I’m part of a FB group that sells used F/SF books. Sometimes they have books by famous authors (e.g. Poul Anderson, C.J. Cherryh, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert) that I’ve never heard of. It started me thinking about the yardstick that I measure myself against as a writer.
I’ve read a lot of SF masterpieces over the years, books that have more or less survived the passage of time and become ‘classics’. Some of them are very, very good (even with time taking a toll). That’s the kind of books I want to write.
But it’s worth remembering that Nancy Kress and Asimov and Philip K. Dick and many other admirable writers didn’t just write classics. They wrote ordinary books as well–good or mediocre books that resonated with fewer readers.
When I get the crazy notion that I must write the next Dune or be the next f a i l u r e, I try to remember that the making of classics are beyond my ability to control. All I can do is write the best story I know.
That’s what my older idols did: They wrote. They grew as writers. And when that perfect story came along, the one that really made all the ideas gel into a masterpiece, they were ready for it.
Write? I can do that. And if I write something that’s less-than-classic along the way, then I’ll only be following in the footsteps of past masters.