The reason I’m bringing up this fallacy today is to look at how it possibly explains literary talent. Over the years, I’ve noticed something interesting about many of my favorite authors. I frequently find that they have one or two books that are simply brilliant. I read these books astonished by their pure mastery of the English language and their profound wisdom regarding the human condition. In my enthusiasm, I want to go out and read everything they ever wrote. But, with rare exceptions, I never finish an author’s catalog. As I start venturing out beyond the core handful of famous titles that attracted me to them, I swiftly start running into books that don’t quite have the sparkle of their best known work. If I delve further, I often run into books that not only lack sparkle, they also lack any admirable traits at all, with leaden characters, lazy plots, and flabby, meandering prose.
My takeaway: You never truly know what readers are going to love, so don’t get stressed out trying to guess whether other people are going to enjoy what you’re writing. Just write the best book you can, and trust that it will find an audience. On the other hand, if you write with complete disregard for your audience, writing only to please yourself, you might produce your own Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc. You have to walk a middle path, following your vision, but also never forgetting that you want other people to read it.