I've recently come to a realization in my writing, one that has been staring me in the face all along.
Call it an epiphany if you will.
Everything I've ever written I've sub-consciously compared to other writers whose work I respect, and enjoy. Usually with a deepening sense of despair at the realization that it comes nowhere close to the likes of Stephen King, Douglas Clegg, or Neil Gaiman.
My wife summed it up perfectly for me the other night as we were talking. I was telling her about my recent purchase of Stephen King's novel 11/22/63, I had recently finished Neverland by Douglas Clegg and was looking for my next read when I ran across 11/22/63 on sale for just 2.99, so I snatched it up. I would rather have gotten King's latest, Revival, but it was priced beyond my budget at $12.74 for the kindle version.
I made a comment along the lines that I'd like to be able to sell my work for that kind of money. She looked at me with an understanding smile and said "but you're not Stephen King."
My wife supports me in this crazy endeavor we call writing, though she refuses to read anything I've written with the exception of Forget Me Not, my short story that appeared in the 2013 Backbone Mountain Review and can be read here on my blog for free if you check out the link bar above this post.
It's obvious that I'm not Stephen King but her comment got me to thinking about how writers should be honest with themselves, accepting of the fact that we are each a unique voice, alone, yet a part of something so much bigger, like snowflakes with no two ever the same. How boring would this world be if everyone wrote like Stephen King, Douglas Clegg, Neil Gaiman, or Joe Slosinger down the street.
I've used these three writers because I'm a fan of their work and they each have something unique to say about honesty in your writing that I want to share here.
In his book On Writing Stephen King returns to the necessity for writers to be honest with
themselves and their interests: "Write what you like, then imbue it with
life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of
life, friendship, relationships, sex, and work." In a
variation of "write what you know" he encourages writers to
write what they feel to be true. Using what you know and what is unique will bring an honesty to the character and dialogue.
The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you're allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it's definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly, and tell it as best you can. I'm not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.
One of the tasks of writing is to be honest in your creation, bring that
person to life, to breathe in the air, to exist not as a plot device or
pushed-and-pulled tool in service to a scene, but as a person who is as
rational and irrational as we all are, but from this person’s own
And this all has led to my realization. I am not Stephen King, nor am I Neil Gaiman, or Douglas Clegg. I am who I am, and it's time I was honest with myself, and my writing.