Writing careers vary from writer to writer. There’s no policy and procedure manual, no checklist for success. What to do and how to do it is solely up to the individual author. Writers can be successful or sabotage their success.

We tend to sabotage ourselves. In the immortal words of POGO, “We met the enemy and it is us!” Pogo Possum is the anthropomorphic character created by Walt Kelly. The POGO comic strip ran daily from 1948 to 1975. The graphic pictured was for the first Earth Day in 1971.

These are characteristics of POGO writers …

  1. You spend too much time and energy mimicking the writing and style of some other author.

The publishing 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!

  1. You obsess with following THE RULES.

Don’t get me wrong. Rules are very important guidelines. Writing, on the other hand, is an art form that entails experimentation, innovation, and expansion.

Don’t be so hung up on THE RULES you lose your own sense of story.

  1. You buy into every new way to write or plot that a writing expert suggests.

I’m not saying it’s not necessary to study writing craft. Learning the craft and studying with writing experts is important.

All the classes and workshops in the world are wasted if I’m not producing. Plus, writing experts don’t always know what’s right for the individual. There isn’t one answer.

That’s a self-discovery journey traveled alone. We eventually figure out what works for us.

  1. You’re unable to take criticism or the flip side—believe everything anyone says about your story.

Either position can be fatal.

No denying bad critiques or reviews hurt. Surviving a brutal criticism or review requires an elephant hide and learning to weigh the opinions expressed for exactly what they’re worth then make up your own mind.

It is YOUR story, after all.

Strong writers survive…and often produce better stories from hard critiques or bad reviews.

  1. You’re not writing.

This is the most telling POGO writer sign of all.

All writers struggle with the procrastination parasite from time to time. But a successful writing career requires disciple and focus. Whether moved by the muse or not, a professional goes to the keyboard or grabs a pencil every day.

I know what you’re thinking, authors must promote and develop reader relationships, which cuts into writing time. Very true, but I would argue that the key to gaining recognition and readership (aka success) is writing the next story.

Do you recognize any POGO writer signs in yourself? What can you do to change them?

An earlier version of this post appeared on September 23, 2013.