I am a millennial. And like a stereotypical millennial, I do not like being categorized. I am not a label. I am unique.
However, what I also don’t like (again, to fit the stereotype) is that my desire to “be unique” has a negative connotation I cannot escape. Especially when it comes to writing.
I see it everywhere: writers begging to be read, people insisting that their zombie apocalypse romance novel is like nothing anyone has ever come across before.
Wanting to be seen as “unique,” as a writer, is its own real-world cliche. It’s laughable, almost. As I pound slowly away at my YA novel, I can’t help but think of all the other novels like it already on the market.
Still, I keep writing anyway. Because I don’t see a desire to stand out in the writing world as a bad thing. At least, not in terms of my own definition of “standing out.”
Being unique doesn’t mean you’re looking at what everyone else is doing and intentionally doing the opposite.
It doesn’t imply that you are uninterested in what others are doing, thinking, or saying.
And it does not mean you have more of a right to succeed as someone else.
Uniqueness as a creator is about voice, about interest, about purpose. To be unique means you write in a way no other writer does, with a particular drive no other writer has.
You might write a sci-fi thriller about teenage assassins, and there are other stories about underage menaces out there, but that doesn’t stop you from giving your story a spin and a style and a moral that is completely original.
What makes a writer unique, when there are so many other people trying to do the exact same things they are, is knowing exactly why they’re doing this, what they’re trying to accomplish, how they’re going to move forward, where they want to be in x amount of time, and who is going to help them get there.
Because no two people have the same answers to the who, what, when, where, why, or how questions of writing. It’s not possible.
And if it is, well, their chances of making it very far are minimal.
In five years, I may not know EXACTLY what I want to be doing. But I know the different roads I could take from here, and I know what is required and expected of me to get where I want to go. That is what sets me apart from other writers. I would be surprised if there were multiple people out there who wanted the exact same things I do, in the exact order, for the exact same reasons.
Knowing what I want — and not worrying about what anyone else is doing, at least as a means of comparing my success with another writer — is why I’ve made the progress I have in the last five years. Not because I “dared to be different,” but because I chose to look at writing differently than I noticed other people looking at it.
Be unique. Define exactly who you want to be as a writer and go after it. If it just happens to be “unique,” well, so be it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.