Writing Like Everyone Else
By nature, writers study other writers. We yearn to figure out the key to success. We fret over what makes us “good”. What can we do to get better? What book should we read? What software should we use? What publisher should we send to? Should we self-publish? Do we need an agent? I’ll stop right here before I cause myself some unwanted anxiety.
I’ll just do what they’re doing. Yeah, that’ll work.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read comments from writers about the best writing software and how everyone should try it because they love it and it works for them. The same can be said for how-to books on writing. I’m not talking about craft of writing books. Those are a necessity. We all need to learn the mechanics of writing and writing well. I’m talking about method books. Write from the middle, snowflake, etc. etc. Don’t get me wrong—they do work—for some people. Just not for me. I find that I inevitably go back to “my” method. Which obviously no one else wants to know about because I’m not a bestselling author by any means. Then there’s that popular writing software that seems to be making everyone a great writer except for me because I can’t understand the encrypted thing. It’s obviously written in a way that only real writers can understand because I’ve spent countless hours watching video, poured tons of money into the books for Dummies (which I have no shame in admitting I am one of) and googled and YouTubed every comment and link ever put out there so that I could be like everyone else. And…it didn’t work. At all. I ended up with a corrupted file, an empty box of Kleenex, and had to dig my way out of Hershey Kisses wrappers so that I could go back to work at my real job and earn a paycheck. Because I also had to accept that the last royalty check wasn’t even going to buy me a cup of White Chocolate Mocha at Starbucks. No, not even a tall one.
After all the research on how to be a great writer, how to use the best software ever invented, how to market my book, promote with social media…inevitably, I’m still me. Still writing by the seat of my pants. Still using “another” writing program because I can’t figure out what everyone else is using. Still working a day job and still trying to carve out a few minutes a day to write something. Anything. Some days I feel proud just to write my grocery list in an order that makes sense after I get to the store. At the end of the day, I am who I am and my strengths and weaknesses belong only to me. This writing thing will either make or break me. Since I’ve been doing it for a very long time, I’m pretty sure it won’t break me but it hasn’t made much of me, either. I truly want to be better. Wanting to be better is a great thing. Fretting over it isn’t. There’s also nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, but comparing yourself to others is not going to get you very far. Sitting angry, broken and jealous under a pile of chocolate wrappers is not how I want to go out. So how does a writer stay motivated? How do we stop comparing ourselves to others? How do we accept the talents God has given us and find peace and comfort in it?
Leaning on God, letting go of the world
Christian writers have it so much better. We have God. My favorite verse hanging in my office is Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
I don’t have to be jealous that other writers are being amazingly successful with their choice of writing software. Let’s be real. That software didn’t write their book for them. Those how-to books helped them but it didn’t put them in front of the computer day after day and make them build a successful career. We can’t compare ourselves to others so often that we begin to feel inadequate in our own talents. We shouldn’t constantly seek what other writers have as if it’s the secret to our own success. I find that in times when I feel I am inadequate as a writer it helps when I do things to build up others. Promote an author’s new release, help a new writer with something I’ve found that once helped me, offer to review an author’s book, or simply write reviews for books I’ve read and enjoyed. When I build up others, I’m also building up myself. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.
Write for Him
When we let go of our own failures, inadequacies and insecurities and write for Him, our writing will flow. Find joy in your talents and do everything in your power to keep from comparing yourself to others. Learn from them, but respect that we’re all on our on path and that God knows better than we do where our paths will lead us. It doesn’t mean I can’t still try to learn that ominous software everyone else seems to love or buy the latest and greatest how-to book hoping to find some secret way to write a novel faster. Learning to improve on our talents is what God wants us to do. Comparing ourselves to others…not so much. The simple truth of the matter is that we’re not all meant to be a bestselling author—but you won’t know unless you try. Don’t listen to that negative voice inside you that tells you not to write because you’ll never succeed or be as good as everyone else. Go write! Write with joy. Write with conviction and a purpose. Write for Him and you can’t go wrong.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven