There’s a question most writers find themselves faced with at some point. It is the ego crushing “How am I supposed to feel about such beautiful prose…when it’s not my own?”. Sometimes it’s a turn of phrase, a whole sentence, or rarely an entire novel. Rarely, because it’s difficult for even the most gifted author to write hundreds of pages of sheer, genuine beauty. When it does happen it’s likely to cause gaping in awe that overwrites any more self-centered attitude.

The concept is on my mind because I picked up a book at random, a movie novelization, for a bit of semimindless entertainment. What I got was a few pages so beautifully written that I couldn’t read it! That is not normal. Not for me anyway. I love beautiful writing. Usually I pause to reread and savor a particularly lovely bit, sometimes more than once, then carry on.

This is across the board genrewise. Literary, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and everything else I’ve ever read all have brilliant writing scattered among the not so brilliant. I can’t say, however, that I’m used to coming across lyrical prose in movie novelizations.

What was this paragon of exceptional writing? The novelization of the movie The Wolfman, by Jonathan Maberry. I’m sorry to say I’d never heard of him. Several novels are listed on the About the Author page, and I’ll certainly be looking into them. But for now I’m still working my way through his garden of words put together like dabs of paint on a master work.

Yes, I picked it back up the other day. It sat idle long enough for me to go back to reading it with an eye turned toward admiring the beauty and away from introspective comparison to everything I’ve ever written. The kind of comparison that doesn’t propel a writer toward growth, but straight into the thorny bower of near crippling envy. 

Fortunately, I’m abnormally confident in my writing. Normally. I suppose the first attempt to read it was an ill chosen one, when I was in a bad mood or trying to grapple with a tricky spot in my own writing. Whatever the cause it was like holding a mirror up to that writing and seeing the scribbles of a three year old…orangutan…reflected back as my pale by comparison efforts. Now, it makes me just a little more aware of word choice and placement, phrasing, and the ability of words to paint wonderful mental pictures with the right brush and hand holding it.

So impressed am I by this book that I’m writing this just a few chapters in. I hope I don’t end up disappointed by the time I reach the end. Regardless of that possibility, it’s served a purpose already as a reminder that every writer is different and so is every reader. Even over the course of a small passage of time. It’s a good thing, I think, to have our own concepts of our own abilities reflected back at us on occasion. The writing mirror in the form of another’s work is a gift, as long as it helps us think, become more aware, and grow, and not fall too far into the well of self-doubt.