Low Self-Esteem and How to Conquer It

You’d think that reading good books often is inadvisable to young writers because their self-esteem will be crushed, palpitated, then thrown off a cliff for good measure.  For some odd reason, this is not the case.

For young people particularly I can’t think of any better aid to developing your writing skills than by studying how others have done it.  — Chris D’Lacey

Read a lot.  — Christopher Paolini

The best writers are voracious readers.  — Rick Riordan

There are a few quotes from three of my favorite authors.  Notice anything about them?  Yeah, they all say the same basic thing:  Read if you want to write well.  Why do they say this?  Because people get better at what they do if they watch the experts do it first.  Perhaps this is only a bit of self-promotion by these authors, but I think it’s genuine advice.  All of the writers we love, all the writers we admire, they all began simply: they read stuff they liked.  Eventually they began to write, and what we see in bookstores today is what they wished they could have had to read as kids.  I’m serious.  If you don’t write what you’d like to read, you will neither like writing it nor will anyone like reading it.  If you’re enthusiastic, it shows.

But I digress so massively I’m surprised the floor hasn’t begun to slope.

A month ago, whenever I read a good book, part of me would be thrilled (the reader part) and part would be depressed (the writer part).  The trouble was that I recognized good writing.  With a jolt, I’d realize all of a sudden that I wasn’t as good a writer as, say, Alexander Dumas, Rick Riordan, Cornelia Funke, Chris D’Lacey, Leo Tolstoy, or any other you’d care to mention.  Especially with Riordan’s writing, I’d have a bad case of inferiority complex just after finishing one of his books.  I remember finishing the Son of Neptune and writing to one of my friends on how “reading Rick Riordan makes you feel inferior.”  I was just in utter awe of the writer’s prowess.  Now, however, I’m quite happy to note that I’ve gotten over this feeling quite completely.

Unfortunately, I’m slightly ashamed of the reason for this.

You see, I had seen Rick Riordan as a perfect writer who had no flaws.  Though people dock points on reviews for his books having too many typos, I always overlooked that since, well, they weren’t his fault.  It was the typist, after all, who was falling asleep on his typewriter.  It wasn’t the author’s fault that there were gross misspellings and errors in the text.  But at last I found a flaw.

You know the best way to boost your self-esteem?  Find fault in someone else.  I say this half jokingly, since of course no one likes having their mistakes pointed out in a brutal manner.  Politeness and tact is called for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t laugh maniacally in your bedroom as you realize– “Rick Riordan isn’t perfect!”  Just don’t crow it to the world with too big a smile on your face.

Many amazing authors used to make me feel very very inferior.  But do you realize that you learn more from finding the flawed and realizing what could have been done better than from admiring the good stuff?  Most of the time it’s a combination of the two, but usually it’s learning from the mistakes of others that can make you great.  Everyone says learn from your own mistakes– why not learn from everyone else’s, too?

Admiration does not come from just standing and watching a perfect person from afar.  True admiration begins when you see the fault of another, recognize it, and still like the person for what they are.  Isn’t that the lesson countless fairy tales have tried to pound into our heads with a sledgehammer?  Though finding fault with someone may mean the person isn’t as perfect as they first appeared, if you still think the person is great, even though you’ve found that fault, it means they are great indeed.  If you find fault and they no longer have the same appeal to you, they probably aren’t worth your admiration.

In my mind, it is beneficial to find fault.  In moderation.  If you can find fault with someone you admire, it means that you aren’t following them blindly.  If you live to find fault with someone, you’ll soon find yourself not admiring them anymore.  It’s the difference between giving constructive criticism and insulting.

I have finally found Rick Riordan’s fatal flaw, but I admire him nonetheless.  I found fault with Christopher Paolini and admire him much less (but still a lot), since his flaws were more serious.  I found flaws in Obert Skye’s writing, and yet he remains one of the most creative writers I have the pleasure of knowing.  You find flaws with something and you remove the film from your eyes.  You see the person in a new light.  But if the person still seems admirable in that new light, they’re worth the admiration.

Otherwise, they aren’t worth it.  The rubbish bin awaits.

Leave a comment


  1. Hmmm I find a lot of faults too, but unless they are total mistakes, like that shouldn’t have happened or something, I can let it go too. Just something to tell you, I told you I would share the link for The Power of Six, but I decided not to review it because there were too many spoilers and I wouldn’t be able to say anything without spoiling the whole book. I will tell you this though, it was much better than the first. Also I did some investigation and I found out that the writers are Jobie Hughes and James Frey (I don’t really approve of the latter, but I did enjoy the books). So it wasn’t written by a child, but someone with a mind close to it 😉 I hope that might persuade you to read it….. I just can’t tell you much about it. I enjoyed it more because it got right to the action and didn’t really disappoint like many sequels do. Happy reading and blogging!

    • I’ve seen it a couple times at my library but haven’t cared enough to pluck it away. I probably will next time, however, if it’s better than the first.

