One of the things that has happened to me in the course of becoming a published and then a veteran writer is that I no longer see my favorite writers as gods. It's kind of sad, but it's an important part of believing in myself and my own writing. The better you become as a writer, the more you see the process behind the scenes in other writing.
I was one of those kids who used to read at all possible times. I would read while walking to and from school, on the playground, and hiding from chores on Saturday in the leafy tree in our front yard. I would read under my bed, or in the furnace room. I didn't need quiet. I just needed time and a bit of light. I loved books with a passion that other people reserve for food.
But when I try to read those same books as an adult to my own kids, it rarely works. Many of them just haven't stood the test of time. Others just aren't to my kids' tastes. And even the ones my kids still love, I find myself seeing the seams between one scene and the next. I can't lose myself in the story because I can hear the nails being pounded into the walls and can smell the paint still drying. I can see how the house was made because I've made houses, too.
One of the best things about becoming an author is feeling as if you've now entered into the hallowed halls of your idols. Meeting them in person, going to dinner with them and hearing stories about their past, sending them ARCs and getting blurbs--these are all wonderful things. They are parts of becoming an author that I didn't ever anticipate, really. And in some ways, they are the things that I most cherish.
But the reason they are possible is that the worship I once felt for my idols has disappeared. I admire them still. I sometimes still read every book as it comes out. But I don't imagine those books are perfect anymore. I don't lose myself completely in the storytelling. And I still feel a kind of sadness about that. Sometimes I find a new author and for a little while, I am caught again in the spell. Until I see the tricks and learn how to use them for myself. Because as a professional, that is what I always do. Everything is a chance to steal and become better at the art.
Thinking about it now, I think it really is a step of becoming a professional to give up the idea that other writers are perfect and above you. You have to realize they are just people, doing their best, putting words on a page day by day, not knowing if what they're doing will work, not knowing if the next book will be a huge failure or not, not sure really if their last book was as brilliant as they hoped it would be. They don't sit down and think--today, I will be brilliant. They don't know--this is the book everyone will remember me for.
They just sit down and do their best and are frustrated because it's never exactly as good as they had imagined. They're just like you, and seeing the flaws behind the words doesn't mean they're not as good as you thought when you were a kid. It means that you got better than you ever thought you'd be. It means that writing is something that you learn to do well like any other skill.
It means that the magic is something you're part of now, that you're a wizard yourself, and that your part now is making the magic for others, even when you know it's not real. Because it is real, even if you know the words to the spell. And never wanting it to be easy is part of your pact with the universe. You're going to be rewriting the spells yourself now. Because you know they're not good enough. You know they never will be.