great attributes to strive for in one’s writing. Together they can serve as wonderful goals as we begin the new year 2014. I will use them as markers for evaluating my work as I continue on a writing journey.

      My experience of walking the writer’s path includes being old enough to appreciate the age of the Internet. Gone are the days of onion skin, carbon paper, typewriter erasers and using a dictionary to find correct spelling.

      I used to think, “there has to be a better way.” A better way is here. I wonder what the future holds.

      • Barbara, your idea of using the three attributes as markers for evaluating your work is interesting. When I wrote this article, I thought that curiosity, openness and courage would be good markers for us as writers. The question we can ask ourselves are, “Am I curious, open, and courageous?”

        What you are indicating is that we can ask of our writing, “Is it curious, open, and courageous?” I think that’s a very interesting thought!

    • Paul says:

      ……write-up isn’t good enough even before someone else reads it. Like a quote says “When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.”
      Thanks for this article

      • Sometimes I wonder why so many of us doubt our power, Paul. When we were kids, we felt invincible. But negative responses from whose near to us can erode confidence and sow doubt.

    • Paul says:

      Just like you said;
      “We need the courage to write badly, to fumble and stumble and grasp for words”.
      I think my major weak point is that I’m a bit perfectionist. I’m the type that thinks my write-up isn’t good enough even before someone else reads it. Like a quote I recently came across; ” When you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt”. -Anonymous
      Thanks for sharing this article. It’s a lot helpful to me. I’ll work on myself.

      • I’m glad the article was helpful, Paul.

        As a ‘recovering perfectionist’ I can understand where you’re coming from. I think we all need to practice writing badly. Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

        I mean, it’s good to just get words onto the page – without having to fight the inner critic all the time.

    • After spending a lot of hair-pulling moments with my two young children all day, I can’t wait until they’re in bed so I can sit down to write! The blank screen has never frightened me, but I have sat in front of it wondering how to start. I’m currently working on my first novel and have a long way to go with it. Sometimes that’s a scary thought – can I get through it? But often it only excites me because I keep coming up with new ideas and ways of strengthening what I already have. My New Year’s resolution is to become a published author in 2014 – not with my novel, but with a short story or two (or three).

      • A novel? That’s great, Kristi! It’s a good idea to get some short stories out first and build a reputation that way. I want to read that novel when it’s finished!

    • Beth Havey says:

      Great post, Mary. Thanks. This year has to be my year for completing projects. My curiosity got me through a rough draft, now I need openness to see where things should be changed and courage to get the work done. Happy New Year, Beth

      • Lovely to encounter you here, Beth! Great to hear that you’ve got a rough draft – that’s the most difficult phase. I wish you all the best with you projects in 2014!

    • Marcy McKa says:

      Hi Mary – I’m new to Write to Done & today’s post really spoke to me. I’m on a new writing venture, but it’s still revealing itself to me. I’m trying to stay open and not listen to the negative voices, but that’s a challenge when it’s all still so unclear. Thanks for the support.

      • Hey Marcy – great to read that you’re on a new writing venture!

        The phase when it’s still unclear is precious. It’s important to stay there as long as it takes and not to hurry out of it. That’s when Openness is most important. When we stay open to that first foggy stage of writing, creativity has space to emerge.

    • Hey Benson, thanks for commenting. I like what you say that writing is taking a risk – and will eventually become a success story. Thanks!

    • I have liked the three tips that can help one to be writer. They are great. More specifically, ‘openess and courage,’has blessed me.

      Courage is that vital; it pushes one to take risk which eventually becomes a success story.

      It’s wonderful.

    • Thanks for the prompt to get the New Year off to a great start! May yours be happy and successful. Bette

      • Thanks, Bette – let’s make this a year of writing!

    • Robert Nielsen says:

      Boy, could I relate to a lot in this post–especially the comments about openness and courage.

      I hadn’t really seriously written until about three years ago, when I started writing fanfiction. I hadn’t even planned to write THERE, but something just sparked in my head, and I decided to write…and that’s where the part about ‘courage’ comes in. I experienced the ‘write-or-flight’ syndrome many times…and even now, when I’m staring at that blank page on my computer screen, I wonder if I’m really good enough to do this.

