Scores of elements can be listed that are prerequisites for someone soaring high in their craft, from ludicrously overpaid sports icons to the world’s deadliest assassins. There are many essential skills a writer must have in order to produce great work. The most important one, however, is not all that mystical. It’s not “inspiration” (however we want to define that). It’s not witty, flowing prose or enthralling characters. It’s not complex (but unconvoluted) plots, and it’s as sure as hell not how strongly the writer feels when he writes it.
This single skill, to the disappointment of all of those who believe that lightning will strike and make you a Shakespeare, is simply iron-clad discipline.
True success as an artist means that you’ve accepted that it’s adult-time; artistry of any realm (even being a world-class assassin) means that you must develop serious discipline in order to perfect those 20-30 other serious skills required to succeed. (Being a superb marksman by itself only accounts for a small fraction of the killing business.) Of course, by ‘succeed’ I do not mean that you got published by a major publishing house and/or sold millions of copies. That happens with a lot of people who I’d call mediocre (if I am feeling generous). Nepotism/cronyism/billion dollar religious cults can get any hack to the NYT top 10 list.