When it comes to the business of writing, it’s not necessarily our ideas that are important but the way we interpret them.
As individuals, we are unique. We’ve all had different upbringings and influences upon our lives. We’ve all had different experiences. Even when we’re at the same event, our experience will influence how we interpret that event.
That’s what makes us writers. Our interpretation.
I’ve recently returned from a week in the Lake District with my dad (you probably noticed it was a bit quiet here last week). We’re both keen photographers and we frequently end up setting up our tripods next to each other, with our lenses trained on the same focal point. But despite those similarities, we always create different photos. Our interpretation produces different creative results.
Just before I went away, I was fortunate enough to be asked by the Shropshire Federation of WI to run a day of creative writing workshops. Sixteen of us sat down for the day and I gave them all the same short story premise. (A grandson wanted to buy his gran some of her favourite flowers, but the florist was charging £2.50 a bunch and he only had £1.75. What was he going to do?)
Despite giving 15 writers the same idea, we ended up with 15 different stories. At first, some of the group were sceptical of this, but it wasn’t until we went around the room, reading out their interpretation of the idea, that it became clear how our life experiences have such a profound effect on how we develop our ideas. And while some writers came up with similar solutions, their ideas still varied considerably because of the different settings, time periods, dialects and supporting cast they gave their story.
I know many beginner writers worry about comparing themselves to other writers, but it’s a waste of time, because you’re not comparing like with like. Concentrate on your own writing, and your own interpretation of the idea. That’s what’s makes you different.
There’s only one Agatha Christie. There’s only one Carol Ann Duffy. There’s only one Robert Macfarlane. There’s only one you.
Exploit that in your writing.