#5onFri: Five Lessons from Legendary Writers

by Dave Chesson
published in Writing

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

I’m a big believer that there is no need to reinvent the wheel, and there is no need to blaze your own trail when many others have successfully walked the path before you.

That’s not to say you can’t be original. After all, you are unique, and have irreplaceable experiences accordingly. However, we have much to learn from those who have succeeded in areas we wish to. So today, I’d like to share five of my favorite lessons from authors who have walked the walk and experienced serious success along the way.

1) Feel Liberated Like Geoff Dyer

Perhaps the most reliable indicator of someone who is worth your time is someone who has the respect of their peers. That certainly applies to Geoff Dyer who has been described as “one of our greatest living critics, not of the arts but of life itself, and one of our most original writers.”

Do you think that’s the kind of person you could learn from? If so, consider the following quotation on the need to feel unburdened:

The fact that stuff’s been written about before liberates one and frees one from having to do the donkey work of conveying facts and stuff.” — Geoff Dyer

The takeaway message from Geoff is that there is no need to approach things objectively. Instead, give your own unique take. While it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun, you certainly are equipped to offer your own unique perspective.

2) Rely On Yourself Like Reza Aslan

Reza Aslan is one of the most highly-regarded intellectual writers of our era. He has helped bridge the gap between different systems of belief at a time when to do such a thing is most needed. About independence, and personal desire, Aslan has the following to say:

In the end, your success as a writer depends almost wholly upon your own tireless efforts to promote your book and make sure it gets the attention it deserves.” — Reza Aslan

Notice how this doesn’t suggest you need to be some uniquely talented artist with a gift from the heavens? Instead, success comes down to effort, self belief, and self promotion.

I’ve always stated that I’m not the best author, but I am a bestselling author. So many talented writers with far more skill, at least in terms of craft, than myself, give up far too early.

Too many people fall into the trap of thinking that their writing will speak for itself. Even if you are among the top 1% of writers among everyone alive, you have seventy-four million competitors at the same standard.

3) Draw Inspiration From The World Like Stuart Nadler

A fact: You will always feel like your work isn’t good enough. As a salve, or simply as a way to stay sane, be in the world.” — Stuart Nadler

I’ve rarely come across a writer with a huge deal of confidence in their own work. Ultimately, we can all fake it until we make it. However, deep down, there is an inner critic who isn’t in a hurry to be quiet.

Writing is a solitary activity by definition. However, we don’t do anything in isolation. Everything in our life influences everything else to one extent or another. Locking yourself in your office and getting stuck in your own head won’t do you any good. Instead, for the sake of your own inspiration, not to mention sanity, go out and take a walk. The sunshine and fresh air will put that slow word count back into perspective.

4) Understand People Like Adelle Waldman

I recommend that you practice creating fictional characters by trying to describe, privately, the people in your life. See if you can describe their characters without being so general that they could be anyone. Then check back in a few months. If your description has radically changed, you have a ways to go.” — Adelle Waldman

Think about your favorite ever novel. Chances are, it’s the characters, as much as the plot, that stand out in your mind. Special characters stay with us in special ways.

Think about how many people draw upon fictional heroes for inspiration. This is often due to the fact that the author’s skill has made the character seem more human and more believable in the eyes of the reader.

Thankfully, we all have a rich well of inspiration to draw from when crafting characters. The idiosyncrasies, foibles, and quirks that make real humans so memorable can be applied to the characters in your fiction.

5) Be Persistent Like James Patterson

I got rejected by 31 publishers before my first book got published. It’s hard work, but worth it.” — James Patterson

Can you imagine the heartbreak and pain accompanying rejection by 31 publishers?

And this wasn’t in the day where anyone could publish to anyone else via Kindle Direct Publishing. In Patterson’s day, the publishers were the gatekeepers. It was their way or the highway. The highway to failure, to be precise.

But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” — Rocky Balboa

Ultimately, success in writing is about brushing the dirt off your shoulder and moving forward.

Ask James Patterson’s accountant if you don’t believe me.

Dave Chesson is a book marketing obsessive who has consulted for various NYT Bestselling authors. He shares his latest ideas at Kindlepreneur.com, such as his recent guide to book writing software, and also hosts The Book Marketing Show podcast.

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