There was always one name we could remember without wanting to. For me, that was Harry.
Harry was the type of student who walked into class and slouched in his chair. He didn’t say much before or after class. He was usually one of the first to leave. But during class, he was a star. Or at least he was a star to our teacher.
Our teacher changed when she heard him read his creative work. She’d leaned forward in her seat. Her hands held up her head as if she was a little school girl. If she hadn’t heard him speak for a while, she’d call on him to hear his valuable opinion about a story. He could never be wrong to her.
I felt invisible. I could never tell her that of course. I didn’t need her acknowledging my invisibility to validate my feelings. I tried to change my work a few times to make it more poetic like his, but that didn’t work. No one saw me.
My stories never compared to his. I wrote little notes in class to get everything out. She glared at him with wonder in her eyes. He could speak about a trash can and make it sound beautiful. Of course, I still saw the trash can.
I could never compare to Harry. But I couldn’t compare to a lot of people. To J. K. Rowling, I was a no one. John Green and I were never seen in the same room. I would never even be an afterthought to James Patterson. I was the ground under their feet, supporting them by buying another book, but always out of the picture.
I never realized how my jealousy slowed down my writing. While I had class with Harry, I felt as if I couldn’t write anything special anymore. Why write if he’s going to be better than me? I never saw the point.
But about mid semester, my friend Lily shook her head at me as we were at Starbucks in our local Barnes & Noble. I was editing my non-fiction memoir for the class I had with Harry while complaining about him.
“But he doesn’t write like you,” she said. “I like your stories more anyways. He writes like a complicated poet. It’s annoying.”
I paused. I never thought about our writing like that before. We both could succeed. He could continue writing his non-fiction poetry. I could continue writing my fantasy stories without his influence. I didn’t need his words to guide me. I didn’t have to write like him to be a good writer.
It took me longer than it should’ve to realize this.