As writers, we love to read good books. We appreciate them, we celebrate them, we admire them, we lose ourselves in them. Why, then, does reading a good book sometimes cause our writing insecurities to rear their ugly little heads?
One of my writing acquaintances recently complained that while she was loving a book she was reading, at the same time she was finding it discouraging. Why? She elaborated, saying it made her feel like she could never write something that great and so why the hell was she even trying.
I’ve done that before too. And then a few days later I’ve moved onto another book, one that wasn’t so great, that made me feel that the book I was writing was so much better than the one I was reading. Ah yes, the gerbil wheel of ego stroking and ego pounding.
It’s human nature to compare ourselves and our work with others. I’m sure athletes can’t help but look at how other athletes in their field measure up. Chefs and surgeons and probably just about everyone else with pride in their work do the same.
But such comparisons are ultimately self defeating, because there will always be somebody “better” at something and “worse” at something than you (books, of course, are very subjective in terms of what’s good and what isn’t, but that’s another topic for another day).
You can only be the best writer that you can be. You are the only one who can do you. And don’t forget, we’ve all had unique journeys that have brought us to this place in our writing careers. We’ve all learned different things along the way, and those differences make our writing unique…not better and not worse than someone else’s, just different. And that’s a good thing.
I want to leave you with this thought. I know from playing hockey and tennis and other competitive sports, that when you play an opponent who’s not as skilled as you are, you end up playing “down” to their level. No matter how hard you try not to do this, this freak of nature happens anyway. Meanwhile, that opponent who’s not very good suddenly has you on your heels because they’re playing “up” to your level.
So here’s the thing. If you surround yourself only with crappy books because they somehow stroke your ego, you’ll only write crappy books. Read really great books, and think about what makes them great, and then steal the shit out of that winning formula for your own books. ☺