I’ve done it. A lot. You know, where you read something brilliant and you feel like throwing in the towel. Recently, I read The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs and found a concept similar to mine, but he did it way better than I could ever do. At first, I was like, why should I even bother with my story? But then the feelings passed and I felt a surge of inspiration to keep on keeping on.“So learn from the greats. Read and study those you admire. But never compare yourself to them. You are becoming the best you, not another them.”
Anne Elisabeth Stengl, author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood novels, was a guest over at Speculative Faith back in March and she wrote a great article highlighting this very topic called, Bringing the Personal to the Universal. Concerning the similar themes and tropes you find in fantasy stories, she wrote,
“Use these universal themes of love and longing, death and life, monsters and kings and Chosen Ones. Use them with excitement, knowing they will touch the hearts of your readers. But remember that your personal experience of these universals will bring the originality, the freshness your work needs. . . For there has never been a “you” before now. Bring your personal to those classic universals, and you’ll find you have something new. Yes, by pure virtue of being fantasy, it will be compared to Tolkien. But you will never be Tolkien. You will only be you. And that, my friends, is true originality!”
I find her post coupled with our chapter this week empowering. It is liberating to understand that the brilliance found in the stories we love is a result of the hard work put forth by fellow writers with a lifetime of experiences, thoughts, feelings to influence their work. Nobody goes through life unscathed and responds the same way, thus we bring our unique perspective to our stories. So, how do we become a better us? Writing, reading, exploring…we peel away those layers of calluses and veils, to push through ignorance, to learn the craft and the art, and to discover who we are, our voice, our style, our art.
“Don’t worry about trying to be better than someone else. Always try to be the very best you can be. Learn from others, yes. But don’t just try to better than they are. You have no control over that. Instead try, and try very hard, to be the best you can be. That you have control over.” -John Wooden, legendary UCLA basketball coach.
So, what say you? Are you encouraged? Can you relate? What are you doing to become a better you?