"She literally refers to herself as the next J K Rowling. I mean, that's ego. That's real ego."
I don't know how this conversation began. Did 'she' refer to herself as the next J K because she was going to make lots of money, be famous, become a successful, prolific writer, or all three? I have no idea. 'She' could have been an annoying work colleague or a respected sibling. I don't know whether the speaker was criticising or admiring 'She'. It's so easy to make a judgement, especially when you have a writerly imagination. The aspect of the overheard comment that made me prick up my ears however was this. As a writer, should we/do we aspire to be a version of another writer? Did the aforementioned 'she' see herself as J K Rowling .2?
I've already heard of comments comparing other writers to J K Rowling. I've also heard a couple of writers compared to Stephen King. Only yesterday, I came across a comment comparing Phillip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials to J R R Tolkien. It's natural to compare things in life. It would follow therefore that it is natural to compare writers.
And yet that is surely not the same thing as comparing ourselves as individuals to a writer whom for some reason we aspire to. Is it? I have favourite writers whose books and imaginings I enjoy incredibly. I marvel at their wit and slant on life. I delight in their turn of a phrase. I sometimes even wish I was a successful writer like them. I don't however wish to be them. Although it would no doubt be meant as a compliment, I can't think of anything worse (or more disparaging) than to be called the next [insert the name of a fantasy/sci fi/horror writer you know]. That would crush my writing soul.
I'm happy to recognise the talent of others. I fully admit that we all descend from a great, illustrious, imaginative family tree. I can recite a long list of writers whom I have personally learnt from. If this wasn't so then my bulging bookcases would not be so immense and their contents so wide ranging. And yet, I take pride in being me. I take pride in my own personal voice, be that here on my blog, in my plays or in my novel. I really can't see the appeal of wanting to be anything other than myself. If I aspired to be anyone else, be that the next Clive Barker or Mary Shelley.2, then I'd be striving for a lie.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm missing something here. Maybe I'm unfashionably 'me'. Still, it's a place I'm happy at. They know me here. I don't have to pretend.
"Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of someone else." Judy Garland