Let’s talk shoes. What? That’s not related to writing?
Of course it is! Bear with me.
I love shoes. I know what you’re thinking already, but trust me when I say you’ve got it all wrong. To clarify, I love a single pair of shoes. So what are they? Pretty little red ballet flats? Sexy black kitten heels? Strappy summer sandals?
Purple, waterproof hiking boots by Ahnu. They’re considerably more beat up now than they were when I took this photo two years ago, but I love them no less (and they were especially wonderful on numerous hikes during my cross-country trip in 2015)!
What do I love most about them? I mean, why in the world would I dedicate a blog post to shoes?
These aren’t just shoes, my friend. These are the most kickass pair of boots I’ve ever owned. They’re comfortable. (Oh so comfortable!) And that’s what’s important. I love adorable shoes as much as the next gal, but every time I’ve tried to buy shoes because they’re “cute,” they sit in my closet and never get worn. So why bother? Why waste my time and money on something that I’ll never actually use?
The same goes for writing.
I’ve read work by so many different authors — authors whose voice pops off the page, authors who create characters I want to invite to lunch, authors who describe settings so beautifully, so poetically, and with such prose that makes me wish I could hop on a plane and get myself to wherever that main character might be because surely it’s heaven. (This is considerably harder if you read fantasy and the character is not on Earth, of course.)
But reading books by authors whose writing strengths are different from my own can have a debilitating effect on my writing. When I put down a really well-written book, I instantly fall into despair, knowing that my own work could never compare!
My writing will never be that good! I’ll never be able to capture a scene like that! What am I thinking???
Back to the boots. I don’t wear flashy heels because I can’t pull them off. (God, I wish I could. At 5 feet, I could use the height.) I don’t do the strappy sandal thing because I’m not a Greek goddess. (I’m not even Greek.)
So, I stick to what I do best. Yes, other writers have their strengths, but in admiring those strengths, it’s important not to get so caught up in my awe that I forget my own strengths. I, too, have strengths.
My point? As a writer, it’s okay to appreciate what other writers do well. (It’s encouraged!) It’s even okay to experiment with different writing styles to see what works for you (also a good idea!), but don’t get so intent on mimicking someone else’s style that you lose what makes your writing yours. Your voice is important. Willingly giving up your own style because you think it’ll “look better” if you do what works for another writer is akin to putting on a pair of heels half a size too small. Sure, you can fit your foot in there, but at the end of the day, do you really still want those shoes on your feet? Are they comfortable?
Forget about flashy. Stick with comfort. The “next big thing” could be anything, and maybe, just maybe, purple hiking boots are the next J.K. Rowling.
(Okay, definitely not.)
(But stay comfortable anyway.)