Skip to main content

Why can't I write like....

Quite a while ago, I wrote a forum post after reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon's sumptuous Marina. It went along the lines of I'd just finished reading it and I wanted to write just as beautifully as he did. Knowing me and my penchant for exaggeration (I call it creativity) I stated I might never write again. And, probably, I didn't for a day or two.

Such moments of - I'm not sure jealousy is the word, nor despair, but somewhere between the two - have happened a few times in my writing life. (I stared at the Time Traveller's Wife for a week and wondered why I hadn't had that idea...)

In this case, I got rightly rounded on by two more sensible heads. Why would I want to write like anyone else? I should write like Jo Zebedee. And I nodded my head and took my medicine and agreed my comment was silly in the extreme. (Especially since my description-light style is light-years from Zafon's). But, still, I would read books and put them down and stare at the wall, just a little somewhere-between-jealous-and-despairing.

For Christmas this year, I was bought a copy of a book I'd been hankering for - Ian McDonald's Luna. I'd read the start of it and liked it a lot. Happily I got stuck in.

At first, I was a little dumbfounded by the cast list but as I went on, enjoying the writing, I was drawn in. It was a tightly woven family dynasty. It had memorable characters, a cracking plot, vivid imagination. Images within it will stay with me a long time. Moments shocked me, others moved me. At the end, I handed it to my husband and suggested he'd want to read it. (He is, and enjoying it very much.)

It's the type of book which should set me staring at the wall and yet it didn't. Nor did The Minuturist by Jessie Burton, which I'd also loved. In fact, now I started to think about it, nothing in the past year - and I've read a lot of books I truly enjoyed - had done so.

Since the books I was reading were no less awe inspiring, the change had to be from somewhere else, I mused. And then it came to me.

I didn't want to write a book like Luna. I very much enjoyed reading it, but it wasn't the book I'd write. I have Abendau, a family dynasty in space, and it couldn't be less like Luna. I didn't want to write a wide cast of characters. I wanted to explore the ones I had. I wanted to muse on what each scene would do to each person and tell that story, just like I always had.

I'm not sure if this is a point that every writer reaches - I'd be fascinated to hear others' takes on it. I'm not sure if it comes from confidence, or maturity, or just from being put in a position where I had to think about it. But, if pushed, I think it probably comes from, finally, settling into a voice of my own. From knowing that the stories I tell are the ones I want to tell, even if they're a little different from the norm.

And then the lightbulb went off, so loudly it nearly sizzled. No one else can write like me. No one else can tell the story I do, create the characters and world that inhabit my mind. That's what makes books - both reading and writing them - a journey.

This realisation probably doesn't seem like much. It possibly isn't. But, for me, it's given a confidence where there wasn't one before. It's okay to write a Jo Zebedee book. It's okay to write a family dynasty focused so closely on one or two strands that the world is limited to their view. It's okay to want to explore emotions and fates and consequences in lieu of grand sci fi concepts.

In fact, it's more than okay. It's exactly what I should be doing. Just like every other writer should be off writing the book they want to, not the one they think they might.

Here's the links to the books wot I wrote, that no one else can:


JSV said…
That's what I like about creativity: arts would be boring if we all copied each other, arts create unique puzzles for our brains to solve, arts should be fun not mechanistic.

Only you have access to the ideas that you can create. If you don't use them, nobody else can, and that would be a waste.
Millymollymo said…
Jealousy? Nah, they call it "Career Aspiration." I know plenty of people who want to write like another they've read. These other authors we admire,simply inspire us to find our own voices.
Every author I know is their own worst critic and therefore they rarely see their little bits of awesome dotted across the page. But that magic will inspire others to pick up a keyboard (???) and write.

So...pass the parcel, keep writing.
Joanne Zebedee said…
Nice thoughts. Wasted creativity and the need to pass writing along. :)