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. 🙂

Green Eyed Monster

Image from Wikimedia Commons - Author: Petritap

Image from Wikimedia Commons – Author: Petritap

Another weekend, another article in the paper about a new writer getting a great publishing deal, being touted as ‘the next big thing.’

‘Why not me?’ I think to myself, shuffling the pages resentfully. ‘When will it be my turn? Huh, bet they know someone in publishing, bet they’ve met an agent somewhere, had some lucky break.’

But then I get over it. Because I can’t get all bitter and twisted about somebody else succeeding in my field, I really can’t. So I push the green eyed monster aside and read further into the article and, more often than not, this ‘new’ writer has been working their ass off for years, writing and rewriting, getting rejected, honing their craft until the magnificent moment when they are accepted and published, all the hard work paying off. Sure, there are those who hit it straight out of the park first go, young writers whose brilliance is such they’re picked up by the first agent who spots them, catapulted up the publishing ladder. But they are few and far between and the majority are just like the rest of us, toiling away until they are plucked from obscurity, chosen for the spotlight for a little while.

I was talking with a friend the other day, both of us discussing negative influences in our lives and she told me about a therapy method she’d heard about from another friend.

‘So you imagine a bonfire, and you and the other person who’s bothering you are there…’

‘And then you push them into the bonfire?’

We both laughed then, in that conspiratorial way you do with friends when you know you’re sort of joking but not really. You were actually supposed to talk with the other person across the bonfire, letting them know how you felt about whatever it was they had done to upset you. But I actually quite like the idea of using fire to burn away negative thoughts and energy. Bloodthirsty thoughts aside, the concept of fire as a cleansing entity is not new. Ancient stories reference fire coming from heaven to clear battlefields, taking the bodies up to heaven in a pillar of flame, Australian aborigines used fire to cleanse the landscape, opening it up for rejuvenation. Then there is trial by fire, in which we pass through metaphorical flames to emerge the other side strengthened in some way.

If you’ve ever read Zen In The Martial Arts by Joe Hyams (and if you haven’t I recommend it – you don’t have to be a martial artist to appreciate the lessons it holds), he writes about the late great Bruce Lee and a conversation they had about getting rid of negative thoughts. If something negative entered his mind, Bruce would visualise it as being written on a piece of paper, then would visualise crumpling the paper into a ball and setting it on fire, watching it burn until it was gone, taking the thought with it.

So I read on, taking my jealous thoughts and writing them down on that sheet of paper in my mind, burning them up and letting them go, grey ash floating in a metaphorical wind, knowing I cannot become upset or jealous when others get what I desire. For if all of a sudden there were no new voices, no new ideas to appreciate, then I would worry. It’s a great thing that there are always new writers coming up, being talked about, being promoted. Because it means they’re still giving out turns. Maybe next time, it will be mine.