The First You

We hear it all the time, _________ is the next Hunger Games or _________ is the next Adele. I recently read a review by my current favorite author, Patrick Rothfuss. He recalled a time before his first book, The Name of the Wind, came out and how he was compared to a previous successful author in his genre, saying, “Pat Rothfuss is the next Scott Lynch!” Patrick’s humble response was, ”Why do I have to be the next Scott Lynch? Why can’t I just be the first Pat Rothfuss? I’ll probably be a lot better at that, I’ve got way more experience at it if nothing else….”

The thing is, we don’t need blog posts to tell us how to be original. We already are. The challenge is to push aside what others are doing and do you. Let them stand out in their way and you in yours. Be a storyteller of you. Be inspired but be you, be the first you. No one wants another Vonnegut, Rowling, Tom Hanks or Ghandi. They are sufficient enough to pull off the job. Editors aren’t looking for a copy of someone else nor are those casting for a new show.

I think Neil Gaiman said it best in an interview with The Nerdist Podcast. He talked about how there will always be better and smarter writers than you but ended with, “But there is nobody who can write a Neil Gaiman story like I can.”

Well, there is no one who can write, photograph, draw, paint, (insert your skill here), like you can. Trust your gut. Find out what makes you tick and share it with the world, the way you know how. Believe in your talent.


33 thoughts on “The First You

  1. Kali says:

    It’s a very interesting idea to ponder! I am thinking a lot about imitation/inspiration lately, because we build who we are and what we do based on what we see and hear and read and the inspirations we pick from there. But in the end what each of us do ends up being unique, only by being ourselves, by interpreting these inspirations the way we want and not by trying to be better than X or Y.

    I love Patrick Rothfuss too by the way. I really loved the Name of the Wind, the sequel is still on my to-read list though. And it’s true that his style is unlike any other author of the same genre I have read before…

    • Aubrey says:

      I almost wrote a post on imitation as well because I do think imitation is essential to finding out what you enjoy. I recently watched a beautiful TED talk about imitation and finding yourself through applying what you learn and do from others.

      It’s so nice to find another Rothfuss fan. I know he’s well loved but few people I know have read him. I hope you find the sequel just as enjoyable. I did. ^_^

  2. Kenzie says:

    This is such a wonderful post. It is so true, no one can do you better than you. It reminds me of that Dr. Seuss quote, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” I don’t want to be the next so-and-so, I would much rather be ME.

  3. Linda @ Notes from the arena says:

    Perfect timing! Dealing with inner demons today and needed this. I’ve heard a variation on this message a few times, and each time, it filters down, deeper. It’s so helpful to get different versions, as each one affects me in a subtly different way. Love it. Thanks Aubrey :)

    • Aubrey says:

      It’s funny you say that because I hesitated in sharing this because I feel it’s been said again and again. Even after I posted it I told my husband I felt nauseous at my own words because they felt like a replication of everyone else. But I’m a believer in the ‘how’ of storytelling, not the ‘what’ and so I thank you for appreciating my take on the topic.

      • Linda @ Notes from the arena says:

        “how” instead of “what” – definitely. It may be a replication of the underlying message, but it’s how you tell it that’s important, and just by the very fact it’s written by you, in your words, from your thoughts and unique synthesis, means it’s original.

  4. Megan says:

    I absolutely LOVED this & all the quotes you had along with it. Being a young writer, I’m aware of the fact that I still have a long ways to go until I reach publishable, but it’s nice to be reminded that I don’t have to reach up to all the standards of being as good as J.K. Rowling or any of the other super popular/super successful writers. The writers I’m trying to be as good as are already there. I’m realizing more and more that instead of trying to be just as good as the other writers, it’ll work out better (and I’ll like it more!) if I’m working to refine, polish, and develop my own style and way of doing things. I think that’s what readers are looking for most––something new a different. I feel like everyone’s always trying to be as good as or better than someone else when really we should be trying to separate our work from what’s already out there. :)

    Also: cat love! <3

    • Aubrey says:

      Megan, you and I both about having a long way to go before being ‘publishable.’ Patrick Rothfuss is my inspiration for that because he’s known for taking his time. He worked on his story for more than a decade but his quality shows for it and his readers thank him for taking his time. The moment I told my husband, “you know, it will be years before I have anything that I want published,” did I feel such a relief. There is just too much emphasis on rush and not enough on making every word count.

  5. Sara Strauss says:

    I love this!! So true! One of the things writers are told when they send out query letters is to tell the agent / editor what published novels your story is like, who your writing is familiar to, etc. So automatically people are comparing you to others because they told you to and because we’ve already done it for them. I wish I didn’t have to do that though. I wish my story and me could stand on its own. But you’re right; no one else can do what I can do!

