Commentary: To Young Writers Who Want To Be The Best

In my younger days, I wanted to be ‘like’ Shakespeare, but make my own name as a writer. Publishing books was the farthest thing from my mind although I had a poem accepted in my college’s English department anthology the following year. I would say for any young writer out there who needs a plan to achieve their goals, it’s best to learn from the ‘greats’ and absorb each and every writer you can.

It’s one thing to merely say “F- Shakespeare” as the author of this piece says (actually there’s more than his empathic denouncement), but if as a young writer, if you truly want to aspire to ‘greatness’, then it’s important to learn from the treasured scribes of the past.

In recent years, my literary tastes have turned to other great writers like Hughes, Wright, I’ve read Hemingway in the past, and others in my English classes through college. The plan was to simply read their stories, find the appeal these men (and women) have over time with their literary works. There’s a reason anything Shakespeare is celebrated through media while works such as Hughes’s Jess B. Simple are not, although it should find someone willing to make a series out of his tales. Contemporary authors insist you should read before you write. The only thing I can tell you is to read the literature of these classic writers first, then find your own voice while you experiment using their styles. It is important to develop your own unique style as you begin to write.

Young writers today are dealing with an opportunistic but highly competitive market than when I published my first book sixteen years ago. There were a slew of first time authors who did not go further in their literary pursuits, only publishing their one and only book. I wish I could give a reason why I’m so driven to write and force myself to write at a high level. I would say it’s the drive within me, determined to be the best I can be. Perhaps it is. Without putting pressure on any young writers reading this, you have to ask yourself this one basic question: do I want to be ‘the best’ or should I settle for being ‘ok’? No pressure at all if your goal is to only write one book and not proceed further than that. I can say before my first book saw print, I’ve written poems, articles for newspapers and magazines, and short stories ever since my junior high (middle school) days. I decided when I entered college I wanted writing to be a long term goal and to make something out of it. At this point I can say that although I’m not considered to be ‘a name’ in the literary world, I’m happy where I am in that readers have given me positive feedback on my poems and articles. It means a lot.

I would say it’s easy to look at the author with the profitable series and spend your days wishing you were like her, or him. It’s easy to think you’re not good or talented enough, and to compare your feeble success to the non-stop publicity this famous author receives. It’s so easy to fall into that trap but remember, if you want to be great, you have to believe you are. Be proud of that author. Give them a hand if need be. Never forget the only one who can determine how great or mediocre you are, is you. Everything is up to you and with hard work, who knows? Maybe in a few years time, YOU will be the one we’re all mentioning on our social media feeds.

The moral of this story is; there’s no harm in wanting to be ‘like’ Shakespeare, Faulkner, Twain, Hughes, Baldwin or Wright as long as you make the conscious decision that YOU choose to be the famous or not-so-famous author by the work you put in. Don’t worry if you feel no one is paying attention to you in the beginning as long as you make sure they pay all of the attention towards you at the end.

Best wishes to young writers everywhere.

Charles L. Chatmon, Author