I have a useless habit of comparing my least to someone else’s best, especially when writing. I judge my blog posts with narrow eyes and a sneer on my face when my words fail to inspire or snag comments like the witty quips that successful bloggers post. I often throw out acceptable sections of my manuscripts or lash at my words until they beg for mercy all because I want to become like some other author. Comparing our work to others’ for the sake of learning a better way to write can be useful, but if we weep on our keyboards or berate ourselves for not measuring up to someone else’s style, we’re bogging in the comparison mire.
I say go ahead and admire another writer’s work, but remember you as a writer need to develop your own style. Recognize the myriad ways to make words come alive on the page…that maybe your way is more concise or less trite or builds on a style you have used throughout your manuscript. Chances are when you give your words a rest and come back and read them later, the passages will jump out at you as clever phrasing, just like you imagined when you first saved them to file. And if not, then put your fingers to the keys and come up with something else. It’s that simple.
I, for one, want my work to resonate from my own inner voice. I don’t want my readers to say, “Hey, she writes like Dan Brown or John Grisham. Not that I could, but why would I want to? I want my fans to recognize my work the moment they read one of my sentences. I want them to say, “Yep, that sounds like Peggy Shumway.” I read a blog the other day where the author suggests there is no such thing as style. She claims that style IS the writer. I guess that’s true. My inner voice is exactly that…who I am as a person.
However, we are influenced by other authors and our style will reflect what we like to read. The world is replete with different ways to write a novel or a magazine article, but the more unique you are in your design, the better chance you have to capture an editor’s eye. Learn the techniques that make you a better writer and then let your creativity take over until you create a story that reveals the facts in a fresh way. It may take a while to learn how. Let’s face it; some writers have success flowing through their veins, others, well…they have to try a little harder or find something else they like to do.
Just don’t flail in the comparison mire. If you want to write as much as you want to sleep or eat, you’ll do what is necessary to learn how to write and to find your voice. You must practice your craft, edit, and read your manuscript over and over until you get it right. And if you find the process takes too much work or, after years of trying, you can’t satisfy you own muse, find a new day job. You’ll be much happier.