During the six years I struggled with my writing, I learned a lot. Probably more about myself than writing. But knowing who you are means knowing what you want to write.
Some people are born with a strong sense of self. They know who they are from a young age and never stray from that. Maybe we all know who we are at a young age. Because when you’re young, you don’t worry so much about the rest of the world. You’re just you and you flit from moment to moment doing what you can to improve your situation, crying when you can’t, throwing a tantrum when you don’t get your way. And you don’t notice the onlookers at the market staring at you. You can’t see that your parents are frustrated and a little embarrassed. All you can see is your own misery and your desire to make it better.
As we get older, we become more aware of the judgment of others. People tell us we’re wrong for doing things a certain way or saying certain things. We listen. In spite of ourselves we listen. Even when there’s a little confused voice in your head questioning why it’s wrong.
The world strips away a lot of our individuality as we grow older and then we slowly find it again piece by piece as we move into adulthood. We realize we’re our own people and we can do what we want. We start watching cartoons again. We feel less shame for geeking out over Harry Potter or standing in line to see the new Pixar movie that’s just come out.
For me, that’s when my writing began to improve. I looked back at the things I wanted to write as a child, things I left behind in my teens, and realized those were actually some pretty damned good ideas.
Before that, I spent years trying out ideas only to turn around and discard them because I couldn’t figure out how to make them work. I didn’t know what was wrong. Was it me or the ideas?
It was both.
There are two kinds of ideas. The first is the kind that comes from a place of pure creation deep within you. Those brilliant points of light that float to the surface when you least expect them. You don’t really know where they come from but you know they’re brilliant.
The second come from fear. Usually they start out as the first kind, all bright and shiny until you begin to doubt. What if no one likes it? Is this stupid? Am I stupid? But, this has been done before… On and on. So you change it.
But that doesn’t work so you scrap that idea and start over. Only now you’re scared and you’re thinking about what other people will think. Now the idea takes shape around what you believe to be the expectations of some future, unknown readership.
The rest of the world shouldn’t be your compass for what you should or shouldn’t write. That decision should come from within.
Maybe it will sell, maybe it won’t. But does that really matter if at the end of the day what you’re writing makes your heart sing? No, it doesn’t. We all want to make money doing what we love. But if you have to sacrifice what you love to make money, it’s not worth it in the end.
They say all the stories have been written and all we’re doing now is rewriting. That’s mostly true. But it’s your individuality that recreates them. It’s your thoughts and feelings that make each story unique. It’s why we can love fantasy stories but still see each of them as a separate entity. Their bare bones look pretty much the same, but the flesh the author has laid on them is different. And that’s the part that we love. That’s the part we remember.