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  • J. J. Hanna

5 Essential Elements of a Professional Writer

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and think, You're crazy. What makes you think you can succeed in this industry? (If you've ever felt this way, it's okay. Just make sure you check out this post on misconceptions in the publishing industry for a little encouragement.)

Then I look at the traits I have and compare them to other writers who are doing what I want to do, "living the dream" as I call it. And I notice we have a few things in common.

Note: if you don't have these aspects of your personality, it doesn't mean you're going to fail as a professional writer. You'll just have to take a different route than I do. But that's good. Life would be boring if we all took the same path everywhere.

1. They're assertive.

I'm not a fan of doing journalism myself, but there is something amazing about the way journalists refuse to back down when they're on a story. They ask until they have answers and they write until it's clear. They make sure their questions are heard, shouting over the din if they have to, because they need the quote. If any writer is assertive, journalists are.

2. They don't quit.

Every writer I've ever talked to has one thing in common, other than writing: they've been rejected. No writer I've ever met has ever gotten everything published on the first try. Even writers like J.K. Rowling had a hard time getting published the first time. What makes them stand out is that they didn't quit even when hundreds of people have said no to them. We're either insane or brilliant to think our idea is still a good one when that many people say no. I'll let you decide for yourself on that one.

3. They love books.

Regardless of if they write them or if they're fiction or nonfiction, every writer I've met loves books. They like holding them. They like sniffing them, feeling the weight of the pages, admiring them on their shelf... oh, and reading them. What they contain is important, but only half as important as the fact that it's a book. Call us weird, but books make us happy. To be around books tends to make us calm, and to get new books excites us like none other. (I recently received a bunch of free books from publishers I visited. Go check out the book haul video I made about them here.)

4. They're devoted to the craft.

It's often not enough for us to just read books and study what other people have written. We want to read books on writing from our favorite authors. We want to know how they did what we love so much so we can emulate them and do it ourselves. Not only do we practice writing, but we study how to do it better.

5. They have their hands in a lot of baskets.

The writers I've talked to who are "living the dream" and writing full time hustle like no one else I've ever seen. They generally have four or five large writing projects in the works, have a handful of editors who occasionally give them assignments, and run their lives like a business. The only problem with their business is that they're often understaffed and overworked. It's like watching a CEO of a successful company run the cash register, stock shelves, work as tech support, play accountant, and still maintain a social life. I'm sure it's not healthy, but man is it impressive.

What elements do you love about the writers in your lives? What do you see as things that work? What doesn't work? Let me know in the comments.


J. J. Hanna is a Professional Writing major at Taylor University. In her spare time she creates YouTube Videos and Comics, and practices Karate at a local dojo. If you have a writing question, she'd love to hear from you! She is also looking for freelancing work, so if you have editing, beta reading, or writing needs, or would simply like to chat in a consultation, please let her know. Like what you see and want to get more content like this, or have your specific questions answered? Check out how you can support her on Patreon for as little as $3 a month.

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