You may disagree with me, but fashion is subjective. The media portrays fashion trends as a gold standard for everyone to follow and if you are not keeping up with them, you are not regarded as a fashionable person. The same goes for writing. There have been many trends in the world of writing. Some examples include the rising popularity of the science fiction genre in the late 1930s through to the 1950s, the emergence of “life hack” articles around 2010 and more recently, the exploration of the relationship between literature, culture and technology that is shaping the future of writing.
I once spoke to a friend and fellow writer of mine who has been a movie buff all his life. He wrote quite extensively in that field, but his work never dabbled into other aspects and areas that complemented the movie industry. We had a conversation about how difficult it was to get published. What got me thinking was when he said this.
“I’m just trying to give them what they want. That’s the best thing to do to get the exposure that I need. Writing movie-related articles with a tech angle is so in style right now. The editors would love that. I know nothing about tech but I’m going to try,” he said.
I did not know how to respond to him. I wanted to tell him that trying to fit into what is popular was not the way to go but I chose not to. I was a movie enthusiast but a mediocre one at best and I do not write in that area. What’s more, my knowledge of technology was just average, and I had no in-depth expertise in it. What struck me the most from this conversation was that my friend was trying to write based on topics that were popular and would potentially get the most organic online traffic, but I was sure that he was trying to be someone that he was not.
The best writing is done organically when ideas flow smoothly, and everything falls into place. This comes from being comfortable with yourself, knowing your own strengths and weaknesses and being knowledgeable in the field that you are writing about. Inspiration comes when you have a good balance of these elements. In case you are wondering, yes, it is going to take effort and a whole lot of patience to get there. One does not get inspired because of luck or some sort of metaphysical power.
Every writer gets inspired in their own way. It is the process that makes the writer and not the final product that determines the true potential of the writer. The work that goes on behind the scenes are not seen by the public but if the writer has his/her own unique process that gets the job done, the quality of the work will show. As a writer, that is what you want to achieve. Without a full proof, tried and tested process, the final piece of work will come across as being, “forced” or a “rip-off” from other writers due to the lack of a strong literary voice. This is especially so if a writer is trying to mimic the style of other writers or writing in an area that is not his/her forte but is doing so because that topic is trending and in fashion at that point in time.
Excessively trying to fit in limits your potential as a writer because you are trying to squeeze your imagination and creativity into a box that prevents you from developing your own voice. Trying to be someone you are not is tiring and this is the main reason for writer’s burnout. Just because there are writers out there who have done things in a certain way does not mean that you have to follow suit.
Write in your own fashionable style
By all means, go with what is trending and what will get you the exposure that you crave if that is what you want. However, if faced with the option of following the crowd but deep down, you know that it is just not for you as it will inevitably result in burn-out, just remember these tips and follow your heart.
What you say matters
Do not for even one second think that what you write does not count for anything. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and your ideas are a valuable contribution to the marketplace of ideas and to advances in knowledge for the benefit of society as a whole. Therefore, say what you must and ignore the judgment and negative critics.
How you say it also matters
Everyone expresses themselves in their own unique way. Some write song lyrics or poems while others pen down their thoughts in a private journal or blog for everyone to see. The point is, we are all human and need to have a way to communicate our inner feelings. There are many ways to do it. It does not matter how you say it as long as you get it out there without straying away from who you are and the ideals that you stand for.
So just be yourself
Aim to have your personality reflected in your work. That is what readers want. Injecting personality gives your readers a new experience. This gives your work more value as it presents a different perspective formed through your own unique lenses. Readers want to learn about you, the writer, through the work that you do.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
And keep things simple
Write what you are comfortable with, have considerable experience in and have an intimate knowledge off. Do not try to write in areas where you know that you are unlikely to finish what you started because you were trying to add information that is not in your field of expertise or you were writing in a tone and style that is not reflective of your capabilities as a writer. Remember, unfinished drafts represent your incomplete experiences and you want to make every word you put down on the paper count.