Not Someone Else's Thing

By Lit Fest 2019 Intern Andrea Day

Editor's Note: This is the fourth in a series of posts written by Lit Fest 2019 interns tasked with sharing notable experiences during the festival's two weeks. You can read the first here, the second here, and the third here.

“Explore what you have before you say you want someone else’s thing.” Bolded, Italicized, and underlined in the notes from my class Beyond Plot taught by BK Loren during the weekends of Lit Fest, it was one of the first things stated in the class and became the most important lesson for me to learn, one that I’m still trying to understand.

As a young writer, the act of comparison seems to be ingrained into my being. I am told that as I get older, this will fade away and comparison will become foolish. While this is perhaps true, it feels like as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more obsessed with my work in regards to others instead of less obsessed.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. A cliché, but one that holds truth. When I was young, my writing was only a hobby. I didn’t know that writing could be considered a career so I didn’t put any stock into it. There was no reason for me to hold onto jealousy and fear of failure so rigorously. Fast forward to high school. I attended an arts magnet program where my classes were focused on creative writing. Each day was jam packed with hours of writing and a constantly increasing number of workshop hours. It wasn’t until junior year of high school that I realized I wanted to do something within the writing world. It was no longer a hobby but a life goal, and one that was difficult to achieve.

In high school the main depictions of success are good grades- something that my creative writing teacher found to be abysmal for the growth of a creative mind. Yet, I tried my best to write stories worth an A+, stories that would graduate me Summa Cum Laude with a 4.0 GPA and nothing else to worry about. This was enough for me in high school. For some reason, my constant yearning to be a good student made me a good “writer.” I didn’t feel the need to compare myself to others as I was confident in my ability to be the best. It was a somewhat hotheaded form of thinking now that I look back on it.

After graduating, I took a gap year. I used the time to travel, make new friends, and in the end- write an entire novel. This novel would become my only source of social interaction for about four months. My characters were my best friends and each of their goals were my own. It was unlike anything I had written before, my connection to it ingrained it my blood and soul and I found that I wanted to publish it.

All writers have to learn that the writing industry is difficult to get into. It’s a career that is hidden from the spotlight and often confuses those that are not already aware of it. It is a career that is self-taught and hard. I knew all of this. If someone tried to tell me, I would (cue the sarcastic teenager) roll my eyes and say duh. The one thing that nobody had taught me was that while the constant rejection of outside sources was difficult to deal with, I was always going to be my worst enemy.

After finishing my first novel, I edited it for several months before sending it out to friends and critique groups for an outside view. Editing became purely rewriting for months on end while everything I wrote down wasn’t better than what I had written before it was just- there.  Finally, I took a step back from what I had written and allowed myself to take a break. Sadly, this break had the opposite intended effect. All I could think about was my novel and how it must be horrible compared to others’ work. I was digging a continuous hole that I couldn’t climb out of.

The anxiety continued to build up, as one can imagine, until recently. Until Lit Fest 2019. Of course, the nagging act of comparison hasn’t died away in my mind but I learned the phrase “Appreciation over Comparison” in a class taught by Rachel Weaver and I could feel the stress of months on end wash out of me.

Throughout the two weeks of Lit Fest I have been introduced to writers upon writers, building new friendships in only moments. My mind, previously molded by the old yearning to be better than everyone else didn’t make sense in the setting I was introduced to.

Enter my first workshop: Beyond Plot. I was sitting in a group of around ten people. Everyone introduced themselves and their past experience with writing before describing the basics of their current projects. My mind raced- how could I introduce myself in a way that could be deemed more impressive? Who was I trying to impress? Would I even be able to? I left that day feeling wrong, a deep part of me trying to understand how to be the best in a class that wasn’t graded. In a class that didn’t judge. I moved on and shoved the feeling deep inside of me. Until the next weekend, the next workshop. And here we have the day that really affected me, though, I’m not entirely sure why.

Each of us had twenty minutes to present our work and receive feedback on voice, character development, the most intriguing parts of the story, whatever we decided we needed to work on. I had carefully chosen the first five pages of my novel the night before. I had read it out loud to make sure my pages fit the time limit while ensuring that it was something that could be worked on but that had my stamp of approval before it was aired out in the open. I did not go first. I did not go second. As every person went before me I felt myself drowning in their talent. I could not be impressed because I was too engaged in my own mind. The absolute worst kind of self-obsessed. Finally, I prepared myself to be ripped apart. As I stared into the abyss of the other writers around me, I offered up my words expecting each of my classmates to laugh in my face.

Surprise: they didn’t. There were things I needed to fix and there were things that I had done well. Just like everyone else. I realized in that moment that my self-obsession wasn’t a need to be the best but a fear that no matter how hard I had worked on something, it would never be good enough. In a world of a million writers and a million books, why did mine matter? I realized that in the end, maybe the book only mattered as a stepping stone. The book itself was not the most important part compared to the relationships created on the way.

Explore what you have: The most important part of a published novel or perhaps a finished novel is the people that carried you along the way. Note to self: explore the friendships you created and support their work and they will support yours in turn. I had swallowed the writing process like a too-large pill hoping that the vitamins within it would solve all my problems.

Before you say you want someone else’s thing: Here’s the kicker: there are millions of stories out there. Several of them I will read and enjoy but I don’t want to write those stories because they aren’t mine. Comparison over appreciation is useless. I will never be able to write the next Harry Potter because it has been written and done well by someone else. If I tear apart my own words to try and become someone else’s words, whether they are a classmate, a friend, or the next New York Times bestseller, I will have deceived myself and my readers.

Appreciation over comparison: In the end we are all writers, we all have deep insecurities about our work that may never see the light of day, but it is your story or it is my own, and we will care for our words until they realize they are ours and no-one else’s. No story is better than another.

Last note to self: When you are reading another person’s work and you feel the abyss form underneath your feet, remember that those words are not yours. That story is not your own. Your words live inside of you. Your self-consciousness comes from the fact that you’re baring your own soul on a page. It is a scary experience but one that you must respect yourself for. Appreciate before you compare and enjoy your writing experience instead of drowning in self- doubt.


Andrea Day is a poet, figure skater, creative writer, and proud student at Colorado State University studying English Literature with a concentration in Creative Writing and a minor in Media Studies. Andrea has been writing since she was a little girl and has attended the North East School of the Arts where she focused her studies on poetry, fiction, and screenwriting. She has been published in several poetry anthologies and literary magazines throughout Texas and Colorado such as CSU’S Greyrock Review and NESA’s Atlas:Hiraeth. You can often find her wandering the bookshelves of theTattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado or in coffee shops everywhere.