Does this happen to you?
I read a poem/short story/novel and feel in awe. It’s excellent. They use images that would never occur to me but fit perfectly. They write in a style that flows, that’s haunting and beautiful. They’re great. Amazing. And not me.
I’m sure writer’s envy strikes us all. (At least I hope I’m not the only one who experiences bouts of crippling insecurity.) Someone is always better than me with their flow, imagery, action, voice, etc. I’ll sometimes have difficulty appreciating someone else’s work without beating down my own. It’s like I’ve got it in my head that talent has limited capacities, that it has to be rationed and divided and you can’t change the portions.
This happened to a friend of mine with art. She’s trying to get into a higher art class, and she has to provide a portfolio of her work. When trying to make it, she found herself stuck. Everyone else’s art looked better than hers. She hated everything she drew. She was a failure. Not good enough. Awful. She would never get better. (See the cycle of negative thinking here?)
We tried to console her by telling her that her art was great, that you couldn’t compare stuff like that. “Yes you can,” she insisted. “You can make bad art.”
My contribution was “Everyone has a different style. Only you can make your art.”
I don’t know if she took it to heart, but I did. I’ll often think another style is better simply because it’s different. I write my way, so it feels tired and dull. Every new angle is shiny and enticing. But it probably works both ways.
Does bad art exist? Maybe. There’s a difference between style and craft. Craft can be wrong. Style can’t. Still, if the craft/technique needs work, the artist is learning. They’re not a failure.
Seeing that she was still upset, I wrote this: “The answer is write. Or in your case, make art. Make lots of it. Don’t care if it’s good or bad or whatever. It’s yours. You have art in you that only you can make. Channel your feelings. Channel your insecurities. I wrote a poem about not feeling good enough. Make art about it. Make everything into art.”
When it comes down to it, no one can steal your spotlight. You have a story inside that only you can tell. So find your style, brush up your craft, and tell it.