There is a new breed of writers making an impact in the world today. We are coming out of the woodwork, and as much as traditional writers try to ignore us, we are rising through the ranks of the writing community.
The phrase — when they made us; they broke the mold — applies in so many ways.
We call ourselves writers, not authors. Not yet. We are far from the typical image people have of writers.
Look at me: I don’t have an MFA or even a BFA. I took two writing classes in college. I never read Shakespeare in high school — in fact — I never graduated from high school. And, unlike other classical writers and authors, I haven’t read much literature.
I’ve never read Hemingway, Joyce, Tolstoy, or Dostoyevsky. The writer who influenced me the most as I grew up was Stephen King. For a simple guy like me, the way he writes spoke to me in many ways. He writes as most people talk. He doesn’t use fancy words or complicated grammar structures. I wanted to write just like him and spent much of my young adult years reading and learning from his books.
I follow a lot of writers on Instagram, and like many people on these platforms, they try to project the image of a brilliant, educated, and untouchable writer. Stylized images and fancy prose on Instagram make you think you are nothing if you aren’t just like them. I have to admit though — I admire these people who look at writing like art and have devoted their lives to educating themselves as a classical writer would.
I was listening to James Frey on a podcast and he impressed me. Even though his writing is known for being cutting-edge and controversial for its non-standard use of grammar and structure, he’s read an impressive list of classical writers in his time. For a man who favors the constant use of profanity, his influences are many of the people who are the great writers of our time.
I’ll admit I feel like I should be as well-read as he is.
As much as I try not to fall prey to imposter syndrome, sometimes I feel like a fraud. I’m not cultured. I don’t even think I’m that smart. I’ve just learned how to express what I’m feeling from years of constant practice.
Sometimes I feel ashamed about who I am.
At 27, I went back to school to get a degree. Although my heart was telling me it wanted to learn the craft of writing, my first wife and empty pocketbook told me I should learn something I could turn into a money-making career.
I didn’t have the benefit of education to drive my passion for writing.
I got an associate degree in art and multimedia and spun that piece of paper into a career in web design. And even though I returned to college a few years ago for a short time, I never did get the coveted bachelors. All I got was student loans again.
In all those years of college, I took two writing classes, and one was academic writing.
What I’m trying to say is I don’t have any education that backs my claim that I am a writer.
I didn’t read any classics in high school because I quit school in the 9th grade. When your dad is sick, and you have a choice between eating or going to school — I know many of you, like me, would want to eat. I picked up any jobs I could at that age, which happened to be fast-food.
I read King and as much science fiction and fantasy that I could get my hands on from the library. In spite of this, I didn’t create stories about fanciful characters in faraway places — I wrote about what I knew — my life.
I didn’t have anyone to critique my writing or give me direction. Because of that, I learned to write in a style that was unconventional and raw.
My writing has changed over the years, but I still write about what I know. I’ve not had an easy life, but one benefit is I have plenty of fodder to drive my imagination.
I could have picked up more literature later in life, but I found I didn’t relate much to what I read. I needed to change the circumstances in my life, so when I wasn’t working, which wasn’t often, I read self-help and motivational books. I credit those books with changing how I looked at life and how I viewed myself, although I fell for charlatans and scams in the industry and became jaded.
It’s one of the reasons I dislike gurus so much.
Without the inspiration of classical literature, my writing took longer to mature and evolve. I finally found my voice, but I feel like a fraud for using it. Once in awhile I get in the flow and feel my voice transform the page. In those times I see what my writing will be if I keep practicing every day and make it my mission to improve a little each time I sit to write.
I need to remember just to write and not focus on all the things that should have been in my life.
I always find I write better when I let go of all expectations and stop trying to be like others. I’m uniquely myself, and I need to embrace that. But I’m only human, and I can’t help but be affected by the need to be like all the great writers I come across every day.
Instead of whining because I don’t have a great education or I haven’t read Shakespeare, I need to capitalize on what makes me unique and stop thinking I’m a fake and fraud.
Writing isn’t about your pedigree, but how you make the reader feel when they read. We all need to get that tattooed on the inside of our eyelids because our distracted brain often takes us to the place where we are envious and petty.
We need to focus on being honest about who we are and how we can translate that to the page.
We have our own styles, and we all know if we embrace it, there will come a day when writing is effortless, and our true voice speaks through our words.
We should all look forward to that day.