Who You Are Not


I recently began listening to audiobooks in the car on the way too and from work. I’m still working my way through a rather lengthy one right now, and I’m enjoying it. But audiobooks don’t fully engage my brain the way reading does, and I find myself both listening and comparing myself to the author at the same time.

And it’s depressing. He obviously put much more preparation into his novel than I have even approached in mine. He’s got a way with description that I can only dream of at this point. His characterizations are much deeper and distinct. His world is much more realistic and deep. I can find dozens of ways this writer is better than me.

If I let myself I could allow this writer to talk me out of being a writer myself. The only defense I’ve found against this sort of problem is to mentally slap myself up side the head and remind myself, “You are not {fill in the blank}. You don’t need to write like they do.”

I have to remind myself that I’m not trying to write like them, I’m trying to write like me. And while I don’t yet have a best-selling novel (or a dozen) to my name to validate my authorial style, I’ll get much farther as a writer if I don’t try to be anyone other than myself.

But until I do get that validation that, whoever I turn out to be, my writing is just fine, I regularly have to fight the battle of reminding myself who I’m not. I am not Brandon Mull, Terry Pratchett, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan, Arthur C. Clarke, Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Brown, or Mary Higgins Clark. I don’t want to be George R. R. Martin, Dan Wells, Michaelbrent Collings, or Stephen King, however wonderful they may be.

Can I learn from all these people? Abso-friggin’-lutely! But not as long as my focus is on how much better they are than me and how I’ll never be able to write as well. Sometimes my inner critic is just a big loudmouth who gets in the way of me learning the important lessons.

I only have to write like Thom Stratton, and while that may not yet be good enough to impress anyone outside my family and friends, it will in the long run be much easier to do, and much more satisfying.

Thom Stratton

About Thom Stratton

Thom is a Utah transplant, works for a regional bank, and spends his lunch hours working on his latest novel. His wife, three kids, and four pets find him amusing and somewhat useful, so they keep him around.

Holly Kelly
Holly Kelly

This is something that's been on my mind lately. I just read a book that I loved. Then I got all depressed thinking, "I can't write like that." You are so right. I don't have to write like that. I'll never write that that, because that writer is a completely different person. I just need to focus on writing the best way I can.