In My Own Voice

Book envy? Me?

Book envy? Me?

Suzie over at Suzie Speaks wrote a great post the other day, all about blog envy. She wrote about how it’s natural to compare our work to others and that, ultimately, we just need to get over it and get on with our own work, which I thought was a great sentiment.

Her post made me consider the fact that, when I’m in the midst of writing a book, I really don’t read much at all. And I’m someone who is normally an avid reader, often having several books on the go at one time. I wondered to myself if maybe, it was book envy that stopped me reading – that to read other published work made my own feel ‘not as good.’

Most authors say that, in order to write, you need to read as well. Stephen King states that he reads every day, citing an impressive list of books read in a single year. He reads for part of the day, then writes for the other part – an easier thing, perhaps, for someone with grown children and an assured income. (not that I am envious, not at all!) I do agree with the fact that it’s helpful to have read a lot before starting to write – after all, reading teaches us much about what we like and don’t like, as well as how to structure a book, embellishing threads of plot into each page to draw the reader deeper into the story. The books we read are part of what forms our own writing, whether consciously or sub-consciously. And the worlds we inhabit during those pages are also part of what inspires us to create our own.

So then I considered that perhaps I don’t read while I’m writing because I’m too deep in my own world. Even when I’m not writing, I’m still working through the plot in my mind, characters creating ideas as I dream, the story drawing me in to a point where to enter another world, no matter how briefly, is a distraction rather than an escape. And perhaps this is closer to the truth.

I’m away from home and my current WIP at the moment and I’ve started reading again for the first time in a while, trying to disengage my writer’s eye from the story and simply inhabit the world that has been created, walking through someone else’s words. Of course there are books I read, prose that fills me with joy, characters and dialogue that simultaneously lift me and throw me into despair that I will never write like that. But I have to remember it’s because that voice belongs to someone else. I have my own voice and, as a writer, that is the voice I need to use.

So, book envy? I’d be lying if I said I’d never had it. But it comes from a place of appreciation, rather than frustration. And I also agree with another thing Suzie said – that you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. It’s no easy thing to write a book, despite the old saying that ‘everyone has a book in them.’ Everyone has a story, certainly, but to craft words into telling that story is as complex a process as painting or composing music.

And that’s what I need to remember. πŸ™‚

12 thoughts on “In My Own Voice

  1. I agree with all of that! Like you, my characters and plot are constantly with me while I’m working intensively on my novel, and I don’t want to be taken out of that world. I’m frightened, too, that I’ll subconsciously plagiarise!
    And you’re right about envyβ€”it’s hard not to compare our blogs or our books with others. It’s hard not to compare yourself with others, full stop. But we each have our own unique voice and stories. Personally, I love your blog and your thoughtful anecdotes, and yes, there’s a tiny bit of envy for the topics you choose to write about and the beautiful way you express your ponderings!
    Keep going, Helen, you’re doing a great job.

    • Oh, thanks Louise, that’s so kind of you to say πŸ™‚ I love your blog too, I always read your posts as they are such a pleasure – so the very same to you as well.
      Oh, and I agree about the subconscious plagiarising, I worry about that too! Another commenter mentioned that comparing our work to others is part of growing as a writer, which I also believe is true – I guess the key is to be encouraged, rather than discouraged by the comparison process.

  2. A lesson for us all, Helen. I constantly compare my blog and books to others and find them wanting, but isn’t that disatisfaction a good thing in a way? It means you’re always striving to improve, and always learning and growing.

    • Thanks Ali, that’s very true – I said to another commenter that, as long as we’re encouraged rather than discouraged then we can learn from the comparison, which I think is key. I’m always wanting to improve and learn and grow too, so try to look past the screaming envy to what I can learn πŸ˜‰

  3. Excellent post and, although it’s included as a throwaway at the end, really agree with your point about everyone having a story in them, but not a book. Over the years, I’ve met and got to know a lot of people well through my work. All of them have a story, and even non-writers would do well to take note of them. It makes those people more interesting than you might initially think. And for the writers, there may be some inspiration there…

  4. That was a good post, thank so much for sharing.

    For me, generally there isn’t a different in my reading whenther I’m writing or not. I like reading what other people writes, you never know where you can find an idea, or see the way to handle a thing you’ve been struggling with.
    Sure, as everyone I’ve been guilty of book-envy sometimes, but most of the time, I find reading other people’s work inspiring.
    As you and others have said, comperison is good when it spurs you to do better, when it inspires you.

    • Thank you, and thanks for sharing your experience too – I agree, reading other people’s work can be inspiring – I like your thought about how it can help you see where you’ve been struggling in your own work πŸ™‚

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