Stop Trying to Be Someone Else

I couldn’t be who I wanted to be.


I wanted to be an author who can outline a novel with structure and precision. I couldn’t.


I wanted to be an organized thinker, an intentional planner, a focused creator. I wasn’t. And I never will be.



I’ve never stuck to one artistic medium. It’s always been a nomadic journey from painting to drawing to writing to sculpting to designing to animating—


You get the idea. I’ll spare you the thirty other items on that list.


I was frustrated. I couldn’t follow the ten steps. I got stuck on step two and started chasing a butterfly.


After endless attempts to change my DNA, I finally saw the truth. I have a different style that doesn't look like anyone else. And try as I might, it never will. I’m never going to outline like James Patterson or structure like Dan Brown. My characters won’t sound like Shannon Messenger's and my twists won’t be like Suzanne Collins. A one-page, spreadsheet outline like J.K. Rowling’s will never fit my personality—in fact, it murders my creativity.


I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to structure my latest novel the way it ought to be structured. I tried spreadsheets, index cards, apps, websites, and formulas. I tried what everyone else said “worked for me.” Problem was, I wasn’t them. And every outline-building rabbithole I jumped down spit me right back up again.

At first, I thought this made me a failure. But the opposite was true. To borrow from Edison, I just found 1,000 ways not to write a novel.


As I’ve bandaged my scrapes and bruises from all my failed attempts at outlining, I started thinking about what caused this to happen. I realized what the real issue is: When my stories hit a wall, I blame the wrong problem.


I think, It’s because I didn’t outline like Jerry Jenkins. Or I should have flown by the seat of my pants like Margaret Atwood. My ideas aren't as fresh as Frank Peretti's. I don’t have the imagination of C.S. Lewis.


Every time I copy another writer's formula for success, I'm blaming my struggles on the fact that I'm not somebody else.


Every time I copy another writer's formula for success, I'm blaming my struggles on the fact that I'm not somebody else.

Yes, I may need a different approach to solve my problem, but it needs to be my approach, not someone else’s. Using a different writer's formulas to fix my own weaknesses is as uncomfortable as wearing another person’s clothes. A smaller person. With short legs.


Oh, I tried so hard to be a planner. I really did. Why? It looked like an easier road. Having my novel sketched out in broad strokes is comfortable, safe, and ego-boosting. All the hard stuff would be done (I imagined), every puzzle piece would fit together perfectly (in my dreams), and all I'd have left to do is write it (oh, is that all?). In my mind, outlining a novel was writer's utopia.


But the more I tried outlining, the more I failed. My ideas started choking. My creative heart was fibrillating. It was a disaster.


Let me be clear: outlining wasn't the issue. Outlining is great. The problem was me and outlining together. We just don't get along.


It got to the point where I wanted to give up and dump it all in the wastebasket. Luckily, I still like my story idea too much to trash it.


This proverb saved my story (and my sanity): If you like your story but think somebody else would be better qualified to write it, your story isn't the problem. You are.


If you like your story but think somebody else would be better qualified to write it, your story isn't the problem. You are.

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So, I stopped. I stopped trying to do it the way other authors do it. I stopped forcing my ideas through another author’s process.


Writing a story isn’t a method. Using a method to write your story is like doing a paint-by-numbers project—and just as unfulfilling. What’s the reward in producing a piece of art that looks exactly like everybody else’s?


So, starting now, I’m writing my novel my way. That means no conventional outlining, no formulas, no tricks. It means it will come harder. It means there will be moments when I wonder what comes next. But at least I’ll be wondering.


Please don’t kill the creativity that sparked your idea in the first place.


Instead, take it to the Father and find your method. God knows the best way for you to write that novel. All you need to do is accept that way and never deviate. The Holy Spirit is not only a great writer, but He is also a great counselor—He'll help you find your rhythm as a writer.


Be eccentric about it. If your style doesn’t seem odd to other writers, you’re not being true to yourself … because every human being is so different from each other that all of us are odd.


If your style doesn’t seem odd to other writers, you’re not being true to yourself … because every human being is so different from each other that all of us are odd.

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My personal style of writing has always been there, waiting for me. I just didn’t want to accept it, because it was different.


I’m deciding to be okay with different. More than okay … I believe different is the only way to success.


I’m deciding to be okay with different. More than okay … I believe different is the only way to success.

I encourage you to do the same. Find out what kind of writer you are and own it. Decide to stick to your style. Don’t pretend your weaknesses aren’t there … instead, learn how to circumnavigate them. All of us have vulnerable spots as writers and must work around them to succeed.


Do you have a weakness as a writer you’ve been afraid to admit to yourself? A sticking point? Do you have some odd habit that you are afraid to acknowledge because it sounds silly?


Here are a couple of mine:


First, I need visual stimulation to recharge my stories. My ideas flow the most freely after being exposed to art—whether it’s in the form of a beautiful movie, a gorgeous landscape, or even an inspiring drawing. I’ve been ashamed of that fact my whole life. But now I’m allowing myself the freedom to seek inspiring surroundings in order to stimulate my creativity. Travel, drives, walks, movies. And it works!


My second is a natural repulsion to outlining, and with it a tendency to stray off in my stories. Even though I admire outlining so much. To all you writers who pre-plan their novels in advance, I doff my hat. I will never be you. I am forced to snatch my ideas down in a random order in my notes, and deliberately not put them in an outline. It's the only way that works for me, and I'm finally learning to love it.


What about you? What's your quirk? What type of writer are you?


What weakness have you been afraid to acknowledge because you think it makes you a bad writer?


And what is the honest way for you to address it?

Joshua Pior

I'm a twenty-something writer of several short stories and (bad) novels, an artist, board game enthusiast, and homeschool grad. God has used stories again and again to impact my life, which first inspired me to become a writer and to help other young authors write their best stories yet!

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