Why You Shouldn’t Aim to Be Like Another Writer

It’s good to have wordsmiths you admire and look up to. But it’s time to end the practice of saying you want to be the next So-and-So or like another writer. This video explains why.


Part of the reason I say you shouldn’t aim to be like another writer is because of the way I grew up. I read everything I could get my hands on. It was my escape. But in the ear of my soul I knew a rhythm, to the point where sometimes it felt like I could hear a language I had no vocabulary for. Like a baby in the womb knows the pulse but not the meaning of the words. I didn’t realize it at the time, but as I read book after book, I was trying to find others who could put that rhythm into my mind from the page. That felt like home. None of them got it perfect. But I learned enough from different writers that I was able to figure out what it was and recreate it for myself.

Consider now for a moment how different that is than intentionally trying to mimic someone, a single author.

As I mention in the video, too, circumstances matter. How can I be like anyone else if I don’t have the same openings they did? If I don’t have the same resources or opportunities? Your path is going to be unique, and it will shape your voice on the page. I guarantee it.

[Transcript summary]

So, my guess is, if you are a writer, at some point, you have said something like, “Oh, I want to be the next JK Rowling,” or “I want to be the next Ernest Hemingway,” or something to that effect. You have some role model writers that you look up to and that you want to emulate. And to a degree, that’s great. You have to have some role models. But in the sense that you say, “Oh, I want to be like them,” please don’t. Just please don’t.


Because you are not them. You will never be them. You have your own voice, and your voice comes from inside of you. And it also comes from listening to many different writers, not just one.

So, this is a conglomeration of many different factors going into what comes out from you on the page. You will never be like anybody else. And that’s a good thing that makes you stand out, that says, “I’m this person, not that one.” That’s how readers find you and make you distinct.

So, embrace the fact that you are not like the other people. And keep in mind, too, that you don’t want to be like somebody else because you never have their experiences. You never have their life hurdles. So, maybe [other writers] were super successful, but you don’t have the path that they had. You don’t have the resources. So, success for you might look very different. But it’s still success, given what you had.

So, I don’t want you to compare yourself. Just be you based on that conglomeration that you get and what comes from [your heart]. You are you. Embrace it.