Do Your Own Thing by Grace
Art is a special talent. It is the intimate expression of emotions, concepts, themes, and messages that connect with the viewer on a certain level. Music, paintings, designs, and writings—all portals to the artist’s mind, all windows to the artist’s soul. Art is also a special craft. This means nobody is perfect at it, that it must be sharpened and built upon, honed and shaped. The artist practices developing their skill so they can control it to produce certain effects. It’s hard to be purely talented at painting or dancing—it involves plenty of hours perfecting the craft. And after all those hours, after many attempts and fails, after finally hitting what you think is the summit, you feel empowered as an artist.
But there’s just one little problem. Somebody else is still doing it better than you.
Have you ever read a fantastic and scholarly article written by someone your age? Or learned that a teenager published a highly-acclaimed novel? Just when you thought you mastered the craft, you see other people even more successful: in the newspapers, in the bookstores, on television. You think: “Why am I not doing that?” I’ve been there. As an artist, you feel personally attached to your craft. It’s part of who you are. You want to be as good as those authors, you want to experience that same success. While it can produce healthy motivation, it could also induce unhealthy competitiveness.
William Zinsser, author of “On Writing Well,” wrote: “Writing is not a competition.”
Writing is not about who is better, whether based on commercial success or pure content. Writing is not meant to be a race (although NaNoWriMo might say otherwise, but that’s not the point). Author Kristy-Anne Still says that writing is meant to be “a passion, a love.” The worth of your writing shouldn’t be based on how often it’s getting published, or if it’s generating monetary income. It shouldn’t be based on the number of fans you’ve accumulated, or the amount of publicity you get. Writing wasn’t meant to be some shiny gold medal. It can be a weapon or peace-offering, a powerful statement or the beginning of a movement, a kind note to someone in need or a fun story for your siblings. Most importantly, it is a tool instilled in you. Those people who become popular authors, most of them didn’t become published for the sake of being published. They had a story to tell, and they wanted to share it with the world.
My message to you who feel this way: do your own thing. Certainly, let yourself be influenced by authors who inspire you. Build on their craft and make it your own. But don’t worry about other writers. Don’t let their successes or failures affect you. Focus on who you are as a writer, and what you want to do with your craft. You are on your own writing path, and if that means taking more time to develop your goals and plans as a writer, then do so. Just like with any art, you are a unique artist. Your progress might be different than somebody else’s, and that’s perfectly okay. I used to be an aspiring fictional novelist, but after many years of practicing and learning, I have now transitioned to poetry and am honing my nonfiction skills.
We are all writers on different levels of progress and skill. Don’t belittle yourself when you read something ten times better than what you could write. Don’t fret if you haven’t written the novel you want to publish yet. I think the way we can measure our success as a writer is this: if our writing sincerely touches someone in some way, then it is worth the fame in the world.