You live and you learn and then you get LUVs. Anybody remember that commercial? I do and I remember thinking how cute it was then. Now, I see a nugget of wisdom in there that I've often ignored. "You live and you learn." For the past few weeks, this writer has been in an artistic funk. Not only has my muse decided to take a vacation, but my own self doubts about my place in this literary world have been plaguing me almost nonstop.
As a writer you're often given the advice that each novel you produce should be better than your last. I've tried my best to adhere to that bit of wisdom, but what happens when you do just that and the stars still don't align? Well if you're me you fall into a funk of catastrophic proportions. You ask yourself should I stop writing? What's the point? Nobody is buying it. Yeah. That's just what I did, had a pity party on an epic scale. It felt good to have a tantrum in all honesty, but once that was over I still was left with a very important question: What now?
Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm a woman who believes in having a plan. So what did I do next? I took a look at all of the novels that were getting rave reviews and selling pretty decent and thought that I need to try to emulate that. If I write the way those writers are I'll be sure to reach this mountain I've been pushing so hard to climb. So I read the first few chapters of some of these so highly rated best selling novels and you know what happened? I was bored to tears!
Yes. You heard it right. As a reader I was bored and I couldn't understand how people were getting past the first chapter, much less giving these books 5 star reviews. So then I got angry. No way was I ever going to be able to write like those people. I'd bore myself to death first. That plan dead in the water I searched through some novels I'd absolutely adored and loved and I thought I'll try to write like them. But that experiment too failed and I found myself having to face a hard truth.
You can't write like anyone but you. Yes. Let that sink in for a minute. Just as in life, with writing we all have to be ourselves. There already is a J.K. Rowling and a Jackie Collins. Those spots are taken and you will drive yourself crazy trying to emulate what has already been done. So be yourself. Write the stories that make you happy. Write in the style that makes you enjoy every minute of whatever you're working on. Love your story for being uniquely yours. You don't need to be anyone else but you.
This has been a tough revelation for me to swallow. Ever since I gave into the call to write all I've ever wanted was to see my name on a best selling list and there is still a chance that could happen one day. I'm still a fairly new novelist with just 3 books under my belt, but if it doesn't I have to learn to be okay with the place I'm at. That means not looking at my stories and saying, "It's not true to life mafia enough," or saying, "This might be a little too gritty for some readers," or "Yeah, maybe you need to hang it up." No. My muse is who she is and I'm sure that if I just keep listening to her, she will continue to give me stories that I will love to write, worlds that I will love to explore, and one day maybe a Best Seller title.
But in the meantime I have to learn to be happy with the works I've created and remember that no matter what these stories came into fruition for a purpose, even if I can't yet see exactly what it is. BE YOURSELF.