What are the hallmarks of a serious writer?

I recently read a wonderful article on ScriptMag.com by John Buchanan called, “Work Habits of the Pros,” that inspired this post.

1. Write consistently.

A serious writer knows that writing regularly and consistently is key to their future success.

Buchanan’s article cites screenwriter Craig Mazin (The Hangover II, Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4) as saying, “Work habits are as important as talent. You can’t really make it with just half of the equation. The basis for a long career is to be able to have some modicum of talent, but to have a good work ethic.”

From the same article, Pamela Gray (A Walk on the Moon, Music of the Heart, Conviction), says, “It’s more important for me to write for 15 minutes a day, six days a week, than to write for five hours on Monday and not work again until the following Monday.”

Surprisingly, it’s much, much easier to write in short “sprints” on a day basis than it is to find big massive chunks of time to write. The principle here is consistent, regular writing in small bite-sized pieces.

Many writers believe that they require a lot of time to “gear up” into writing mode, but interestingly enough, when your work stays fresh in your mind with daily writing, it only takes moments to get back into it.

2. Know how to navigate the sticky waters of the inner side of writing.

Writing is a tricky business.

Also from Buchanan’s article, Craig Mazin says, “…writing is a hard thing to do. It seems as simple as tapping on a keyboard, but it’s not. It’s difficult, both emotionally and physically,” and “[There’s] a whole other level of coping mechanisms you have to have, or quickly attain, just to keep yourself sane and writing.”

I recommend that writers objectively consider the negative messages they’re telling themselves about their writing on a daily basis, and then positively reframe those messages.

Although it might seem a little daunting to confront those inner demons head on, there’s a great deal of power in taking a clear look at what you’re telling yourself. We don’t often do so, and it’s usually a bunch of malarkey. Pausing to truly pay attention takes the power away from those harsh thoughts that are ultimately getting you nowhere.

3. Realize you’re in it for the long haul.

Not only is a serious writing project like a book, novel or screenplay a lengthy undertaking, it’s worth thinking of it as a marathon, as Erik Bork does (From the Earth to the Moon, Band of Brothers).

As such, pacing yourself is key. Don’t press yourself so hard or set such high and unrealistic goals that you burn yourself out. 

And not only do you have your current big project on the hook, a serious writer usually has a library of projects she’s working on. So it’s not just NOW; it’s about building a habit that works in the long term.

Look to find your natural stride and stick with it — you might even get a second wind.

What would you add to this list?

Do you consider yourself a serious writer? What would you add to this list? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.


“The Writer’s Circle is perfect for anyone who has the dream to write but somehow never gets down to it.”

“If you have trouble finding time to write, this is for you. If you’re skeptical, try it for a month. What I love most about the Writer’s Circle is the support of everyone and their massive attacks on my self-doubts.  The telephone calls are extremely inspiring and I appreciate having to report every day and set goals. I feel much more committed to writing daily and pressing on to finish the first draft of my novel — I wrote almost 20,o000 words of my novel in just 3 sessions. I am more able to put aside doubts that can stop me and I’m better at setting priorities so the writing gets done. I would say this is perfect for anyone who has the dream to write but somehow never gets down to it. It works if you commit yourself to reporting in every day and doing some writing just about every day. If I can just keep it going, I’ll be very happy. Building up confidence takes time.”
~ Fredrica Parlett, Writer and Pianist