You can compile encyclopedias on the people who have been called “the next C.S. Lewis,” “the next Tolkien,” “the next Tom Clancy,” “the next Mary Higgins,” and so on and so forth.
Perhaps the most coveted title among writers of the fantasy genre is “the next J.K. Rowling.” After all, the woman is the first author in history to become a billionaire solely off her literature. Her books have been translated into countless languages, sold in just about every format imaginable, and she has a cult following spread across the globe years after the Harry Potter series ended. Her books portrayed the complexities of humanity with uncanny accuracy and was like nothing we had seen before. Writers the world over dream of being her. But I do not.
Don’t get me wrong, I want people to read my books and I want to be successful as an author. I want to take human nature and fold it between the pages. I want people to stay up late at night biting their nails over what happens to my children (characters) next. I admit an international following wouldn’t be unwelcome either, but I don’t want to be Rowling and I don’t think anyone else should, either.
“Be yourself ” is such an overused cliché that I almost want to slap myself for it, but there it is. For one thing, the odds of mine or anyone’s career taking the same route as our dear J.K.’s are pretty small, but that’s a whole other post.
More importantly, there is only one Rowling. One woman who’s been through her struggles, triumphs, joys, and sorrows and knows exactly what goes on in that heart and mind. But there is only one of anyone else, too.
Trying to be like another human being is a waste of effort and ourselves. Difference is part of what separates our race from all other species. While it is wonderful to have other people as our inspirations and heroes, it’s important not to get so caught up in who they are that we forget who we are.
It’s been said “no two people read the same book” because we all have differing perceptions, ideas, memories, and associations. No two people can write the same book, either. Rowling is the only one who could have created her art, but I am the only one who can write mine and the same is true for everyone.
I don’t want to be the next J.K. Rowling. I want to be Elisabeth Wheatley. (I don’t mean that to sound as self conceited as it does.) Even if that means I never get a movie deal or an advance check with six digits (or that helicopter my brother’s been asking for), the most important thing is to tell my stories and not worry about being anyone else.