New Writers Benefit from Identifying with Famous Authors

When I first began writing seriously in the early 1990s, I took to reading literary biographies as a way of defining myself as a writer. I was thrilled to find how quickly I recognized my own struggles in the lives of famous authors. I also saw the shared personality traits that prompt certain kinds of people to explore the possibilities of living the artist’s life. Nothing strengthens and focusses an emerging identity more than the chance to identify thoroughly with others who are already there and have blazed the trail, so to speak.

H. G. Wells in Middle Age

H. G. Wells makes a good role model for the commercially inclined genre writer. (Photo: public domain)

While of limited use to dedicated literary writers, any would-be author who aspires to sell well and achieve wide popularity and respect can profit from studying the life of H. G. Wells. If you wrestle with the common conflict over whether to go literary or commercial with your writing, Wells will prove especially interesting as he wrote, with varying degrees of success, across a number of genres including sci-fi thrillers, novels of ideas, and serious literary novels. The commercial and literary options seemed mutually exclusive to me and trying to decide which way to go affected my writing for years with first one side and then the other gaining ascendancy. In the end, I borrowed a page from Wells’ book. I now wrestle with novels of ideas finding such works to be a satisfying blend of entertaining story and worthwhile philosophical musing.

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Dedicating Your Life to Writing

Robert Louis Stevenson writng at his desk.

Unable to sway his obstinate father, young Robert Louis Stevenson had to justify to himself his decision to pursue writing rather than a more realistic means of earning a living. (Image: public domain)

The Dedicated Writer

Not all writers want to dedicate their lives to their art, but as Virginia Woolf has noted, many people who write want to do nothing else. Those who love literary biographies can attest to the remark’s salient truth. Are you among those for whom the urge to write is so strong it eclipses all other ambitions? If you are, then you have – whether you consciously realize this or not – joined those who want to dedicate their lives to art. Give this some thought. The single most effective way to enhance your work’s power is to have a clear understanding of what you want and what you are doing.

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