Monday’s Writerly Quote

Ever have those moments? Maybe you go to a conference and hear what all the other writers have written and you look at your own story and contemplate how your shining diamond just became a worthless chunk of glass. Maybe you get a rejection letter where the agent is severely honest in their feedback. Or maybe you’re just having one of those days, staring at the computer screen, wondering if you’re really cut out for this business.

I think most of us have those moments of self-doubt, be they brief or long. I think this quote is best suited for moments like those, coming from Neil Gaiman:

Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that—but you are the only you… There are better writers than me out there, there are smarter writers, there are people who can plot better—there are all those kinds of things, but there’s nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.

Someone might write better prose than you. Maybe their descriptions are pure poetry, while you feel yours is just getting the job done. Maybe you bump into someone who seems to have the most marketable idea in the universe, while perhaps the market seems saturated with ideas like yours. And maybe you just keep bumping into tons of people who seem much further along on the writing path than you are.

But that’s not really the point, is it? The point is to tell your stories. As Mr. Gaiman said, there will always be better and smarter writers, and that’s okay. Tell the stories only you can tell and be proud of it.

That’s not to say you don’t strive to become better every day. Hone those writing skills daily. Read everything you can. Don’t settle for less than the best in your writing. But when you find yourself worrying or comparing yourself to other writers, pull up this quote and remember you’re writing the story only you can write.

You are the only you.

Do you agree with Mr. Gaiman? Are you trying to write the stories only you can write? What do you do when doubt starts to creep in? How do you keep it away? What advice would you add to Mr. Gaiman’s statement? Let us know in the comments below.

21 thoughts on “Monday’s Writerly Quote

  1. Ah, what a excellent quote! I do this a lot, looking at all the amazing writers and then look at my work and think, this sucks. However what I’ve started doing to fight this is to not care. I’m not really looking to be published, I just want to write some interesting stories. So I’ll continue to write and share.

    • I think it’s super important to be focused on wanted to share interesting stories. It’s okay to want to be published, but if being published (or just plain being famous) is the ONLY goal, I think it’s the wrong way of approaching things, kind of like you were saying.

  2. It’s a great quote. Writers should try to avoid comparing their writing; everyone is different. The same is true for readers–we each like different aspects of a book–and hopefully writers will be able to connect with the readers who will most appreciate their work.

    • I think there’s an audience out there for every story, and all we as writers need to do is give that audience our best story possible. That should be the real goal. Like you said, everyone is different.

  3. I know I used to compare myself to a lot of people, especially other bloggers when a point came where I wouldn’t say I don’t care, but more like I don’t care if I get recognition or not because I’m still doing something I love and sharing it. If someone likes what I’ve written, awesome, mission accomplished, if not so be it, I’ll keep on writing 🙂

    • I like this. Besides, I think if you write what’s truly inside, people will be attracted to that because it’s genuine. Being genuine seems rare these days.

  4. This is a great read, and needed most days in my struggles with terrible blocks.
    I write to ease things in my head, and only do so for me, if someone else likes it, great!!
    If not, oh well, atleast it’s gone from my thoughts.

    Wonderful post, worthyof reblog.

  5. I love this! It’s kind of like what I was saying earlier: yes, I want to be published, but the story and telling it in the best way I can are the important things. No one can write my world or my stories like I can.

    I do get that discouraged feeling a lot. I should post this on my desk somewhere. 🙂


    • I feel exactly the same way. And interesting to hear that Neil Gaiman even has insecurities. I should post this on my desk too, great idea. 🙂

  6. Gah, I love Neil Gaiman. Seriously. That man is a genius! And, of course, true; the way I can put together prose is unique, even if plot or characters themselves are not.

  7. Absolutely right/write on. A wanna be writer once wondered how she could ever write anything new, and if she did, wouldn’t everyone try to steal it if she sent it away to a publisher? If only that was the problem. Today this wanna be is a bitter older wanna be harassing her neighbors and threatening to sue good people for libel. True story. I once mentored her and she asked me the above question. On a recent trip back to my former home, I received the update on her life. Moral of my tale: write your story and forget about the neighbors. Thank you, Jae, for always stimulating my often absent-minded writer’s brain.

    • Wow! Too sad to live a life so bitter. People may call me naive for my positivity (and they have) but I’d much rather view the world in an optimistic way and enjoy my life and the success I gain along the way. Good advice to us all to forget those neighbors.

  8. I totally agree with Neil Gaiman (and I totally love him too!). I know I fall short in all kinds of ways as a writer, lol, but if I let that stop me from trying I’ll never, ever get anywhere. All writers have strengths and weaknesses. I feel like comparing myself to other writers only sets me up to feel bad about my writing.

    I do have times when I start thinking my writing isn’t good enough for whatever reason, and I start second-guessing – it’s not enough of this, or it’s too much of that – and the only way I’ve found to really get out of it is to walk away for a while. If I’m feeling down on my writing and doubting myself, I’ve noticed that if I don’t take a break, I start deleting large chunks of my stories that don’t necessarily need to be deleted. I go into over-edit mode, which can be just as harmful as not editing at all. I feel like over-editing sucks the soul right out of my writing. All the personality gets lost somewhere when I do that. Lol – and it gets flat. Painfully, yawningly, coma-inducing, flat. 🙂 Not good.

    So, I usually pull up my iTunes and start mixing soundtracks for my characters and stories. This may sound strange, but it’s a great distraction that helps inspire me, and helps me get lost in my story again, rather than all my failings.

    Finding songs that fit a character or scene helps me remember why I was excited to write about something in the first place. 🙂 And if I’m lucky, I get ideas for more scenes too.

    • I don’t think it sounds strange. I think it’s wise to have within our reach those things which inspire our story, be they music, pictures, books, whatever. But I agree with you and would say if you’re feeling uncertain about your writing, it’s probably best to step away and do something else enjoyable.

      I may have to try that music thing. I did a search for actors/actresses that I thought looked most like my characters, and that’s helped me with descriptions.

  9. You know, I really need my own computer. That way, I can have a folder in my bookmarks specifically for awesome, inspiring Jae posts.

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