Friday, July 11, 2008

Own Your Own Piece!

I've been thinking lately about what it means to own your own piece of the artistic landscape. Understanding your unique Voice, whether that be in literature, painting, jewelry-making, cake decorating, web design, pottery, gardening..., is crucial to establishing your self-confidence as a creative person.

We're surrounded with incredible examples of creativity, masters of their craft, and while I always advocate steeping oneself in the masters to learn, to be moved, and to gain inspiration, there's an inherent danger in admiring others when we've yet learned to accept and admire our own talent.

When you own your own piece of the artistic landscape, you can appreciate someone else's work and pull from it lessons to use in honing your own talent without falling into the trap of comparing yourself and coming up short. Comparing yourself leads to fear which cripples your artistic instincts until you turn away from that inward light and allow your budding talent to whither and die.

For example, I greatly admire the writing style of Dean Koontz. He has a languid, liquid prose that spills gently across each page, gathering in his readers and surrounding them with imagery that feels like poetry come to life. If I were to compare myself to Koontz, I would hang my head and bemoan the fact that I will never write with such poetic ease, wrapping my scenes with paragraphs of description that feel like fine wine and slowly dancing my readers through a manuscript of lush word choices.


Unless I'd already understood that the strength of my writing style is spare, lithe, swift-moving prose where every word must convey both emotion and character and where my two sentence descriptions at the beginning of each scene must be tiny masterpieces crafted to instantly light the movie screen in my reader's mind with unforgettable sensory descriptions designed to stay with them through the remainder of the scene.

Then, I wouldn't hang my head. I wouldn't envy Koontz or feel discouraged or toss in the towel. Instead, I would study his imagery, delve into his word choices, his attention to detail, and apply it to what I must accomplish with MY Voice.

I can do that because I own my piece of the artistic landscape. I know who I am as a writer, what I'm best at writing, what will work for my Voice and what won't. I'm not a writer of lush, page-long descriptions like Koontz. I'm not a master of creating an incredibly large cast of instantly recognizable characters like Rowling. I'm not a world-builder like Tolkien. I'm a writer who delivers fast-paced, imaginative urban fantasy with plenty of humor, grit, and heart.

When I read King, Rowling, Roberts, Koontz and others, I don't feel discouraged. I feel inspired and challenged. The beautiful thing about art is that there is always room on the shelf, the gallery, the store front window, the flower box, or the bakery display case for one more master.


  1. Great post, CJ. Beautifully crafted and uplifting. I love your posts.

  2. It took me a long time to understand the importance of sticking to my own voice. It's great that you identified the need to stick to yours so early on. I'm sure it shows in your prose.

  3. BTW, I've bookmarked your blog but please send out reminders when you've written something especially swell. :) I'm absentminded.

  4. CJ: Lovely...simply lovely. Our creativity (our own voice) and our ability to weave our stories together speak of the very fabric of our talents. And your talent fabric, my dear,is an exquisite piece of brocade. Lush, vibrant and full of life. I too have 'bookmarked' your blog.
    Cindy Nord

  5. I spent too much time at one point comparing myself to others and finding flaws. I can still do it when I'm having a bad day. My favorite romance writers are so damn good. But my voice is different, not the same as my favorites (who aren't like each other), and I often step back and say, "Yeah, I do have something to say that isn't the same."

    I waffle a lot, LOL. But I do have confidence in my style and voice. And I've learned that I'm not a lush descriptor either. I write fast-paced and often have to be reminded to go back and put the internal stuff in (per my Harlequin editor; don't know how it'd work with my suspense stories).

    Great post! And thanks for the free rice link!

  6. Nice post. It's making me think about what it is that's uniquely me in my writing??? A good question to ponder.


  7. Beth - thank you and I'll do my best to remember to send out

    Annette - my latest ms is certainly benefitting from this new understanding!

    Cindy - what a lovely compliment. Thanks!

    Lynn - you can use description to both set the scene and amp up the tension while writing suspense. :) Make those words pull double-duty for you.

    Kit - it is a good question to ponder. It's important to really own who we are as writers so we can hone, craft, and use our Voices well.

  8. Anyone know where I can find a good Realtor to sell me my artistic landscape plot at a reasonable price?!?

    Seriously, though, you have NO idea how perfectly timed your post was today. I'm in the process of putting together a press pack for my one woman show and realized that I had better figure out MY artistic identity. A rough task to be sure! Still in progres...

  9. Thanks CJ for the inspiring words.

    I also wanted to comment on your previous blog related to belching. So glad to know that I don't have the only son in the world who thinks that belching - the louder the better- is the ultimate in coolness. Why do I even let him drink pop?? (soda). His older sister is just as grossed out as me. His dad just laughs. I'm trying to raise a modern new age man, not a disgusting pig! Lord help me in my task. If you come up with any solutions, let me know!


  10. Wonderful post, CJ. Very timely. I needed to hear it, and you said it so well.


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