Sorry this is so long. I may have gone off topic a couple times, but I’ve read through everything and deemed it all important enough to stay here.
Recently a Facebook friend engaged their followers in a post asking who their favorite authors are in the genre they write, and why those authors are their favorites. One of their followers answered, “Me,” and before they clarified they were joking, the friend who posted it gave their response. They told their follower that they aren’t allowed to say they’re their own favorite author, because if there aren’t any authors you like in the genre you’re writing, then you don’t like the genre you’re writing.
I have many, many issues with that statement.
But I wasn’t about to dive into all of them at the time when I responded. Instead I only commented, “I have to disagree. I write in the genres I do because no one else writes them well enough to meet my standards.”
This says nothing about the authors I admire or the individual books or genres I love–let alone what or why my standards are. However, they left me a much longer comment in response.
According to them, what matters is if your readers like ‘them’. I’m assuming they’re talking about my individual books. There wasn’t enough context to tell. They then went on to assume this could only mean I have a low opinion of my genre, and that this probably means I think I’m ‘better’ than other readers who enjoy that genre. That I have some amount of arrogance and contempt for other authors and readers in my genre.
Nothing she assumed of me is true. I tried to sum up my most relevant points in my response, but I didn’t cover all of my thoughts on the subject, which is why I’m writing this post. Anyway, this is what I said:
“Having higher standards isn’t the same as having a low opinion of the genre. As a child, I loved to read. That was basically all I did. I’d find things I loved about every book I read across multiple genres, but what I found was that none of the books I read did ALL the things I loved, and that’s what I wanted to read. Something that did it all. It’s not about writing “better” than other authors of the genre. I don’t really care about being recognized as an author or having fans, although I’m up for seeing what happens. I write because there’s something I want to read that I haven’t found out there in other books. I write for myself. And that isn’t to say that I’m a better writer than the writers I loved as a child, either. Maybe I’m not much good yet. But I’m going to keep at it until I’m satisfied with myself and I’ve written those books I’ve always wanted to read.”
They haven’t responded back yet. It might take them a while. But in the meantime, I have more ideas to share.
Favoritism is a matter of opinion. You don’t pick a favorite color and tell the whole world that it’s the best one and they should all love it as much as you do. You love that color for specific reasons, and those reasons are all your own. Having a favorite color does not mean that you hate or cannot appreciate all of the other colors, or even shades of that same color.
As a child, I had dozens of favorite authors. Usually my favorite author was simply the author of the last book I read. Some that stand out were the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Harry Potter. Eventually I came across authors who wrote multiple books or series, and I didn’t like all of them–or didn’t even want to read their other books. How could I choose a favorite then? Didn’t those books or series count against them in the run for a favorite?
As a teenager, I solved the issue by not choosing favorite authors anymore. Instead, I have favorite books. There are some books I absolutely adore, even if I don’t care for other books by the same author. Even if I think their other books are bad. There are other authors I respect for what they’re able to pull off even if I don’t like what they wrote. Maybe I liked their writing style or the plot twists they were able to weave into the story while I hate how the characters were written, for example.
Since then, I’ve analyzed every book as I read it. I figure out which particular aspects I love about each book, and remember them so I can incorporate something similar into my own work. Most every book I read has at least one thing about it that I love, if not more, but I’ve never read anything that incorporates every aspect into one story.
So, that’s what I’m doing.
The thing is, when I choose something that I love, that is also an opinion. Not everyone loves the same things as me. Some people even hate some of the things that I love. Every author has people that love their book and people who think it’s so awful that it never should have been written. That’s just how it goes.
I’m not writing the perfect book for everybody. I’m writing a book that will be perfect for me. And after that I’m going to write another, and another. I plan on keeping this up my whole life long. And if there’s an author whose every book is perfect for me as a reader, then of course that author is going to be my favorite. Duh. I’m working hard to write these books. I’m not going to discredit myself just because it’s ME.