  2. Aye, you’ve got some interesting points on this post. I agree about the Rick Riordan typos: They’re not his fault. His editor must have been editing the book in his/her sleep to have kept missing those little bits and pieces that sprang up throughout the book like a leaky pipeline.
    And yes, we love the things we love for what they are. I agree, if I find fault in them and that makes me not like them anymore, perhaps they aren’t worth admiration. Perhaps. And vice versa of course.
    Have you managed to snag a copy of The Accidental Hero (AKA Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation) yet? I believe you said something about it a while ago, but my brain’s currently fried from studying for a lovely exam. Or maybe it was Magyk you were speaking about? Either way, they’re both good series.
    A note on Magyk: So far, all of the books are very good, none have been a total failure. My favorite is book #5, Syren,simply because of a certain character whom I will not name for fear of spoilers. Ahem. Another note on the Magyk books: Fyre, book #7, will be released Winter of 2013! I jumped up and down screaming when I heard this. Which is why I recommend reading them so you can jump up and down screaming too.
    And with The Accidental Hero books, Book #2, The Secret War, is a vast improvement upon the first installment of the trilogy. And lo and behold, Book #3, The End of Infinity, is coming out August 7, 2012. Hurrah! *jumps up and down screaming again* Now that I’ve probably successfully blown out your eardrums, I’ll end off this comment.
    Meep. I practically wrote a whole post here. o_o Enjoy reading my hugegantic little commentario.

    • I’ve been after both Magyk and Accidental Hero. (And I believe book five is Darke…?) I haven’t gotten either yet, however, but I’ll be sure to enjoy them.

      • Oh no, Book 6 is Darke. They are ordered like so: Magyk, Flyte, Physik, Queste, Syren, Darke, and (not released yet) Fyre. Not sure if there’s going to be more after Fyre, but if it’s the end of the series I will be most sad indeed.

      • Ah. I was mistaken.

  3. Oh my soul! Liam! This post was AMAZING! I love it. At first I was just like ‘I’ll comment and tell him I agree with and like the quotes.’ but then I finished the whole thing and it was truly awesome. The whole thing on admiriration and how to tell whether you truly admire them despite their faults. Awesome. I mean it. I want to just save your post somehow. I’d reblog it but I don’t want to feel like I’m stealing people’s work so reblogging is a no. I’ll just like and comment and have a fangirl moment over this. I LOVE IT THOUGH! okay I’m done. But seriously, thank for writing this. I needed this at the moment. -with love, eshy,

    • You have my full permission to reblog it. You can even claim that on your own blog if you do. I’m very glad I touched a chord with people.

  4. Good article. I agree, if you want to write well, then read a lot! =)

  5. A very insightful and well-written post. I would add another name to the list of formidable writers: Liam, Head Phil. I started my own blog recently which made me start looking at other peoples blogs. What I discovered, especially in “This Page Intentionally Left Blank”, made me feel quite inferior as a writer. Other teen-writers are so awesome! But after reading some more, I realised that even these excellent writers are not perfect. And, after all, I am just starting out (with blog-writing anyway), and I have plenty of time to improve.

    And as if to echo and clarify and add substance to my thoughts, you produced this post. Thanks very much Liam!

    • Well, I’m a mite sorry to be intimidating others, but thanks for the compliments! I’ll be sure to check out your blog– if I haven’t already.

  6. Great post, Liam! Even though fellow unpublished writers actually sometimes make me feel inferior more often than published authors… heheh. 😛 And in response to your comment on my blog:

    That’s because it isn’t the full code for a toggle menu, XD. That’s for a linked, individual accordion, which means instead of revealing content, it leads you to a different page/website when clicked on. I got my {full} code from here; it also should explain some of your other questions:


  7. Charley R

     /  June 5, 2012

    You, sir, have discovered an excellent secret. I’m sorry, but my companions and I do not permit me to allow this. By order of Universaly Law, by the powers vested in me by No One In Particular, I hereby sentence thee to a painful end in the Tribble Pit on charges of Excessive Epictasticness and Intelligent Insight.


    • (Sorry, I can’t describe this well without third person. So… *in third person*)
      Trying to disguise his utter delight, Liam stops laughing and applauding. Putting on a morose face, he marches to his doom, accompanied by a woeful playing of “It’s a Small World”.

      • Charley R

         /  June 5, 2012

        The doors slam shut behind him, and the Head Phil is never seen again … until next Tuesday.

      • Well, you can’t do much on that, can you? There goes my idea for another third-person story.

      • Charley R

         /  June 6, 2012

        Hehehe, I’m evil like that 😉

      • I know you are.

      • Charley R

         /  June 6, 2012


      • No, you’re evil; you’re supposed to sneer, leer, or maybe just sneeze maliciously.

      • Charley R

         /  June 6, 2012

        Grinning is more classy. I’m a professional, not a pantomime act!

      • But sneering is more evil. You’re an evil genius; surely you can come up with something more evil than grinning! It sounds happy when you grin! YOU’RE NOT HAPPY!

      • Charley R

         /  June 6, 2012


      • If you were evil and you were happy, that would make being happy evil, and then I wouldn’t have anything to be!

      • Charley R

         /  June 6, 2012

        No. I’m just an evil individual who happens to be happy. Many of us are. We don’t have to agonise over The Greater Good and Altruism and daft things like that!

      • So you’re a sort of “live for the moment” guy. Like Calvin! (He isn’t evil.)

      • Charley R

         /  June 6, 2012

        Not really. I plan ahead and do things impromptu in equal measure, and never in any ordered fashion. Keeps the Goodie Brigade guessing 😉

      • Good– sorry, evil way to live, sometimes.

  8. So what’s Sanderson’s flaw, then?

    I still feel inferior pretty much…all the time. Even when I’m not reading anything. My self-esteem isn’t as low as it was a few months ago, but it’s still far too low to be healthy, I’m sure.


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