On Friday I went to a college interview for a scholarship program—I had thought we would talk about academic stuff, but they mostly wanted to talk about how I consider myself a writer. Which I am, ‘cause I write.
I kind of don’t like talking about my writing. I mean with other writers it’s okay—other writers understand the process more or less, other writers know about giving other people space, and sure, there’s business to discuss but we’re in a business of creativity. It doesn’t have a 100% chance of sucking.
With other people… I don’t know. It just never goes well.
At the interview, for example, we got on the subject of Harry Potter. As in, do you think you’re going to write the next Harry Potter?
But the way I was being interviewed, the matter was mostly do you think you have the drive to get the next Harry Potter published?
Which, if I could go back in time, I would ask, “How much drive did J.K. Rowling have?”
Because if we’re totally honest I do not have a list of successful authors and their drive readings. Sure, she got rejected twelve times, but Kathryn Stockett was rejected 60 times before she got accepted with The Help (source, source). It hasn’t made nearly as much money but she clearly had to put in the extra effort to get it published. Rowling has written several books—does she have more drive creating a children’s series than someone like Harper Lee, who has published one incredible work of literature and only now is about to publish a second?
There isn’t a good way to answer that question.
I think I have enough drive to get published. I have never completely edited a MS, I have never even tried to write a query letter, I haven’t researched anything, and as far as I’m concerned any career in writing I might have is totally up in the air.
But if it turns out it’s that important to me, then sure, I could get published. There are a lot of things that play into getting published, and it’s hard work, but with work, yes, I could try.
Asking me if I’m going to write the next Harry Potter, though—that’s insulting. It’s hard to say why, but I think, for me, it is because it reduces my work as a writer because you are setting the most profitable writer ever to be the standard that every writer should reach.
Because I either cannot or will not reach that standard, my writing is therefore subpar.
Here is something I believe with all my heart: Harry Potter is not the best series in the world. In fact, I don’t even have it on my favorites shelf anymore, although it remains a popular story to this day. That’s fine. I encourage you to love what you love—but it is still not the best series in the world.
I believe that because there is no best series in the world. Majority of preference does not make something the best. If more people liked blue than red, would blue become the best color? No. Because it is good that there are blue things and red things, and while some of us may enjoy one color over the other, one color is not necessarily better than the other.
The same goes for books. Yes, there are some books that are just plain bad and there are other books that I spend an unholy amount of time believing everyone should adore… but when it comes down to it, success is not dictated by preference.
And I don’t want my success dictated by Harry Potter, either.
I don’t know if I’m ever going to have a writing career. I don’t know if people would love my books or hate them. I don’t really know what I want from my writing career—I kind of left that interview feeling like I didn’t have my life together and my planlessness was an embarrassment.
But I do know this: I don’t want to write the next Harry Potter.
I really don’t. I don’t write for money, I don’t really write for people. Sometimes I don’t even write for myself. Sometimes I write just to write.
That’s okay. Even if tomorrow I decide that writing isn’t for me and I never write another word, it’s okay.
Harry Potter isn’t my standard, and monetary success isn’t my goal. For now, I am satisfied to say that I spend time writing. I try to be a good CP. I fangirl with my best friend and I do my best in school. If that is all writing ever is to me, then okay—it satisfies me.
Yes, my Potterless self is satisfied, and that’s good enough for me.
Do you ever get swamped with assumptions that J.K. Rowling is the standard writer? How do you cope?
(P.S. If you have a few minutes, I would appreciate you answering a short March/Fan Month recap survey—it will help me plan another event and keep me on track with this blog. Thanks!)