In the latest installment of Little, Brown’s “Ask a Debut Novelist,” Ted Thompson addresses the anxieties that spring eternal from the minds of new writers, perfectionism and the specter of Zadie Smith’s superior talent among them. While quality is certainly a worthy pursuit in writing, Thompson advocates a simpler and often more fruitful goal: say what you’re going to say with the best words you can think of to say it. Reminding us about the dangers of comparison, he advises:
Listen to the story you are trying to tell, that unconscious combination of imagination and memory and feeling, and trust it. Concentrate on expressing that as clearly as you can, concentrate on finding the language for it, but above all don’t second-guess it. It’s your true north. Because here’s the great thing about novels and writing and creating anything: Nobody else can possibly write the book you’re writing.
So tell that inner Zadie-Smith-demon to go write her own novel.