You know that favorite writer you have? The one who constructs sentences that somehow reach deep inside your soul – or who makes you laugh so hard the person sitting next to you on the plane asks what you’re reading?
Well, re: that writer, I have four words of advice for you:
Don’t write like that person.
Yes, that was five words. It’s Friday and I’m halfway out the mental door… :)
But as for my point, I’m serious. And this is not any sort of judgment as to whether or not you can, in fact, write like this author-you-admire. I just know no matter how hard I try, I’m never gonna be Joan Didion.
I also know that the act of trying to sound like someone you admire can be exhausting. You’ve already set the bar at “impossible,” so all that’s left is to reach for it over and over and over again.
And the super fun part? You never get there.
But even if you did, what would you have? A really good imitation of someone else. Instead of a 100% genuine peek inside your own brain and heart and soul. To which I know some of you are instantly yelling back at your computer screen…
THERE’S NOTHING IN MY BRAIN OR HEART OR SOUL THAT’S THAT INTERESTING!!!
Well, welcome to the club. Do you think I believe that every word that flows from my fingertips is interesting? Or even passable? That’s where writer’s block comes from – that reaching, that striving, that pushing to reach some literary nirvana – and then mentally shutting down when you realize you aren’t even close.
A better way, if I might make a gentle suggestion, is to just be honest. Express what you have to say in the true and genuine way it comes to you. Don’t worry if that’s the way Joan Didion or Elizabeth Gilbert or insert-literary-idol-here would say it. (And yes, I noticed I always seem to use the word “say.” Maybe because, to me, writing is like talking, only not out loud.)
When I work with people to help them write better, it’s all about helping them find their true voice, their sharpest perspective, their most quintessential turn of phrase. Because that’s the way they’re going to touch the heart or the soul or the funny bone of the people who need to hear from them.
It’s the way you’ll touch the people who need to hear from you.
And isn’t that what your readers deserve?
If you think you could maybe use some help finding your true voice, I would love to help. I offer this thing called Copy Therapy — it’s kind of like regular therapy, except instead of spending an hour talking about your mother, we talk about the thing you’re trying to say, and figure out the best, most powerful way to say it. In writing. CLICK HERE to find out how.
And if you’re looking for some other ways to break through writer’s block, and haven’t already, why not download The Positively True Actual Professional Writer’s Guide to Beating Writer’s Block HERE?
It’s not Joan Didion…but it helps.