Procrastination. Writer’s block. No time. Too hungry. The kids! Too tired….If there’s one thing writer’s are good at, it’s excuses.
I think that we all know that these excuses are actually those irritating fear gremlins whispering in our ears. And, although fear and excuses can do some major damage sidelining a writer, there is one true writing killer – a destroyer of all things good and creative, one that I can attest to nearly killing my creativity for nearly four years.
This was it: My writing hasn’t gotten me anywhere = I’m obviously no good = I need to start writing like someone else who has succeeded.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer of poetry, nonfiction, songs, etc., this is the most toxic conclusion we creatives fall prey to. As a songwriter, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down and tried to write “a Jack Johnson style song”… Or tried to produce that clever lyrical gold a la (early) Jason Mraz… Or tried to emulate my feelings in song just like Ben Rector, or even based a chord structure or percussive feel on an already existing song. It doesn’t work. The end product just feels… counterfeit… forced.
Likewise, I was recently talking to a writer friend who had recently read a quirky, yet profound Anne Lamott book, only to come away with this discouraging thought “Man, I’ll NEVER write like Anne Lamott… And when I try to write more like her, it’s horrible. I sound like a 3rd grader!”
Yes, my friend, you probably do.
You know why? Because you’re not Anne Lamott. And I’m not Jack Johnson.
You know why their work is so stinking good? Because it’s so uniquely THEM.
If Anne Lammott tried to write like Tana French, it would be a hot mess. If Bob Dylan tried to write a Justin Timberlake song… Okay, that’s just weird.
Point is, what makes anyone’s gift so special is the fact that it is uniquely theirs. When you try to take that voice of yours – that voice that only YOU can speak and tune it into someone else’s frequency, you’re plunging yourself into a pool of obscurity and you’re just going to get a whole lot of static. There is no sense in trying to be a third rate replica of something that already and more authentically exists.
But I also get it. I get why we do this. The men-in-suits world – the publishers and agents and record labels – the people with the money to fund and catapult our gifts into a published and promoted state perpetuate this notion that being a newer version of a tried and true cash cow is going to work. Because, unfortunately, it has in some carefully cultivated situations. But that’s not real creativity, friends. And that is not a model that is built to last. Would The Beatles still have the name they do 50+ years later if they had been trying to be the next Rolling Stones?
Our culture has put these “reality” shows in front of us and convinced us that if we sing good enough, we can go The Voice and get famous. If we’re pretty and young enough, we can go on America’s Next Top Model and become the next supermodel. We have been led to believed that it’s about being “good enough” in a very superficial way. Do you think that Mick Jagger or Bob Dylan would have gotten through the first auditions for The Voice? How about Sheryl Crow? How about Bruce Springsteen?
Our greatest writers would’ve been silenced long ago if their success had been built upon today’s commercialized, beautiful-faced, homogenized standards.
So make a goal of creating through and with that exceptional, unique voice of yours. Be you in all your glorious you-ness because no one can make an impact on this world trying to be a counterfeit of someone else. If you are struggling with writer’s block especially – recognize how you are attempting to water down your unique voice to emulate someone else’s and STOP IT.