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Scott Lax Blog

Don't Be Discouraged by the Greats

I'm reading Tobias Wolff's, OUR STORY BEGINS, his most recent collection of short fiction. He's a master at the short story genre. He's so good that there are moments when I wonder if he's writing from another dimension.

I've learned not to get discouraged when reading the greats like Wolff. I learned this many years ago, when, as a young drummer, I went to hear perhaps the greatest drummer of all time, Buddy Rich -- not once, but three or four times. Buddy was a freak of nature. He was to drums what LeBron James is to basketball -- maybe even more extreme.

I was a professional drummer. I had to come to terms with the idea that I wasn't, and would never be, Buddy Rich. And I'll never be Tobias Wolff, or write short fiction like him.

Yet I kept playing drums. And I keep writing. My short fiction, a book of which I'm working on now, is completely different from Wolff's. I don't compare myself any more to him than I did to Buddy Rich. You can only do what you can do; I can only write what I can write.

The point is: I don't let the greats back me down. I write as well as I can, just as I played (still do, sometimes) drums as well as I can.

Life's too short to compare yourself to the great ones. My advice is to use them for inspiration and maybe a few ideas now and then. But don't compare yourself.