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Monday, January 22, 2018

The Most Important Thing a Writer Needs

I'm making a pretty bold statement with my blog post title, but in all my years as a writer, teaching writers, and having friends as writers, I truly believe the most important thing a writer needs is...


It's so obvious to me this morning that before I wrote this post, I decided to do a quick search of the Muffin to see if I had ever dedicated a post to it before. (Another thing about writers--we easily forget what we write!) I hadn't dedicated an entire blog post to it! What sparked this idea of perseverance was a couple of things that happened over the past couple of weeks.

One of my critique group members was recently talking about how she's just not sure she has what it takes emotionally to make it as a writer. She is trying to add to the family funds with her career, and what she is finding out is that it's extremely difficult. And...she has had success! She is a published writer! She is also a mom and a wife, and doesn't love the isolation of the writing career. These feelings are really weighing on her, and it's not that she doesn't have talent or that she doesn't work hard. She works hard every day of her life. It's the perseverance thing--she's not sure if persevering through this rocky road is worth it to her emotionally. I'm sure many of us can relate.

Then I edited an upcoming article for WOW! (which you all will love). It's a very inspirational piece about freelancing and trying to get article ideas accepted by editors. It's not easy! The author wrote a sidebar about one idea she had that took two years and eight to ten queries before it landed in the perfect spot. If she hadn't persevered, the idea would have never seen readers. But here's something else she had: belief.

So is that the second most important thing you need as a writer? Belief?

Needing perseverance and belief is not to say that you don't need talent; but even then, you can improve your talent. Perseverance and belief help you do both--if you want to keep going and you want to get better, you will seek out classes and conferences, critique groups and writing books, and you will improve your craft. I see my novel writing students persevere every month, and those who take the class for a couple months improve their writing even in that short time.

I've had my struggles with perseverance, which I have not been quiet about; but without it, I would not be writing this post to you today. I would have given up a year ago or maybe earlier, when the words weren't coming easy and when time and emotions were not on my side. But I didn't want to give up. I wanted to believe that some day, if I just kept active and wrote a little, I would be on the other side. And here we are.

What do you think is the most important thing a writer needs?

Margo L. Dill is a writer, editor, and teacher, living in St. Louis, MO. She teaches a novel course for WOW! each month, which includes 4 critiques of your work-in-progress. To check out more about her, go to To check out her next class starting February 2, go to the WOW! classroom.

Perseverance photo above by Evil Paul on


  1. Margo, I completely agree. I've always said perseverance is the number one thing writers need. This industry is incredibly slow and painful. It's like dropping a tab of acid and letting go of your ego, hanging on for an emotional ride. And "Belief" was my word for 2016! Now that I look back on it, I did believe in myself and my writing last year and accomplished a lot. I'm continuing with that word this year because it worked well without me really having to focus on it too much. It tapped into my subconscious.

    I'll add that I think to really make it as a writer, you have to own it. Call yourself a writer, claim your identity, make it a lifestyle, and put yourself out there.

    Thanks for the post! :)

  2. Margo--I think a writer needs a smidgen of swagger, which goes along with your belief and Angela's "ownership." Deep down, we have to be a bit cocky at times, as in "There are times I can write a line that sings."

  3. I think perseverance is definitely the number one thing a writer needs! If you don't constantly work at your craft and submit, you won't get anywhere. And writing is so subjective, as I've discovered the few times I've shown my work to editors and agents. You won't find the perfect fit for your work unless you continue to work at it and get in front of all different types of people!

  4. Sure, and yet... when does one finally draw the line? After five years? Ten? A hundred rejections? A thousand?

    Of course, the need to persevere is beyond question, but the problem in this industry is being able to judge when the wall just can't be scaled. After six versions of a novel with four-to-five revisions for each... after hiring an editor and signing up for several courses... at some stage, surely, I will have to accept that these several hundred agents might just know what they're doing. Surely any author would.

    And yet, somehow, I haven't.


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