Authenticity is one of your greatest writing powers. You have to be brave enough to be yourself. This is not a fancy dress party. We are not all going to dress up as Truman Capote. (Although obviously you can do that, if that is what floats your boat.)
This is harder than it sounds, but it will be the best work you ever do. Every day, think about being your true self. Think about hearing your true voice. Think about writing the way you want to write, not how Mrs Smith the English Teacher said you should write.
Stop trying to impress anyone. The only person I want you to impress is yourself. (This sounds narcissistic. In fact it is selfless. If you concentrate on impressing yourself you will write better and so bring pleasure to others. Hurrah. You are a writing saint.)
I wasted three years of my young writing life by trying to be Dorothy Parker and Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford. Then I wasted another year trying to be Colin MacInnes. I would give anything to have that time back. I wish some sage old person had come up to me and smiled and said, ‘Hey, kid, all you have to do is be yourself.’
PS. I chose the photograph to go with this post for a reason. It is, as you can see, all over the shop. The horse was moving too fast for me, so I got the focus all wrong. I don’t know much about the technical side of photography, but I can pretty much guarantee that I have broken at least five sacred rules.
Yet that picture speaks to me.
It expresses something of the feeling of authenticity and freedom and truth that I’m talking about. It’s all wrong, in a strict sense, and yet it has its own funny, quirky beauty.
Some people will get it, and some people will frown and tut. That’s the risk you take with your writing. Readers will get you, or they won’t. But you have absolutely no way of knowing which ones will and which ones won’t, so there is no earthly point in second-guessing.
Human beings are gloriously unpredictable, so all you can do is be your true self and take your chances. And I think there is something marvellously liberating in that.