      But the (mostly) positive feedback I received on my fanfiction writing encouraged me to strike out and work on something original–my manuscript, “Armageddon’s Clock,” which I’m self-editing and hoping to pitch to agents and publishers soon.

      • What a great story, Robert! Well done for getting into writing.

        Please let us know how you go with ‘Armageddon’s Clock’. It’s a great title!

        • Robert Nielsen says:

          Thank you, Mary! Little bit of background on the novel:

          I’ve been interested in history, specifically MILITARY history, for as long as I can remember, and specializing in the time of the Cold War. One of the main events of that period, of course, was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, followed thirteen months later by the murder of President John F. Kennedy. Well…what if those events were somehow CONNECTED? (i.e., Oswald was working under ORDERS from the Soviet government, during the CMC itself, in order to get rid of JFK and perhaps end the crisis?)

          I figure, there are SO MANY conspiracy theories surrounding the JFK murder, this would just be another possibility. 🙂


    • Nice advice, thanks. I like your quote “talent is not some finite gift we were given at birth…” Some days I wonder why I try to write. Other days I know why Ii write. For me, it’s a matter of knowing there will be productive days and non productive, but I need to just keep writing.

      • What I find interesting is that confidence in writing increases when we write. Conversely, it drops when we don’t. Let’s make this a year when we write consistently.

    • Jarm says:

      Distractions have always been my issue. Life, email, interruptions, social media . . . I tend to take care of those first before I write, in order to clear my mind. But what happens? I never get to the writing!

      • Good point, Jarm!

        A simple thing I’ve changed this year is to write first thing every morning, and not to start with answering emails.

    • Wonderful post, Mary. All three of these factors play a very important role in a writer’s life. I find, for myself and other writer’s who have contacted me, that the most difficult factor is having faith, or as you call it, courage in yourself. It is sometimes difficult to recognize that you do indeed have something wonderful to say. It may be in the form of a book, a blog post, or a even a brief message. Overcoming the fear, and finding the courage to dive in can be overwhelming, but it’s always worth the effort.
      Thanks again, and Happy New Year to you.
      Jeanne E. Rogers, Author
      The Sword of Demelza, a middle grade fantasy where endangered animal heroes roam the pages!

      • Yes, Jeanne, having faith that we have something useful to say is a difficult factor.

        I’ve decided to take up a simple mantra this year – something I can say to myself whenever I have doubts. It’s quite simple:

        “Find a way”.

        It works! For example, when I think of the beginnings of a novel I would like to develop further this year and hear all the ‘buts” in my mind (like ‘but I don’t know how to do it’, or, ‘I don’t have time’), I just say to myself ‘Find a way!’.

    • Great article.

    • Thanks for these three easy things to keep me on track this year!

    • DM Watson says:

      Wonderful advice. Thank you.

    • Joe Kovacs says:

      Curiosity is the big one for me- I definitely need to improve in this area. When it comes to human behavior and interactions, I’m on my game. I’m the one who watches parents’ faces to see what kind of emotions appear when their kids act out in a store. I’m the one who doesn’t look at attractive people but observes other people in the room to find out what sly tactics they use so they can “indiscreetly” look at those attractive people. I’m the one who watches the body language of couples sitting together in restaurants to gauge the success of their conversations and interactions. I love watching people. BUT, whenever I read a story that utilizes vocabulary or experiences that I don’t know about, I get frustrated. I know I need to improve in certain areas of curiosity and learn more on a regular basis. This comes from asking questions and reading nonfiction books about events and history that I am unfamiliar with. Of course, I would be better served if my memory wasn’t so poor. LOL! Thanks for the great post! Joe

      • You obviously have a writer’s eye, Joe. I love the way you watch people.
        I think all of us need to cultivate curiosity.

    • My experience as a writer is to rely upon the power of one’s imagination. It is within this realm that creativity is born. I keep in mind the words of Walt Disney; one needs to exercise the muscles of the mind so imagination never fades. The theater screen of the mind is my background while writing, an endless reservoir of creative ideas brought to life through my pen.

    • >