Why Write When Others Write So Much Better?

Danielle Lazarin

Every writer I know can identify with the following:

I was only halfway through Stuart Dybek’s I Sailed with Magellan when I decided I should just give up on writing altogether; that the intimacy he achieves with childhood and adolescence was more than I could ever imagine accomplishing, and I wanted to leave it to him, a far more lyric, braver writer than I would ever be. At these humbling moments, I remember advice I received from Dan Chaon while studying fiction at Oberlin.

That’s from “Becoming a Mapbuilder” by Danielle Lazarin (@d_lazarin). The advice she received from Chaon? There’s a very specific world that only you can write about. Click here to read her entire column over at Glimmer Train.

You can also find the following at their new bulletin:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Amy Burton Storey

Wow–I needed that. I’ve put so many manuscripts aside because of that exact issue. Perhaps this weekend is the time to dig ’em out!

Carla Stockton
Carla Stockton

So true that we can all relate to the sentiment. But it’s all subjective. Whenever I read Russell Banks, for example, or William Styron or Toni Morrison, or or or . . . I think I should just pack it in. But I’m who I am, and I write as I write, and all I can do is turn to their work for inspiration to write ever better. . . .Besides, it’s all relative. Snooky is publishing her autobiography. Need I say more?

Adriana Ryan

I love her way of looking at it. Reading great writers used to be intimidating, but I now think of it as an exercise in learning the craft (and in humility, of course!).

Tamar Haspel

For me, it was Robert Graves. The only reason I’ve managed to forge a career is that I long ago resigned myself to my inferiority.

Dougie Brimson

Not sure where I stand on this as I tend to approach writing from a different perspective. Yes, for sure I’ve read plenty of authors who leave me dumbstruck and of course one should always seek to improve with each book. However, I long ago accepted that I will never win a Booker Prize (or any prize for that matter) and the truth is that as someone who earns their living from their writing, given that it is my readers who pay the bills they must always come first. So as long as they’re happy with what I’m producing (and… Read more »

KG Arndell
KG Arndell

It’s mostly a matter of perspective. Even the greats considered their own work to be rubbish at times. I read somewhere that Henry James thought of himself as a failure.


For me, this feeling hit me hard as I stood in the middle of a local book super-store. Why on Earth, I asked myself, do I think my work should or could make it onto these already crowded shelves.And, to drive the stake in further, even if I DID who would ever find me amongst the millions? I was deflated by that nasty inner voice, lol! Yes I carry my own worst critic with me! I never knew other people felt that way, too. Love this post!

Jim Hamlett

Great writing (subjective in itself) is a stepping stone. Step on it, and move forward.

Rachel Funk Heller
Rachel Funk Heller

okay, I may never write like Stuart Dybek, but then, he’ll never write like me.


Danielle’s column was full of insight and wisdom.. Thanks for sharing it!

Lynne Watts

I think this is a great post but more than anything you can see the different personality styles in the comments. Those of us who are more introverted and who listen to the lizard voice inside clearly identified with it. Those who are more extroverted march to a different fast paced and active drummer and care less about that voice…