Here’s the thing … you want to be a writer. Not just to write things for the sake of writing, but to reach people. To have a voice, to make a difference. And that’s great and it’s a completely achievable dream and you should never let anyone try to take that away from you.
Yet there are thousands of people out there with the same exact goals. They can read and write. They have ideas and they’re creative and they can weave sentences together into prose that changes the way readers feel and think and behave.
That’s tough. It makes you feel like you’re not unique, like your words don’t matter, even though they do. It’s not fun and it’s the realistic side of the industry we don’t like to talk about. But we have to. Because knowing you’re not the only one who wants to “be a writer” can really make you feel like it’s not even worth a try. But it is.
Here’s how to come to terms with these feelings. In a world filled with aspiring writers, there is still no one quite like you.
We all write based on our own personal experiences
We’re all human. We all pretty much go through the same things, hit the same milestones in life and find a way to navigate the world as we try to figure out where we fit. Maybe to different extremes, but we all experience. That doesn’t mean everyone looks at the world the same way, and that is why your essay about growing up in a small town is not the exact same as someone else’s essay about growing up in a small town.
Sure, the majority of your readers and fellow writers will have been to high school, had their hearts broken or had a disagreement with their best friends. But your perspective is not identical to theirs. You have a unique approach to every subject you address, no matter what you’re writing.
There’s a difference between an idea and an opinion
Our opinions shape the way we tell stories. The fact that there are millions of Syrian refugees currently residing outside their home country is an ‘idea’ in the sense that we can acknowledge it is a current event. However, we all have our own opinions on the crisis, what we think should be done about it and from which perspective we might want to write about it and the people involved (the government’s POV? The POV of the refugees themselves?).
The difference between an idea and an opinion is that ideas are repeatable. You’ve heard the theory that no idea is really original, which is an idea all on its own. However, unlike an idea, an opinion is completely original. An opinion is formed by crafting together bits and pieces of already existing ideas and making something new out of them. An opinion, therefore, cannot be wrong. It can be criticized (oh, it can be criticized all right). But your opinion is your own, and it influences the messages you send when stringing words together.
A writer’s voice and style just can’t be replicated
Not well, anyway. Another writer’s style might influence the way you present and word things, but there’s still going to be a lot of “you” in there, whether you want there to be or not. You have your own voice when you write, the same way you have your own way of speaking when you talk. People can mimic you, but that doesn’t make them you.
A writer’s voice and style is developed simply by reading and writing. Like opinions, style is a combination of many different styles, mixed in with your own viewpoints based on the experiences you’ve had and how they have shaped the way you see things. See how that all ties together nicely? Creativity is freaking awesome.
So a lot of people want to write a book (or write in general). So what? Your experiences and opinions and ideas and words all mixed together make something that’s never existed before, and that makes you, and your work, pretty special. Don’t you think?
Image courtesy of Espen Sundve/flickr.com.