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10 Self-Limiting Habits Successful Writers Don’t Have

by David K. William | The Web Writer Spotlight: Jan 29, 2014


To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist, poet and travel writer.


Each one of us is capable of achieving far more than we typically give ourselves credit for. However, many times we are our own worst enemy. We sabotage our own potential and capabilities through self-limiting beliefs and behavior patterns. We give excuses to procrastinate, miss deadlines, botch up simple assignments and even go to meetings with potential clients and are uncharacteristically subdued and uninspiring.

Sometimes we neglect or totally abandon our own dreams. Our attitude and bad habits causes us to function below our optimum level and struggle to reach our goals. What is going on here? How is it that we can act against our own interests? Can it be that we really don’t want to achieve our goals or realize our dreams? Maybe.


Mental fortitude to move you from whining to winning


Best-selling author, speaker, entrepreneur and blogger Seth Godin in a blog post wrote about being perplexed by all the people who stop themselves from succeeding in life by declaring failure before they even get started. Seth says he believes that if a well functioning adult puts in sufficient time and the effort, he or she is bound to succeed.

Seth is right. His is exactly the kind of mental fortitude or grit that sets successful people apart from unsuccessful ones. If you’re struggling to advance your writing career; if you dream of one day starting your own small business; if you need a few pointers to help you get ahead, work on your mindset and emulate positive habits of successful people.

With a positive mindset, willingness to learn, courage to change and resolve to work hard, you can only get better and succeed. Ditch the following self-limiting habits successful writers don’t have today to move from whining to winning in business and life.


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  1. Habit of only writing when you feel inspired.

Successful writers are highly disciplined. To them, writing is a priority not an afterthought. They write when they feel inspired and when they don’t feel inspired. Other writers might say, “I’m too tired” or “I’ve got a hangover” and abandon projects” but not successful writers. Successful writers write without giving excuses because they know excuses are the mantra of the loser. Sure, there are times when they experience writers block or procrastinate for hours but they still, somehow, get the writing done.


  1. Habit of making it all about yourself.

Successful writers are professionals. Every time they sit down to write they don’t make it all about themselves. They write to express not impress, while always keeping their target audience in mind. The only question in their mind when they write is, “How can I write a great piece that will excite my readers?” not “How much money can I make from this piece?” The worst sin a professional writer can make is write something that elicits a “So what?” reaction from the reader.  


  1. Habit of silly, wishful thinking.

We all have inborn defenses that help us cope with the pain and frustrations of life. One of the defenses is fantasy. Some writers have a habit of escaping into silly, imaginary worlds where they are celebrities and life is good whenever unpleasant things happen. Successful writers, however, remain practical and well grounded in reality. Successful writers don’t dwell on wishful thinking, such as how they will “out-sell J.K Rowling.” Instead, they focus on getting started and doing the best they can now. Silly, wishful thinking is often counterproductive. It distracts and derails from the trail of true success in the real world.


  1. Habit of playing it safe.

Life is about taking risks and learning from both the positive and negative outcomes of risk. Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have a few things in common. First, they are multi-billionaires. Second, they all dropped out of prestigious colleges without a degree to pursue their dreams—a big risk in today’s world. Avoiding risk and playing it safe can keep you from hurt in the short term, but staying the course and not trying new things hurts you more in the long run. A secret ingredient to lasting success is continuous reinvention of yourself to keep tabs with changing times.


  1. Habit of negative self-talk.

Our core beliefs often start with self-talk. Self-talk is the stream of unspoken thoughts that run through our heads every day. Some writers have a habit of running thoughts like “I can't," "I'm not good enough" or "I’m going to fail for sure" in their heads all day. Successful writers, however, avoid anything, any statement that sounds even remotely diminishing or disparaging. They approach life's less than pleasant situations soberly with a positive outlook, knowing that the best is going to happen—not the worst. Positive self-talk like “Yes, I can” encourages the pursuit of dreams and supports productivity.


  1. Habit of unrelenting pessimism.

Some writers expect to fail at every turn. Successful writers, however, believe they can do anything they put their mind into. Optimism motivates them to work hard and acquire requisite skills, knowledge and connections for success. Of course, blind optimism can be silly and irresponsible, but persistent pessimism is arguably worse. Pessimism blurs real possibilities, slams the brakes on genuine effort and creates a vicious cycle where failure becomes a predetermined outcome. When you are always thinking bad things will happen, you single-handedly engineer your own failure.


  1. Habit of trying to control everything.

No matter how hard we try to control situations and people, life will occasionally throw surprises we do not anticipate or even appreciate. That is just how life is. Random events occur all the time for all sorts of reasons despite our obsessive planning and preparation. Successful writers understand proper planning and risk management is vital to life success, but they also know that being in charge of everything is just an illusion. You can’t have full control of others, including your editors, clients and prospects. The sooner you accept this fact and stop always trying to micro-manage, control and manipulate people, the sooner you will settle down and focus on the important task: doing your part really well to merit success.


  1. Habit of constantly demanding things.

Human beings are not only self-centered, but generally also lazy. Some writers don’t want to do the heavy lifting themselves. They want others to do it for them. These writers have an annoying habit of constantly asking (sometimes demanding) others to do even the simplest tasks for them, such as proofreading their own work. Rarely will you find these writers doing anything for other people. Successful writers, however, are always looking for ways to improve the lives of others and opportunities to give back to society. Successful writers fully understand there are more rewards and blessings in giving than receiving, including building strong bonds of friendship and opening new doors for opportunity and growth.  


  1. Habit of comparing yourself to others.

We all have equal capacity for growth and advancement in life, albeit different opportunities. Some people constantly compare themselves to others and get upset by achievements they see in other people. This habit demoralizes and hurts them more than it helps. Successful writers, however, consider the achievements of others mostly to determine what needs to be done to replicate similar success. This habit keeps successful writers energized and on course to achieving their dreams and being the people others envy. Simply, successful writers don’t compare and judge themselves against the standards of others. They see themselves through their own eyes.


  1. Habit of quitting when things get a little tough.

Nobody ever succeeded by being a quitter. People succeed by persevering and working harder. When an editor requests some writers to make edits to improve their writing, these writers get defensive or bolt never for the editor to hear from them again. Successful writers, however, take such situations in their stride and make necessary changes, while also making it a learning opportunity. The former group of writers quit when the going gets tough; successful writers get tough when others quit. To succeed, keep going when others do not. If that doesn't work—eat some chocolate and keep going!

See also: How to Get Through Each Day as an Introvert Writer.


David K. William is a web writer, publisher and consultant. He writes and publishes articles, reports and fiction for web and print media. David is also founding editor of Follow him @DavidKWilliam.

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