A few weeks ago, I received an email from an acquaintance and fellow blogger, someone I respect a lot and whose work complements mine. Her message revolved around a topic I had covered myself on Becoming Who You Are a few months back. I read her words, savouring them and enjoying how she approached the subject. And then I felt a twinge:
This is fantastic. I wish I could have expressed it like that.
The twinge is something we all face at one point or another. It’s a natural part of creative work. Watching someone tackle the same ideas or techniques we’ve tackled and watch them do it in a way that, in our opinion, is better. Watching someone take a conversation we had and transform the ideas we discussed from good to great. It’s fun—this is part of why I like this kind of idea-based work—but it also pushes an insecure button inside me that says “I wish I could do it like that too.”
And then we have a choice. We can buy into the idea that the way the other person has done something better, more useful, more valuable, etc. We can use that twinge to fire up our inner critics and give them ammunition for weeks.
Or we can notice the twinge, think “Oh look, a twinge,” and then read like a writer, unpacking why we like their words so much, what we like about them, how they’ve done things differently, and so on. Not so we can berate ourselves for not matching it, but so we can appreciate it and to learn.
If theirs is a style we want to emulate (not copy, emulate) we can examine their words and pick out aspects of the structure, tone, vocabulary, and voice we want to use. We can make a mental note of how that writing feels to read and think about how we want the people reading our words to feel, and so on.
But we can also just acknowledge a simple truth: there is room for all of us. Reading this acquaintance’s words, I noticed that while I felt the twinge, I was also aware we have very different writing styles. While I love reading her writing coming from her, it’s not a style I could adopt myself without crossing the line into creating a persona that’s not authentic. And while I wouldn’t write like that myself and feel like I was being authentic in doing so, I love reading her words and I love reading that coming from her because it is her. I am not that writer. But she is, and it fits her personality and her ambiance perfectly.
Some people will love reading her words on the topic, some people will love reading mine. Some people will love reading both and appreciate the different perspectives we each bring.
There is room for everyone. Someone somewhere is waiting to read what you have to write. They might not read your words today, tomorrow, or even this year. But the wonderful thing about writing, and sharing is that those words will be there, in your style, expressed in your way, when they most want or need them.