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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Writing Disillusionment

I've been reading The Hunger Games. As I'm reading I'm asking myself "What makes me think I can be a writer?" I mean, the writing is grabbing and engrossing. It's not Shakespeare or James Joyce, but it's not trying to be. It's just being what it is. And it's riveting. That's the competition we writers are up against. Not that it's a competition between writers for readers, but a competition between just writing, writing well, and writing superbly. It's a competition within yourself to reach for a higher goal. No doubt, Suzanne Collins had a team of editors, proofreaders, etc., to help her book reach the peak of perfection, which most of us don't have--yet. But, still, the book is hers; the idea, the execution, the final product is hers. I feel so much like a poor, inferior writer compared to her. Is that a dangerous thing for me as a writer? Help me to understand.

18 comments:

Tanya Reimer said...

Does it help if I told you that my daughter tossed that book at me and told it confused her and she didn't like it? Given how much she reads and understands great writing, it had me curious.

I watched other girls her age lost in the magic of it, but she did not get it, nor was she willing to invest more than the time it took to read half the book. So even great writing doesn't affect everyone the same.

How I see things is that; if as a writer, we can recognize great writing and find ourselves lacking, we will in fact push harder to be great. WHY???? Because we want others to feel the emotions we do, when we write, and no one can share that, but us. This is the curse and the blessing of being an artist.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

I don't think it's good to compare yourself to others. You have your own voice, and it will appeal to different readers. It would be awful if suddenly every book was a new version of Hunger Games. I'm very happy for the author, but you wouldn't want reading reduced to one kind of story. And, while I thought the writing was great (she did a superb job), it didn't leave me wanting to write like her or to write that kind of story. Which is good, since I would be completely unable to. She writes from her voice. And who know? Once she may have been thinking, "Oh, I'll never be able to write like . . ."

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've learned not to compare myself to other authors, Writing isn't about competition - it's about personal bests.
Now, keep writing!

L.G.Smith said...

Well, it wasn't her first effort either. Probably the key is she didn't quit after some of her earlier works. She kept going, kept getting better, and she eventually hit on The Hunger Games. Good case for perseverance and striving to do better. We can all do that.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Richard .. it's that belief in oneself ... and keeping on going - the hardship those early writers struggled with .. and many recently probably - look at JK Rowling ...

I just believe you have to do what you love, find things others love to read and combine the two and enjoy life ...

Cheers Hilary

Misha Gericke said...

I don't really think of it like that. For me, excellent writing gives me something to aspire to. It gives me a benchmark I can use to improve my own writing.

Don't fear superb writing. Learn from it. :-)

Julia Hones said...

I think comparing to others is pointless. If some people enjoy your writing (I did!) then you should celebrate that. But you are a writer and you are unique. That is what makes your writing special. I don't compare writers because each writer is unique and that diversity is enchanting and fascinating. If we compare, we are setting the pattern to follow "models". I learn something from every writer, but I appreciate originality and free thinking perspectives. The most important lesson I get from writers like Joyce is that they dared to be different. That speaks volumes about the art of creative writing.

David P. King said...

I don't think it's unhealthy to think this way unless you allow it to bog you down. The best advice on this topic I ever heard was "don't compare - you are not these authors, you are you, and that's what your audience wants to read). :)

alexia said...

No, I think it's normal for us to compare ourselves. Artists of all types do it. The thing is, she can be awesome and you can be awesome, too. She probably thinks her work is not as good as other writers, too. When I read amazing books by other writers and feel a twinge of despair, I just note what I can learn from them, and keep practicing at my own writing.

Jane Ann McLachlan said...

When I read The Hunger Games, I thought, Yes! That's why I write! Not that I'm as good as she is - but that I can be if I work at it. It's okay if you're not there yet - as long as you're continuing to improve. And don't be too hard on yourself over that, wither - sometimes we can't see ourselves growing and improving. It's those who can't see the difference between their writing and hers, who aren't growing.

Emily R. King said...

That's funny, because as I read The Hunger Games I was like, why is this popular? But I did feel that way after reading The Scorpio Races.

Richard said...

I want to thank everyone who made comments on this post. It's definitely helpful to hear your thoughts.

Donna Hole said...

Being envious - or impressed - isn't dangerous, IMO. Its invigorating.

When I read an author that totally wows me, I study the writing. I try to identify what I liked - besides the story itself. How the author set pacing, added story/character plots, engaged the voice, the pov. Even looking at sentence structure, verbiage, chapter/paragraph lengths, scene cuts.

You could have a great story concept Richard, and ruin it it with eratic pov/time shifts, too many pronouns, poor technical writing - any number of things. I think everyone has an excellent story to tell, but "how" its told is more important than content.

......dhole

Richard said...

Donna, I like your approach.

Anthony Dutson said...

I heard a great quote once that went something like, "Comparing others strengths against our weaknesses allows us to always lose."

Guaranteed, you are probably better at some aspect of writing then Suzanne Collins is. Don't forget, you're reading her finished product. How long did it take her to get to that point? How many revisions?

On the Writing Excuses podcast, they've talked repeatedly that their initial product usually sucks. But they keep turning it until that rough stone becomes a polished gem. Yours will be like that someday too, but the key is to make something you can polish.

Keep it up! You're doing great.

Richard said...

Thank you, Anthony

Valentina Hepburn said...

Hi Richard,
I pretty much agree with your other commenters - we must find our own voice and hope (pray) that someone loves it. When I first read JK Rowling I didn't get it at all. I thought I would learn how to be a great writer by reading Harry Potter, but to be honest, is it that great?
Obviously, it depends on the genre we write in and we must be the best we can be but there's a lot of luck involved too. Keep going, Richard. Self doubt is insidious and stifles creativity. I know. I've been there too.

Richard said...

Valentina, I'll have to remember that: self doubt...stifles creativity. Thank you for your comments.