Which One Are You?
If you’re a writer you fall into one of two camps. Look back to your first motivations and I’ll bet dimes to dynamite you’re one of these too. We are all motivated by other writers — those who came before us. But the motivation is different for both sides.
- We see a piece of writing and it’s so perfect, we think some day I want write just like that.
- We see a piece of writing and it’s so bad, we think I can do better than that.
Once we’re struck by this motivation, the road forks different for each of us. We all read different books. We start writing in different capacities. We start writing at different ages. And our work takes different paths.
Writers are not an easy bunch. We’ve got brains that don’t quit, and we’ve got as many opinions about writing as there are pages in Gone With the Wind.
I like to take a step back and think about what kind of writer I am. I started with the first option, but was later motivated to write commercially by the second option.
We don’t always know the story behind the story
Although I was motivated by a famous author, who, in my opinion, is a terrible writer, there’s a lifetime of work behind this person. There are millions of this author’s readers who would roast me over a campfire, given the chance.
We have more to learn.
Perhaps the bad author has motivations for writing a certain way. Maybe the author is so famous, her editors are too scared to offer constructive advice. Maybe the original books were great, but as the author became famous, the books seem like they were phoned-in.
There’s always more to the story, but none of it matters to our work — save for the motivation these authors provide.
There can only be one
To those motivated by that perfect piece of writing, we must also understand the best we can do is become a lower-tiered copycat. There can be only one of each famous author.
This is a gift.
This means there can only be one YOU. We do the best we can to emulate what we like, avoid what we don’t, and we mold a style into something our own. First, we copy. Then, we sculpt.
What really matters
No matter where we come from as writers, there’s only one thing that matters. It’s not our motivation to write, nor is it how much we sound like that famous author on the shelves.
The only thing that matters is the reader. If the reader likes the book, you did your job well. You taught someone something. You took a reader on an adventure. You motivated a new writer to be just like you someday.
The reader is the reason we write every day.
Unless you write for yourself, the reader’s opinion of your work is the barometer of what works. All the awards in the world matter little if there isn’t a reader on the other end of the book.
We write for our readers and we should be careful not to lose sight of that.