Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I am not Margo... Or John Green

The last page. The last paragraph.

I can’t stand for it to be over. I take a deep breath.

I read the last line a second time, then a third.

Closing the book, I lean back in my chair. “Well shit,” I say. Around me, people sip their coffees and peck away on their laptops. I’m in a crowded Starbucks, and I feel completely alone. There’s a second book in my bag—part of my plan to drink overpriced beverages and read all afternoon—but I don’t take it out. The thought of reading something else right now feels almost sacrilegious. Vulgar, even. How can I?

I’ve just finished Paper Towns and I want to throttle Jamie Blair.

---

I don’t really want to throttle Jamie, that was an exaggeration. It’s not her fault. I knew this would happen and I accept the blame. She’s been raving about Paper Towns for weeks but that didn’t mean that I had to go out and buy it, that didn’t mean that I didn’t know better, that I hadn't learned after reading Looking for Alaska.

It’s not that I don’t love John Green. If anything, I love him too much. You see, John Green is the author who makes me want to fall to my knees and cry, “I’m not worthy! I’m not worthy!”

I have this theory that everyone has an author like that—even if they haven’t come across them yet.

You know that line in “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen” where the narrators says, “The race is long; in the end, it’s only against yourself.” I believe that line. I really do. Almost all of the time. I suspect there are a few published writers that I’m better than and lots of published writers who leave me in the dust. That doesn’t bother me. But when I read John Green, there are moments when I stop and think that I’m just not worthy to practice the same craft.


He’s Shakespeare and I’m the girl who writes jingles for potato chips and calling both of us writers is true in the same way that a barstool and a Louis XV chair are both, well, chairs.

And you know what? I think that’s okay. I think it’s healthy to sometimes feel that way. Very few people can afford the luxury of complete self-confidence. Even fewer people have done things to actually warrant such a state. Truly brilliant books make me want to push myself harder, to be a better writer than I am now.

How about you? Are there any authors that you love but still find intimidating? Do you ever find yourself comparing your own prose to whatever you happen to be reading?

16 comments:

Melody (frmrly: Jane Harmony) said...

For me, it's Megan Whalen Turner. (Excluding, of course, the great classic authors like Hugo or Tolkein or Dumas.)

I compare myself to her all the time, and while it frustrates me, it also challenges me. Her level of writing and plotting is the level I want to obtain.

(She also has some unique ways of writing, that I love and admire and drool over. Whenever I write something oddly, I can always ask myself if it's stranger than hers. It's not, she has a Newberry, and thus I decide mine is okay. :)

Vee said...

It's John Green for me, too.

John Green and Melina Marchetta. And Arundhati Roy and Markus Zusak and Laurie Halse Anderson and...

Well, there are a lot of people.

But mostly John Green.

Kate Hart said...

ME TOO. Also Laurie Halse Anderson. And Maggie Stiefvater.

also, you know you just wormed your way even further into my heart with that "we're not worthy" bit.

annnd my word verification is "bratiart" which seems somehow appropriate.

Jessica said...

It's John Green for me, too. John Green and Markus Zusak.

Oh man, I read John Green's books and I want to lick them and then throw them out the window.

::does Wayne's World bow::

Meredith said...

Oh my gosh, yes. One of the first writers I experienced this when (after I got serious about my own writing, that is) was Jasper Fforde. I remember loving the book on the one hand, and on the other lamenting to myself that I would never be that creative.

But in some ways I think it's good to compare yourself to writers you admire. If you can get past the initial discouragement, it can be a good learning experiment.

Jamie B said...

Yep. John Green. I told my lovely agent just yesterday that I aspire to be like John. She was pleased by that of course. Who wouldn't be. I think E. Lockhart is pretty close with Frankie Landau-Banks. Now if I can just trade in this bar stool for a barcalounger...

Erinn said...

After reading John Green I want to cry. Mostly because it's so good and beautiful and knowing full well, I will NEVER be that good. He had a joke in Will Grayson/Will Grayson that was the same joke I had in my Current WIP-- but his was MUCH funnier.

If that's how high the bar is set, I'm going to need a rocket ship to get over it.

Whenever I watch one of his videos I think, "he's so smart... I wanna be that smart, why can't I be that smart." Then I start to whine until I'm distracted by a youtube video of an animal doing something cute.

I blogged about this a few months ago.
http://somethingelsetodistractme.blogspot.com/2010/04/how-smart-is-smart.html

Meredith said...

David Levithan makes me feel completely not worthy. He and John Green wrote WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON, and I'm so not ready to read that yet. I feel like it will make me thoroughly insecure.

Jill Wheeler said...

He is AMAZING. I've only read the first chapter of PAPER TOWNS so far, and I've got that "I'M NOT WORTHY" feeling.

Debra Driza said...

Yep, John Green does that for me, too--CURSE HIM! Also Laurie Halse Anderson and a few others, but yeah, I get the Green Effect.

*ponders whether she's brave enough to read Paper Towns*

Hmath said...

Great post!

I'm trying to think of who that person is for me. Fortunately, most of my favorite authors (Jane Austen, Eleanor Abbot Hallowell, to name a couple)are long since dead, so the fact that I'm still living definitely gives me the edge in my mind ;) Probably not enough of one to level the playing field though :)

Tere Kirkland said...

This happens to me when I read Suzanne Collins.

Pringles jingle, lol.

Great post!

Dawn said...

John Green, John Green, John Green. Alaska is one of my favorite books ever.

I had a nightmare about him a few weeks ago, he basically agreed to write a blurb for my book only to warn others away from it saying "it was the books like this that are contributing to the downfall of man."

And Pudge started an "I hate Dawn" facebook page.

Melina Marchetta is my other one. Jellicoe Road - I have no words...

in which a girl reads said...

Paper Towns is my fave John Green novel, just because there's so much thinking & ideas in between the lines.

And the author that amazes me for YA: Markus Zusak. For lit: F. Scott Fitzgerald & Adrundhati Roy.

I really don't know how anyone gets as brilliant as they are. Are they just born that way or something? Haha.

SM Schmidt said...

I have no idea how some of the translators tackled Alexandre Dumas. I've read bad translations so the better ones just loom that much higher on the pedestal.

After rereading old drafts I can see where I'd been reading Jane Austen. Rather than compare my works against what I'm reading, I see whatever I'm reading's style creep into my writing. Makes for awkward editing comments down the line.

MC Rogerson said...

I've not read any John Green yet, but I know that I'll feel lowly when I do.

There are so many amazing writers out there, but I especially rate Catherine Fisher and Philip Reeve for their YA works. For adult books - David Mitchell, F.Scott Fitzgerald, E.M.Forster.