If there’s one thing I know, is that I’ll never be Stephen King.
I read his book “On Writing” and found it informative and disheartening. Here is a multi-millionaire, prolific story writer, this century’s Edgar Allen Poe, hell, around my family, and fellow fans, he’s become a pronoun, as in “Ooo, that house looks sooo Stephen King!”. He’s the man! And I didn’t like his book on writing, the very thing I’m trying to do.
Such is the creative-person’s existence, one of insecurities, questions, and fear. Well, at least for me. But it’s not like a curl up into a ball of fear and self-loathing. I haven’t done that in ages! But all that I’ve read and observed indicates that creative-types often feel varying degrees of insecurity.
The thing that brought all this up was when I started proof reading my novel, “The Black Wave Event”. My idea was cool. The dialogue was good. It had emotion, humor and drama. But as I read, I saw that I’m not overly fancy when it comes to words. I’ve read some novels where I have to stop and look up the words they’ve used. In short, their vocabulary is far more extensive than my own. I began to wonder if that was a hinderance or a blessing. It also gave my insecurity an excuse to pop up and say “Ha! Imposter!”
Years ago, I went to the County Fair Mall in Smiths Falls, where I was living. During this time of year, they have one of those limited-time book stores. It occupies a vacant store in the mall and sells books at a discount. That particular year, I was determined to improve my reading library. I bought the Lord of the Rings book trilogy, the Iliad, Last of the Mohicans, to name a few. Some true classics! My goal: to read them! To expand my literary palate. To become more schooled in the written word. After all, some of my favourite screenwriters often quoted such classics, or at the very least, they influenced writers for generations.
The thing is, I really wasn’t that interested. The Iliad was dense, like REALLY dense. Like the page was literally filled with writing. The language was heavy and awkward. Ok, I’ll try something else, like Last of the Mohicans. I’d read books my H.G. Wells, as well as Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, so this shouldn’t be that difficult. Plus, one of my favourite movies was based on it. That didn’t help. It became a chore to read. And reading for pleasure should never be a chore. EVER!
So, I donated those classics. I’m sure someone will get much more enjoyment out of them than I did. And honestly, I didn’t want to be one of those people who kept books n their shelves that they’ve never read. That just makes one look like a bloated, self-absorbed tool.
Fortunately, I had other, more modern classics to read, like “2010” by Arthur C. Clarke. Ok, it doesn’t have the same popularity as “2001” but…
(Sidebar: I thought the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a technically astounding movie, with some fascinating thoughts on life and existence. But it was reeeally frickin’ boring! I last watched it on New Year’s Eve day, 2001, and it was a chore to sit through it. Remember what i said about reading as a chore? Well, same applies to movies. Stanley should have stuck with “A Clockwork Orange”. Now that’s an awesome movie!)
… “2010” was a great read. It lead me to “2061” and now “3001: The Final Odyssey”.
What was interesting was that Arthur C. Clarke is also a legend in the science fiction community, as well as the science community! Many of his works foretold much of the technology we utilize today. But what I really found interesting was that his writing was so accessible! It wasn’t jam-packed with complicated technical jargon, or big fancy words that I had to look up. He explained things in a simple, matter-of-fact way that didn’t take away from the story.
All of this made me think about the insecurities I had been feeling, worrying about my own writing, comparing it to others… and that’s when it hit me.
Comparing yourself to others, especially when it is something creative, is the wrong thing to do. Sure you can be inspired by others, but in the end, your creation is an extension of your voice, your ideas, your way of telling the story. Sure you can try to copy how the successful people did it, hell, you may even find some success, but it’s not your voice, not your method, not your creation, at least, not completely.
Comparing myself to anyone successful, even my fellow ePublishers and eBook writers and authors, isn’t wise. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Just because I’ve written a novel doesn’t make me mister novel-writing guy. It just shows I’m dedicated to my stories and ideas, like so many hundreds of thousands out there. Those that have found success have done it through hard work and dedication. And I’m sure the majority did it without worrying what Stephen King thought.
But, there is a couple of pieces of advice that Mr. King has imparted on up-and-coming writers that I will paraphrase…
1st: Write. WRITE. WRITE! Just write. Keep writing, and write often! Don’t worry whether it’s good or bad. If the talent is in you, in time, your writing will improve.
2nd: Read. Read a lot. Read writers you like. See how the successful people do it.
Insecurities never truly go away. But with knowledge and practice, they lessen over time, as our skills improve.
As for me, I know I’ll never be the next Stephen King. I’ll leave that to someone else. I wanna be the first Mark MacKinnon, who put Super Fiction on the map via the cult classics “The Black Wave Event” and his other superhero fiction books and stories, coming soon to HBO!