Like many art forms, writing requires a mixture of skill, practice and confidence. Of the three, it is confidence that is perhaps the most overlooked, yet in many ways it is the most important. It can mark the difference between running off five thousand words in an evening or falling victim to the dreaded writer's block. Writer's are no different to any other artist and as such their egos can be fragile. A great work by another writer can inspire or intimidate in equal measure.
What we need to ask ourselves is whether we have any control over becoming inspired or dejected when reading the writing of another. Before I address this however, I need to digress a little and pose another question.
Who is the fastest man on Earth?
I can probably guess which name will have popped into the heads of most. Usain Bolt, right? He is after all, the reigning Olympic Champion and current world record holder in the 100m and 200m athletic events. Does this make him the fastest man on Earth? Well, no, actually. It does not. What about Mo Farrah? Mo is the reigning Olympic 10,000m champion. He can run this distance faster than anybody else currently competing. So why then do we not consider him to be the fastest man on Earth?
I did hear rumours not too long ago of a race between the two. The only problem was in setting the distance. 100m, 200m, 400m, and it would certainly be Bolt every time. 1500m, 5,000m, 10,000m, Mo would have it in the bag. What about 800m or even 600m? That puts us on completely unknown territory as to who could possibly predict the outcome when both runners are pushed out of their comfort zone.
The point I want to make is that it is really pointless trying to compare two such different athletes. Although they are both runners, they do it in completely different ways. It may not be a perfect solution, but in their way they are both the fastest man on Earth.
This brings me back to the original question regarding inspiration or dejection. Writing is a broad term and it encompasses many different disciplines. There are many who call themselves writers, but that does not make them the same. That is something that we have to remind ourselves if we are to avoid the disappointment of thinking we are not good enough.
A writer should not feel down because somebody else can write more interesting blog posts or if they can knock out 50,000 words in NaNoWriMo. You see, writers, just like runners, are not all the same. Writing a novel is completely different to writing a poem. A short story is not the same thing as a screenplay. A news article is not a novella. Different forms of writing require different skills.
I am a novelist. Whenever I read a great novel, I feel inspired to emulate it. That is the format of writing that my talents are most suited too and I believe that I can compete with the best in this format. When I read a great short story however, I cannot help but feel a little dejected. The reason being that I could never hope to match it for quality, but that is okay, because I am not a short story writer. Likewise, when I read an intelligent, cleverly pieced together poem, I lament the fact that I am unable to do the same. Again, this is because I am not a poet. I am sure that any short story writer or poet would feel the same if they were to read a great novel. The most eloquent writing comes with the fewest words and the most imaginative comes with the greatest number of words. It does not matter if a writer only excels at one of these.
Mo Farrah will never be a sprinter and Usain Bolt is unlikely to ever win a marathon. It is not important. To put it into the words of Albert Einstein:
'Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid'
(Above) Every rule has its exception. Some really can do it all.
If you found this post interesting, why not sign up to join my blog using one of the tools on the sidebar to the right. You can also check out my two self published novels The Outback and Stealing Asia. Both are available as ebooks and paperbacks.