    • Aubrey says:

      I remember reading about that in the book The First Five Pages. I suppose sometimes you have to do what you can do to get through the door but once in, you mustn’t compromise your integrity.

  6. Maxabella says:

    Sometimes I wonder how I would blog if I’d never read another blog. If I didn’t have a bar that I feel I need to rise to. x

    • Aubrey says:

      I agree – I like having that bar. Sometimes it’s one I set myself, a goal to reach, but sometimes it’s seeing the actions of others. There is a great statement by author Chuck Palahniuk that goes, “Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” I think it’s very true that the parts of the whole are not original. They are taken from elsewhere, absorbed and adapted, but once combined make the person original.

  7. Adia Sinead says:

    Insightful post! I’m working on not comparing myself to others so much either. I love to write, but it’s hard to not get bogged down with comparisons.

  8. Caitlin says:

    this is exactly what i have been going through myself! after conforming to a vegan food blog for nearly three years i realized that i didn’t want to post “in the box” anymore. i want to be myself and explore all the different things i am going through. i want my blog to be a reflection of me, not anyone else.

    thank you for leaving such a thoughtful response on my blog! because of it, i was able to find yours!

    • Aubrey says:

      I hear ya Caitlin. I’ve done movie blogs, DIY blogs, book blogs and other niche blogs and realized, I don’t like to be categorized. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and stopping by!

  9. Sarah D says:

    This is such a well-written post, per usual, and it’s always refreshing to come to your space here and read honest, good writing. I think the issue I struggle with is not necessarily that I’m not original, or that I need help knowing myself, but just dealing with a lot of the isolation that comes with being a very unique individual. I was talking with a friend the other day that sometimes I feel like I’m speaking a language that no one else is speaking. Does that make sense?

    Part of the problem is social media, which I’ve cut way back on and heavily edited who shows up where. But you put yourself out there and sometimes the feedback is quite literally “?” You know? So my challenge is to be myself without apology and without a thought to what other people will think.

    Brave and honest post as always. :)

    • Aubrey says:

      Thank you so much Sarah. Oh gosh does that make sense. I’ve always been told that I’m a bit of an oddball, not always understood and rarely following the masses. In fact, I’ve said those very same words to my parents, that I feel like I’m speaking a language written only by me. Sometimes it can make me feel this debilitating loneliness but most often I’ve come to embrace it, the looks, the questions, the raised eyebrows. I take them as compliments now. ^_^

  10. Emma Jane says:

    This is perfect! I love Gaiman, he always says the best things. I feel this a lot while writing. I take so much inspiration from other places but I always try and make it feel like me. It’s so much better to feel driven by someone than to feel like you are trying to compare yourself to them. It makes writing so difficult if you are trying to copy another’s path rather than forge your own.

    Tightrope to the Sun

    • Aubrey says:

      I have become addicted to Gaiman’s writing as of late. You put it so gracefully – it is quite better to be driven by others than compared to them. Thanks for your words Emma. They brighten my day.

  11. Alicia | Jaybird Blog says:

    Comparison is one of the easiest ways to dissuade yourself from feeling successful. This post is like a big, warm hug…with a gentle sprinkle of tough love. “Be a storyteller of you.” What a wonderful way to sum it up!

  12. Aubrey says:

    I needed to read this today. I’ve been floundering with my blog and with what I want to broadcast to the world. I’m actually going to move my blog to a single column layout so I can focus more on words and pictures without a sidebar getting in the way, and I thought of you and your blog.

    Thank you for this post. I need to stop comparing myself to others.

    • Aubrey says:

      If it makes you feel any better, I often feel a bit under the water with my blog too. I’ve come to terms with it now that I will just share what’s dearest to me and let all self doubt surrounding it go.

      Oh I bet you are just going to love the single column. I’m so glad to be back to it. The change of layout alone has impacted what I chose to and not to share. It’s amazing what a good amount of white space, even digital, can do.

  13. Amanda says:

    I’m reading Name of the Wind right now! It’s SO GOOD! A friend let me borrow her copy, and I’m glad she did. What a great post. Thanks for sharing.

    • Aubrey says:

      Isn’t it amazing?! It’s funny because if you were to sum it up it would be, a boy who goes on a journey. Yet every bit of character that Rothfuss puts into it is what makes me absorb every sentence, every word. He’s extraordinarily careful with his wording, intentional really. Boy it’s nice to geek out with someone over that book. The second book is a bit different but just as good.

  14. Holly says:

    So true. I’m actually reading a book about blogging right now, and they echo this sentiment at the beginning of the book, quoting musician Ernie Watts. The tail end of the quote says: “…no matter how hard I practice, I will never be John Coltrane. I’m me and I’m coming from where I’m coming from.”

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