A writing career has no policy and procedure manual, no checklist for success. Each day brings uncharted water.

The path to success can be an emotional roller coaster ride. Up one day. Downhill fast the next.

More than any other job, writers are in control of their destiny. At the same time, writers can be their own worst enemy. Unfamiliar with Pogo?

Pogo and his “swamp critter friends” are the anthropomorphic comic strip animals created by Walt Kelly in 1948. They philosophized and poked at social and political successes and follies in Kelly’s comic strip. Probably the most widely used Pogo quote is the one depicted in this poster from Earth Day in the 70s.

There are five traits, when exhibited, that can make a writer his own worst enemy. That’s why I dubbed them POGO traits.

  1. Too much time and energy focused on mimicking the writing and style of other authors.

The world already has Janet Evanovich, J.K. Rowling, Steven King, and Nora Roberts. Their success is their success.

You can’t copy and get there! Stop wasting your time.

  1. Preoccupation with following THE RULES.

Rules are very important. Absolutely.

Writing, on the other hand, is an art form that entails experimentation, innovation, and expansion. Once you have the basics down—things like POV, dialogue, setting, character, plot, theme, it’s time to trust your instincts and what works for your story.

  1. Buying into every new way to write or plot that’s suggested

Workshops, classes, and webinars are terrific for improving craft skills. BUT writing experts don’t always know what’s right for your writing process. Once you find the process that works best for you and your lifestyle, stick with it. 

  1. An inability to take criticism or believing everything anyone says about your story

Either of these positions can be fatal. Admittedly, surviving a brutal criticism or review isn’t for the fainthearted. As a writer, you need elephant hide and keen discernment to see the opinions expressed for exactly what they’re worth.

It’s strong writers who survive…and often produce better stories from hard critiques or bad reviews.

  1. Not writing

The procrastination parasite bites us all from time to time. Whether moved by the muse or not, a professional writer goes to the keyboard or grabs a pencil every day.

Promotion, social media, and marketing do cut into writing time. All of that is important for developing reader relationships. Balance is the key because gaining readership (aka success) ultimately comes from writing the next story.

Do you see POGO traits in yourself?  I admit I’m guilty of too many, too often.

I become my own worst enemy. Do you?