Being your own favorite author isn’t the same thing as being arrogant or prideful. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. I love other people’s books. I get excited about their books. I support my friends as writers and authors. Could I write their book better than they did? Maybe, but they and their fans might not think so. And that’s okay. Because better for me is not better for everyone else. I love that other authors have so many fans that find value in their books. Contributing value is a wonderful thing. Besides, I have my own stories to obsess over as I plot and write and see value in. I’m happy they’ve put their books out in the world so I can experience them, and I can learn from them, and then I get back to work on those books that I came up with myself. Other authors inspire me.
I’ve striven to excel at everything I do my entire life. I love to learn. On my many bookshelves at home you’ll find fiction, nonfiction, and straight up text books. If you want to excel, you HAVE to be willing to learn. But you also can’t be a crowd pleaser. Tony Hawk said, “You might not make it to the top, but if you are doing what you love, there is much more happiness there than being rich or famous.”
All this time that I’ve spent striving for excellence, it isn’t so I can someday stand up in front of a crowd that will cheer my name. I definitely find joy in writing things that other people love, but making other people happy isn’t my top priority. Instead, my first priority is serving as an example of Jesus Christ at all times, and that reflects in who I am as a writer. I believe in dishing out quality over quantity. I want to publish as many books as I can, but that could mean twenty books or less in a lifetime. It’s respectable to keep incredible word count goals and publish book after book after book and end up with hundreds on the market, but those kind of books tend to only have one (if even one) thing I love about them, and with a number like that I don’t find them worth my time. There are so many other books out there that I could be reading, after all. So many other things I could be doing.
I have high standards of entertainment. A book can make me laugh, but I find true value in it if it makes me think. I can love the characters’ journey, but I enjoy the journey more if I feel exactly what they’re feeling at all times, and understand why. I can get sucked in, but I only want to go back if I can believe everything about the world–if nothing was overlooked or thought through too quickly. I can enjoy that book or that movie or whatever it may be, but it’s only my favorite if there is something so endearing about it that I can’t stop loving it even after I read it. There are far more books out there that I enjoy than there are books which I would call a favorite. At this moment, I can only think of one favorite book. (Shoutout to The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. Basically my life story if you look at the parallels. And her use of similes is BEAUTIFUL.)
My family thinks I’m weird. One of the reasons is I laugh at things no one else laughs at, and things no one else sees. I’m constantly looking at the meaning in everything. Wherever I go, I see things no one else does. I absorb things that people didn’t realize were there. I question, I evaluate, I draw conclusions. I look at things scientifically and historically and philosophically and politically and spiritually and emotionally all at once, and then I analyze how every aspect works together.
My whole life I’ve been told that I’m smart. I haven’t been to college in a few years, but that doesn’t mean I’m done with my education. I know I’ve been given gifts, and I’m going to work on them and get better at them and become the best version of myself that I can possibly be. I’ve known since I was a child that this includes writing and education. I love to read things that expand my education, or that refresh me on things I once learned but had forgotten. This isn’t much of a reason to be my own favorite author by itself, but I’ve found value in reading works of fiction that do this and I’m certain there are others who have, as well. If I am an author who can contribute even more value to my readers’ lives in that way, that is another reason to be my own favorite author. The people I respect most in my life are those people who utilize their gifts to help others. As an example of Jesus Christ, this is one of my top priorities.
If it does so happen that readers enjoy my work and I end up with a large income because of it, fantastic. If that does happen it will only be because the Lord trusts me with that money to help even more of God’s children, and I will do my very best to not let Him down. I desperately want to help as many people in my life as I can. However, I’m not counting on it happening in that way. I don’t know how my life is going to play out. For now, all I know is I’m SUPPOSED to write these stories that I love, and I’m supposed to get them out there where they’re available for other people to read. I have to put my work in a position that it can change the lives if it meant to, even if that’s only one person. Even if it isn’t their favorite book.
It doesn’t even matter if no one else ends up reading it ever again, to be honest. Because writing has already changed my life. I’ve met people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and that alone has had a great impact on me. I’ve influenced other people and other people have influenced me in regards to writing and stories and life in general. Writing has already been such a blessing in my life.
It is so very important to me, but my identity does not revolve around it. My identity revolves around my Savior. I’ll follow Him down whatever path I am supposed to lead.
And it really doesn’t matter if I don’t become anyone else’s favorite author, because at the very least, I am my own.