Recently, I was reading articles and thinking deep thoughts in an ill-advised attempt to avoid doing any actual work. These thoughts turned to what I want out of life, and inevitably how far away I am from that point. I had just read through an interview with my favorite author and fell into the evil practice of comparing my own work and life with his. This made me feel . . . bad.
Of course, I want to be like my favorite authors. They are the ones who made me want to be an author in the first place. It would be ridiculous to not want to be like them, or to write like them. And to expect to not compare myself to them is also ludicrous, even if it is unhealthy. However, I decided to put this soul crushing activity to good use. I thought about why I like certain authors and how my own writing is different from theirs. Then, I thought about what I could do to make my work more like theirs. Not a bad activity, and I got some useful thoughts out of it.
After a while I couldn’t avoid at least pretending to be productive, so I started typing up part of a manuscript I’d already written. (I do my first drafts by hand for reasons. It works well for me, also for reasons.) As I was typing and making some edits I kept thinking about what I could do to make this story more like those of the authors I love. After trying a few things, I hit on a simple technique that also happened to solve a problem I’ve been worried about with that particular story.
As I worked through the edits I had in mind though, I realized that to change the style of the story would require A LOT of work. And I wasn’t in the mood to do work. I decided to put off the big edits and just work on little stuff and getting the story typed. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with this particular story. As a matter of fact, I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately and haven’t worked a lot on any particular story. Therefore, I had forgotten a lot of the minutiae in this one that really makes the story feel unique and fun. While I typed and read over this story and the minutiae and got reacquainted with its particular flavor, I realized something: It’s a good story. It’s good just the way it is. And I can be proud of writing it. The thing is, if I tried to change it all to fit another author’s particular style, it would lose all that. Or at least most of it. And I don’t need that.
The funny thing is, one of the big reasons I’ve been in a slump lately is I feel like I haven’t had as much opportunity as I’d like to just work on something for myself. But in trying to change my story I would be just perpetuating that problem. I’d be doing it for someone else, who didn’t even ask to be emulated and probably doesn’t want to be.
This realization led to another; I have eightyish more years of life (barring too much life happening to me) to write different stuff. One of the things that worries me is getting typecast as an author. I don’t want to be introduced as a “fantasy author” or “literary author” or anything. I want to write what I like, which is a bit of everything. But the answer to that problem is to just write what I want and not worry if it’s like someone else’s stuff or if anyone else with love it like I do. If I write something good, something that I like, it’ll find a home somewhere. So that’s what I’m going to do.