Dress for Success

By Joe Moore

Can the introverted writer succeed? I think the answer is yes. Just about any writer can succeed given the right set of circumstances including big doses of talent and luck. Of course we could say the same holds true for winning the lottery; given the right set of numbers, anyone can be a winner.

But whether you’re introverted and shy or known as the life of the party, I believe the first step to becoming a successful writer is to adapt a successful attitude. By that I mean, if you act like a success, there’s a good chance the world around you will treat you in like manner.

We could get into a heavy discussion of what success means, but that’s for another day. In general, for some, success means big money and a slot on the bestseller list. Others feel successful in just completing a manuscript. Certainly it’s important that each of us determine what we consider to be a success and then work toward it. Not defining success for yourself could mean you might not know if you’ve achieved it. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. I believe that success is just a state of mind.

If you don’t feel that you’ve achieved success in your writing yet, it shouldn’t stop you from limo1taking on a successful attitude. My advice is to act successful now in anticipation of becoming successful later. No, I don’t mean spending thousands on fancy clothes or showing up at a book signing in a Lincoln stretch limo. Nor do I suggest lying about your success or attempting to deceive anyone.

Having a positive attitude is not deceit. In fact, it’s addictive and usually produces successful results.

Someone once said, “You are what you eat.” I think that concept goes way beyond nutrition. For example, if you complain about rejection from traditional publishers and agents, or constantly bad mouth the state of the publishing industry, chances are you will develop a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those things that you find negative will continue to come your way. Your writing will suffer, your head will become clouded, and at some point, you will consider yourself a failure because you just might be.

Have you ever said, “Those New York publishers only want books from bestselling authors and famous people. I haven’t got a chance.” Or, “I’ve read about someone who self-published and sold millions of copies. The big publishers came begging. That’s my plan.” My advice: go buy a lottery ticket. The odds of success are about the same.

Successful writers (or any profession) become so because they believe in themselves and their ability to succeed. And the more they believe, the more they attract success. Act the part, walk the walk, think as a successful writer would think, and before you know it, your writing improves, you get that first contract, your advances grow, your sales increase, and your publisher pays for the Lincoln stretch limo.
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21 thoughts on “Dress for Success

  1. Absolutely right! Like Vonnegut said, be careful what you pretend to be because you’re likely to become it. One of the reasons writers become writers is because it’s a way to have a express themselves creatively without having to deal with – you know – people. But that’s self-defeating. Act like you have a right to be there. No one let’s you into the party if you just stand on the sidewalk and look wistful. Sometimes you’ve gotta be willing to kick the door in. Be the person that other people want to be around – whose works they want to read.
    And never let anyone else decide what constitutes your success. Waiting for “their” approval gives “them” the power.
    Golly. I sound like a series of motivational posters, don’t I? Oh well. A big part of being a grown up is deciding for yourself who you want to be, then being it.

  2. Joe, interesting thoughts. I like them. They certainly apply in any profession.

    “Successful writers…believe in themselves and their ability to succeed.”
    And that’s why I’m here at TKZ. I believe JSB that I can learn the craft. I want to always continue to improve. And I find great words of advice from all of you wonderful TKZ posters.

    Thanks for the link to the THE TOMB giveaway. I look forward to reading it.

  3. I can still remember the first time someone asked me what I was doing, taking notes in my little book at the bar. And I surprised myself by saying “I’m a writer”, even though I haven’t yet published anything. And it felt good. And it felt honest.

    • Good for you, Maggie. Whenever you tell some one that you’re a writer, that’s dressing for success. And it does wonders for your mental state. It will get you closer to that publishing date. Good luck.

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  5. It took me a long time until I could actually say out loud, “I’m a writer.” When I was practicing law to put food on the table, it just didn’t feel right.

    HOWEVER, from Day 1 of my writing journey, I said it to myself. One of the very first things I did was go out to a bookstore and buy a black coffee mug with WRITER in gold on the side. I’d look at it every day. I still have it sitting in my office where I can see it.

    I also heeded the words of Dorothea Brande: Act [Write] as if it were impossible to fail.

    Those mental notes, along with a quota of words and dedicated study of the craft, were the things that got me to the professional level.

  6. I agree with you, Joe, and especially like the point about determining what success means to you (to me). This is an empowering stance to take in life, generally. For me, at the moment, success means improving my writing craft.

  7. I’m always struck by the writers at conferences who exude a certain aura of success at those events. It’s reflected in the clothes they wear, their body language, and their energy. Even when someone like that is not yet published, it’s a safe bet that they soon will be.

  8. Saying, “I’m a writer” took a long journey for me. I had to BE a writer after I finished several novels snd realized most people can’t complete even one. Whether I sold or not, I was a writer and visualized what that now meant in my life.

    I sold soon after I’d come to that realization. See? It works.

    • Yes it does work, Jordan. Just completing a novel length manuscript puts the writer into a very small group. Most people just talk, few do. And the ones that do are writers.

  9. This is so true, and it holds for how you dress at conferences. Do you look like a successful author? Or do you look like some shlump who just rolled out of bed? A fan once told me she was glad I looked like an “Author” because I made the effort. Do you wish to be taken as a professional by the editors and agents you meet? Then dress like you’re going to work. Dress for success. And appear confident, even if you don’t feel it inside.

    • Nancy, I’ve never met anyone who consistently looks more professional than you. You are the prime example of what I’m talking about.

  10. Good advice, Joe. Success is an attitude. When my first publisher wiped out an entire division, my series was dropped. My agent said, “Keep your mouth shut. Just tell everyone you’re working on a new book.” I did, for two years, until Penguin bought my Dead-End Job series. They’ve been my home for 25 books.

  11. This is important! Not just having the confidence to call yourself a writer BEFORE you are published, but truly acting like one after.

    Once your book is out there, you have to be as well. And most of us are not extroverts by nature, so it’s hard to put yourself out there at conferences, or do a radio interview, or be engaging at a signing instead of sitting at your card table, hiding behind your pile of books looking pitiful. Some writers are good at this naturally but I don’t know many. Most who make it look effortless worked hard on their public persona. Sort of like writing…they MAKE it look easy but it ain’t. I mean, most of us want to just sit at home in our jammies and write. We don’t really want to slap on makeup and a bra and go set our hair on fire and tap dance, hoping people will like us enough to try our books.

    My first signings were awful….I sat there like a lump. And I was terrified the first time I had to speak in public. But I watched and learned from others and now, I enjoy it, and LOVE meeting readers. It’s so cool when people take time from their lives to come to a bookstore to see you. Geez…humbling! But my stomach goes in knots before each time, even now. Will anyone show up? Will the bookstore owner hate me because nobody came? I’m on a panel with Lee Child? What the hell can I offer? (Hopefully, it won’t be about sidekicks…:))

    Good post, Joe. A timely reminder for me as I strap on the bra and go out to tout the new tome!

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