Whenever anyone shows me a paper that they’ve written, they inevitably get nervous and stare at the floor. “I’m not very good at writing,” they say in a shy, dejected voice.
Well, I have something to tell you. It’s important. Are you ready?
Yes, you are. I know your hidden talent. You can write. And you’re lucky, because you even have this hidden talent. I don’t – I simply splash the one cool thing about me all over the place, jumping around with colored scarves screaming, “LOOK AT ME!! I LOVE WRITING!!!”
You, on the other hand, are much more cool about it. You save it, savor it, make it special. I admire and envy you. And I’m not being falsely modest either…please. I suck at that game. I’m simply calling the facts as I see them: you are a great writer and I have no hidden talents.
I've learned that not everyone is as obvious as I am in the way that they approach life...and that can be awesome. Whereas my body language speaks for me [subtlety has never been my strong point], other people can maintain a bit of mystery to them. Then, when you find something out about them, it's a surprise and it's wonderful.
Case in point: my beautiful little sister, Shelby. Shelby has a strong, vivacious personality; she is daring and sarcastic and clever. You do not forget her. She has so many dimensions, though, so many facets that you would never guess about her... it makes me jealous. I was listening to one of her phone conversations once [it was 2 AM on Christmas Day and we were in our bedroom -- what else was I supposed to do?] and she was telling her eccentric, fascinating friend about her Christmas gifts. I gave her art supplies, and when she told him that, he just goes, "You draw?" in this totally surprised voice. Yes, she draws beautiful portraits, and that's not her only secret. She writes beautiful poetry. She bakes and cooks and can run long distances and quotes passages from Lord of the Rings [less cool, but whatever] and she knows so much about so many different things that I am bitterly envious, if I can be terribly honest with you.
All of my friends have these incredible, hidden talents. My friend Allie makes gorgeous jewelry. Allison can make anything look amazing -- the perfect blend of eclectic, bohemian, modern, and classy. Jessie is secretly sassy, plus she paints. Jon skateboards and makes pancakes. Jackie takes achingly beautiful photos and knows obnoxious self-defense. Andy is a never-ending delightful surprise. Eric loves camping and bike-riding. Christine can hunt and she takes risks -- she just won a roundtrip to Dubai...who does that? Alyssa ballroom dances and makes Puerto Rican food. Dean is attentive and likes musicals. The list just goes on and on.
And YOU. You can write! Seriously, I have a pretty solid idea of who reads this consistently, and I’ve read bits and pieces of your stuff. It’s good. It has depth and meaning and soul and purpose. It’s beautiful. I love it.
So can I tell you something else, writer to writer? Don’t compare yourself. Learn from others, figure out what you like about their writing, try on different styles for fun, but do not compare yourself. Writing is a reflection of YOU and you can do everything you can to make yourself look better, but if you try to look like someone else, it would be just stupid, you know? If I looked in the mirror tonight and berated myself for not looking more like Penelope Cruz, that wouldn’t be very productive. In the same way, if I read my writing and got upset that it wasn’t more like Shauna Niequist’s or Meg Cabot’s or Anita Diamont’s or Beth Moore’s or that girl’s from my writing class or your’s, well, what good would that do? Don’t compare yourself, friend. Write for the sake of the art, for the sake of your soul, for the sake of sanity.
But whatever you do, please keep writing. It’s important. And you’re good at it. I promise.