Time, Fear and Talent: Why You Need All Three Tenets To Make It as a Writer

There are no magic formulas that agents are hiding from writers. Or secrets that published authors are hiding from unpublished authors. But there are a few things that can act like a key to unlock potential. I believe these three things are all it takes to make it in this business.

Time: Books don’t write themselves. Last week I asked people if they have a writing schedule. It was unanimous that while some people have strict schedules (up at 5am to write!) everyone believed you have to find a way to get the words on the page at a regular basis. While most people thought that a writer doesn’t have to write everyday to be a writer, they DO need to buckle down to get it done.

Fear: No matter how important it is to be fearless in your writing, you’re always chasing your fears away. For most writers, they never disappear. I encourage writers to write from a place of questions, not answers. What scares you about human nature? How can you persevere through those fears to write something meaningful? What makes you feel uncomfortable? Writers are also really good at wanting to improve with each book. Writing a thoughtful novel isn’t easy! If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Learning how to dig deep and think honestly about humanity and morality is the grit it takes to bring your writing to the next level.

Talent: It’s inherent, but it can also be taught to a certain extent. It’s also something unique that all published writers find their own way to discovering: their voice and their talent. Watch this video from Ira Glass on how you have to get through those early first ideas or first drafts to get to the raw talent on the other side…

Q: What do you think of these three tenets?  What would you add?

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25 thoughts on “Time, Fear and Talent: Why You Need All Three Tenets To Make It as a Writer

  1. Love that video.

    I would add willingness to learn to the list. Even writers who have been at it a while could do something different/better, but they won’t know what it is without working with other authors, reading articles on the craft, and getting to the bones of what we do. I’ve met a handful of writers who have some pretty sloppy practices but refuse to listen to the guidance of others who want to help them hone their work. Tbh, it’s a little hard to believe they want to be successful writers when that’s the case.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great advice! I agree with all three, but I especially appreciate the inclusion of fear on the list––I find that I do some of my best writing when I’m writing about things that scare me. I also agree with Allison’s suggestion: I think a significant part of becoming a good writer is listening to feedback and learning from it. And I think another part of that is learning that criticisms of your work are not a personal attack.

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  3. Reblogged this on Difficult Degrees and commented:
    “…I encourage writers to write from a place of questions, not answers. What scares you about human nature? How can you persevere through those fears to write something meaningful? What makes you feel uncomfortable? Writers are also really good at wanting to improve with each book. Writing a thoughtful novel isn’t easy! If it was easy everyone would be doing it. Learning how to dig deep and think honestly about humanity and morality is the grit it takes to bring your writing to the next level.”

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  4. Very inspirational and great video! I think it’s interesting how Glass talks about the evolution of a writer and how talent does evolve. He kinda mentions all three of your tenets too. You’ve gotta have talent (or taste) and the fear that you’re not good enough yet and that you need to put the time in gets you to commit to the writing.

    Another could be faith in your eventual success? Every day is a mini leap of faith that your talent, time, and fear will make you into the writer you want to become.

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  5. Hi Carly Watters,
    Have you heard this mythological story from India of Eklavya and Guru Dhrona? It’s a story in which Eklavya makes an idol of Dhrona and learns archery. That is how I learn from you these days.
    I read your book, Getting Published in the 21st Century: Advice from a Literary Agent. I read your blogs. And it gives me the courage to overcome an important phase of my writing career. I am learning tons from you.
    Thanks for all the brilliant posts you write in this blog.

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  6. Plenty of writers write without talent and make a decent living at it. But it takes practice, practice, practice. However, the writing that sings, the writing that makes us want to write, the writing that inspires us to become writers, that writing only comes from talent.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love all your posts, Carly, and thank you especially for sharing that video! I think Ira Glass is great, but I had never seen that.

    I think your three tenets fit well with the three tenets I was taught in my MFA, that a successful writer needs talent, determination and rage. I always was particularly fond of the last one. Thanks again for all your posts.

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  8. What I would add is something that I think Glass is touching on too: artistic vision. We write because we have a vision of what we could create. That vision is difficult to achieve, and it’s elusive.

    As you said, we try to improve with every book. Each new book is a chance to try to achieve our artistic vision… and I think most of us probably never do achieve it, but the important thing is the attempt.

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  9. I like the addition of resilience and perseverance–you can’t get anywhere if you give up. Faith is a good one, too, and very difficult to maintain when you begin to feel invisible in an arena where it’s almost impossible to stand out. So I’d have to add patience. Patience while you’re writing, waiting for those magic moments to happen when you just know it’s right–and the patience it takes finding that one person to champion your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Carly,

    “No matter how important it is to be fearless in your writing, you’re always chasing your fears away. For most writers, they never disappear. I encourage writers to write from a place of questions, not answers. What scares you about human nature? How can you persevere through those fears to write something meaningful? What makes you feel uncomfortable?”

    This words will stay with me as a writer. You write from that intuitive place where everyone is connected. When I read some of your blogs and passages from your book, I feel, Wow, she knows exactly what I feel.
    You are terrific!

    Liked by 1 person

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