It’s funny to realize how much I’ve grown as a writer over the last few years.
I used to think I knew everything about writing, that the "rules" were golden and never to be broken. I used to think that it was my duty to point out everyone else's "wrongdoing", to correct their mistakes, to criticize anything and everything I thought might could be improved.
I used to compare myself to this author and that author, wondering if I would ever be as talented as them, if I could ever reach their writing level. I used to fear that because I had yet to find my success that I would never amount to anything, that my writing was garbage, that I was garbage (though, admittedly, I go through phases of this still).
I used to look down on other writers, whether it was because of the genre they were writing in, their lack of talent, their uninformed rule-breaking, or their seeming lack of commitment.
It’s funny how someone can both think they're superior to other writers and yet suffer such debilitating doubt at the same time.
And in the last few years, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that things I thought were true and absolute are a lot more wibbly-wobbly than the black-and-white picture I’d constructed in my head.
I’ve learned that the "rules" aren't golden. Grammar, mechanics, and such, yes, those should be followed, but in fiction, style trumps all. It’s not my place to point out someone else's mistakes unless they ask me to. Unsolicited negativity gets you nowhere in life.
I’ve learned that comparing myself to other authors, whether it's comparing myself to their voice, their style, their talent, their creativity, or to their successes and failures, is a waste of my time. That's time I should be spending cultivating my voice, my style, my talent, my creativity... time I should be spending working toward my success and learning from my failures.
I’ve learned that it's okay to aspire to someone else's ability to tell a story, as long as I don't lose focus on what makes my fiction mine. I’ll never write like Terry Pratchett. I’ll never write like Tolkien or J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman or Rick Riordan or Diana Wynne Jones or the lovely Rae Carson. I just won't. I can't. I’m not them.
But I will write like Brooke Johnson.
I’ve learned that it's okay to feel a little jealous at someone else's success, but ultimately, someone else's success in the writing business is my success. Their success means people are reading. And to me, that's a good thing, regardless of the book.
I’ve learned that success will come to me if I keep trying. I’m not garbage, just an undiscovered gem that needs a lot of polishing and shaping.
I’ve learned that every writer starts somewhere, that everyone has the potential for a great story in them. It takes work, and it takes practice, but I shouldn't look down on someone because they don't approach writing the same way that I do. I shouldn't look down on someone who is earlier in their writing journey than I am, because of what genre they write, their lack of a daily word count or reliance on a muse, or because I don't much like their style of writing. That’s petty and rude. And the world has enough petty and rude people.
Like I said: I’ve learned a lot in the last few years.
And I know I have a lot more to learn, about writing, about storytelling. it's humbling in a way, to recognize how far I’ve come and still see how far I have to go before I’ll really know what the hell I’m doing.
But I’ll learn.