I’ve just finished reading The Explorer by Katherine Rundell and it was exactly as the bookshop lady said: magical. Achingly magical. It is one of those books that when it’s time to do a thing, you justify doing the thing later and decide instead to read one more chapter. Then another and another. The feeling of euphoria as the story takes over your life for those few hours is addictive and nourishing. It is one of life’s extraordinary pleasures.
However, once I’ve finished reading a book that’s completely enveloped me in its world, I come back to reality with a bump. How could I ever write a story like that? There’s no way my imagination would take me that way, tell that story. The twists always, without exception, surprise me, the plot lines thrill me and the character arcs soar. It is hard not to feel daunted by the brilliance. The overwhelming mastery of language, the use of the simplest of phrases to impart such enlightening messages.
Perhaps you do not feel this way. Perhaps you feel more that it is a challenge, laid down. That you too can reach such heights. If they can do it, why not you. Why not me.
For a while after every absorbing story I read, I wrestle with these thoughts, trying to push myself towards the rise-to-the-challenge mind-set as opposed to sinking into the overwhelmingly inadequate, why-even-bother-trying mind-bog.
But I’ve been thinking and I reckon I’ve got it wrong. I will never write like any of these brilliant authors – only they can do that. But in my favour, I write like me, like Kate Mallinder. The challenge is to write the best I can. It is not about comparison. The challenge is with myself – to make the time, to learn the craft, to edit even when painful. My take on a story is unique. Your insights on your story are distinct. This does not guarantee you will be published, far from it. The luck element of your story landing on the right editor’s desk at the right time still comes into play. But this is your best shot – be authentic, be passionate, be you.