It’s a trite phrase by now, drained of its meaning by repetition. We’ve heard it everywhere—pop songs, Disney movies, YA books. Writers, especially, get told variations on this theme all the time. Find your “voice.” Embrace your individuality. Draw inspiration from your personal experience.
And don’t get me wrong, it’s all good advice.
If only we actually took it.
For a world where we are so often told to “be ourselves,” I think we (writers especially) are becoming remarkably identical. A quick scan of the YA section at the bookstore shows me basically four things: Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Twilight…and a dozen clones of all those books.
Now (pretending I didn’t just mention Twilight) Harry Potter and Hunger Games are good books. There’s a reason they have been so successful and defined their respective genres. (And, if we’re fair, Rowling clearly has a thing for Tolkien. And Lois Lowry started the whole dystopian craze with The Giver in 1993. So these books aren’t really doing anything new.) But it’s impossible to write for young adults these days and not feel the pressure of living up to these “greats.” In one ear, everyone screams for us to write ourselves…while publishers just want more dystopian fantasy trilogies with steamy love triangles.
And while I can honestly say that my Reinhold Chronicles books are pretty dang different from most of the stuff out there, I can still feel the pressure eating away at my writing platform.
Why? Because of just that—I begin to view it as a platform, as something elevated. I view myself as a personality, not a person. I start to see my stories as just books. And my blog becomes nothing more than a news feed.
News feeds are fine if you’re looking for, well, news. But authors whose blog post titles consist of “My Book Just Came Out” and “My Book Just Won This Award”? News flash: nobody cares. I mean, good for you and all. But people read to learn something, to feel something.
I’m not immune from this in any way. Looking back through some of my old blog post makes me cringe. so. hard. Because at times, I’ve written like I was J.K. Rowling or Suzanne Collins—when, in reality, I’m a relative unknown still trying to make my way into the literary world. Pretending otherwise isn’t going to help me. Looking back through my old posts, the best ones are the ones where I was brutally honest. That’s why I’ve been transitioning my blog into something more open and personal. Of course I’m still going to talk about my writing. If I release a book, you’ll know about it. But I am committing to truly being myself and writing that down here.
If I can get spiritual for a moment, being yourself definitely doesn’t equate to being like everyone else. But it has less to do with you and more to do with loving people and living life the way God would have you to. True yourself-ness has nothing to do with selfishness. It’s when we seek to model our lives after Jesus that we can actually become more ourselves, because we’re becoming who we were created to be.
(Update: I just found Suzanne Collins’s website, and…well, let’s just say I feel a lot better about myself.)
In summation, I don’t want this to be just a writing blog. I also don’t want it to be a personal blog. My writing is too much a part of me to dissect it from the rest of my life. So why not have this be both?
It reminds me of a quote from the live-action adaptation of Cinderella:
This is, perhaps, the greatest risk that any of us will take: to be seen as we truly are.
It is a risk. Honesty is a risk. Loving other people is a risk.
But it’s a risk worth taking.