Stories that Matter

Dare To Be Different…A Lesson In Teacups.

I collect vintage English bone china teacups and saucers. The above image is mine, an assortment of just a few of the cups you’ll find on display should you ever pay me a visit. I couldn’t tell you how I got started or why, but my collection is growing. I love visiting antique stores, browsing the shelves, searching for that one cup that catches my eye. The one that stands out from the rest. I know I should be concerned about things like circa, markings and wear, and while these things interest me, they are never the deciding factor in whether or not I make a purchase.

I have to love what I see. Whether it’s the color or the pattern or a combination of both, it needs to say something to me. It needs to speak, if you will, to my soul.

I know my hobby is a fairly common one. Lots and lots of people all around the world do the same, and probably have vast collections and far more knowledge on the subject than I will ever hope to have. Perhaps their collections are worth thousands of dollars. One day, should they sell, they will earn a handsome profit from the time and efforts spent searching for that one rare cup.

Fascinating stuff, you say, but what’s a bunch of teacups got to do with writing?

Ah, I’m so glad you asked.

Take a look at the photograph. Not one of those cups and saucers are the same. Sure, some have the same coloring, same patterns perhaps – you’ll see lots of roses on the cups I collect – some are even from the same manufacturer like Aynsley or Royal Albert – but they are all uniquely different in their own way. And I’ll bet even if you find a set of six the same, you will see a small difference in each one.

It’s like that with our writing. If we all wrote the same story, had the same cover and called our characters by the same names, created the same set of circumstances for them to suffer through, how boring would that be? Sure the first book out of the gate might sell, but the rest? Same old, same old.

Readers don’t want that. At least the ones I’ve been talking to don’t. They want different.

They want a new plot, new characters, a new set of circumstances in every book. They may want to read books by the same authors, we all have our favorites, but they want each story to stand out. Be different.

That’s what makes reading so much fun. You never really know what’s coming next. Sure, if you’re reading the same genre, you pretty much know what to expect. But you’re looking for it. If you pick up a romance, you want the dashing hero and the beautiful heroine to meet up, fall in love, break up and get together again, maybe several times, until finally they ride off into the sunset on a white charger or a Harley. That’s your basic romance genre plot from start to finish. Sounds kind of boring if you ask me. But it’s not, because each romance I write is different. Each story has a different setting, different characters and different lessons to be learned.

If everything stays the same, how can we change?

When I first started writing, I used to compare myself to other authors. A lot. Inevitably, this became a lesson in self-degradation. I am not a best-selling author. Perhaps I never will be. I need to learn to be okay with that.

As I learn and grow as an author, I find my writing changing too, improving with each word I write. I do not write like all those wonderful authors whose books I devour the minute they hit the shelves. I shouldn’t try to. Can I learn from them? Most definitely. But I am not them. I have not lived their lives and they have not lived mine. My stories might seem similar, but they can’t be the same.

God has gifted each one of us with a unique ability to view the world differently.

Yes, we may share the same set of values, the same faith even, but each of us is different. We have different personalities, we’ve had a different upbringing, attended different churches and schools. Our stories are bound to be different, and they should be.

Some may shine and stand out among the rest for this very reason. Because you’ve told a tale that nobody has ever heard. Other stories may be just as good, but they sit on the shelf in a long row of books that all look and sound the same. And perhaps, because nobody has ever heard of that author, they pass the book by. But then one day, someone will come in, pick that book up and read it. And know they have found that rare read that tips the scales, defies conservatism and dances in its presence and dares to dream.

Can we dare to dream that this will be our story?

I think we can. I think we must.

We all dream. We hope. We pray and pursue publication with visions of becoming that award-winning author. But when we sit back at the end of the day, discouraged and downtrodden by those leaping ahead and grabbing that golden ring for themselves, we must take heart.

We have still won because we have done our best.

We must know in hearts that our story shines just as brightly as theirs. In a different way maybe. But we must believe that it is good. That we have created something soul-deep, something only we could write. And one day, somebody will pick it up, turn it over, flip through those pages and begin to read. We must never fall into the trap of comparing our writing to someone else’s or wishing we have what they do. I’ve been there done that, and it’s no fun.

Dare to dream. Dare to be different. And don’t give up. Ever. 

Let’s talk! Do you compare yourself to others, wondering why they’re making it and you’re not? How are you daring to be different today?

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  1. Loree Huebner on April 4, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I collect tea cups too. I got started when my mother in law gave me her collection. Her kids got her one every year on Mother’s Day for years and years. Each cup is different – beautiful and rare.

    I agree that we are each blessed to view the world in a unique way. Our writing should represent that.

    • Cathy West on April 4, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      Isn’t it fun? My mother-in-law gave me a few when they had to downsize, and I’ve been collecting ever since.

  2. Beth K. Vogt on April 4, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I have a friend who collects tea cups and one of my favorite things is to find new ones to add to her collections. Each one is different — and each one reflects her. Interesting, huh?
    And yes, sometimes I compare myself to other writers but I try, try, try to be content to be me. And to become a better me-writer.

    • Cathy West on April 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm

      Try is definitely the operative word, Beth!! I am trying very very hard!! 🙂

  3. bonnie leon on April 5, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Cathy, good blog. I was once told that the story I want to write may have already been written, but it hasn’t been written by me. Just changing the author changes the story. : – )

    Keep shining!

  4. ausjenny on April 5, 2012 at 4:13 am

    I dont actually collect these tea cups, saucer and small plate sets but I have lots from mums. They use to be called crazy tea sets. they are fun. I have my favourites.

    • Cathy West on April 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      I love the fact that they are all different and colorful! Especially love the deep reds, dark blues and golds they used!

  5. tea cups on April 20, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Very nice post. Love the tea cups and I agree, it’s what you like that is important and always makes an interesting collection.

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