My writing was terrible because my voice was never my own
I would get up early and grind out my five pages for the day, but those pages were, on the best days uninspired, and on most days a waste of paper destined for a scrunch and throw towards the garbage can across the room.
My goal was to write fiction, and I was inherently bad at it, but my self-imposed struggle was to create the Great American Novel and rise to the status of my heroes of literature. I wanted to be Henry Miller and write the controversial book banned for most of his life; I wanted to be Pat Conroy and write a book starting a discussion about fathers for a generation; and I secretly dreamed of being Ayn Rand and creating a book recognized as the greatest American book of the century.
The problem was that I wasn’t born to be that writer. What I read was not what I should be writing, and several years of a dawn writing discipline was draining any creativity I might have ever had
The realization fiction wasn’t going to be my life didn’t come until I smashed my laptop screen by slamming it down after a morning of endless frustration grinding out another five pages from literary hell. The pages were printed out, crumbled into a tight ball, stuffed along with their lost brothers in the can, and I never wrote fiction again…and that was when I became a writer that could write.
My day gig was a speaker in the fitness world, and I wrote a nonfiction 400-page monster to express my business system. The book sold well, opened a thousand doors, and created a career that kept me well fed enough to waste my mornings trying to write fiction.
The mistake I made is I denied the fundamental rule of writing, which is you should go with what you know and the voice you were born to be, and never force yourself into a style where what you write doesn’t match who you are.
I wrote good nonfiction, but that contrasted with my dream of being a fiction author that could change the world through his words, and I wasted time trying to find a writing voice that did not exist.
There are lessons to be learned that apply to all new writers trying to find their place in the writing world; lessons in my case learned the hard way and after a considerable waste of good writing time.
Write about what you know and who you are
My career was right there in front of me and I denied it. You may be the next great fiction person, but only if that is your voice and what you want from your writing career. I wrote fiction because I thought I had to write fiction and writing about anything you have to force never ends well.
Write because you have something important to share with us
Your writing will be good, either as fiction or nonfiction, if what you share with us is important to you. Good writing is you sharing the best of who you are, and when you write about what is important to you in your life, the rest of us will benefit.
Write because only you can share what you see
The beauty of writing is capturing your own vision for the rest of us. You are unique, and the mistake I made was giving up my uniqueness to force myself to write like a hero from a generation long gone. What might make you successful as a writer is all around you.
If you write fiction, observing life as only you can see it is what the rest of us want to read. If you are a nonfiction person, then teach us and guide us toward learning something new we never have seen before because you hadn’t yet written about it.