I wrote my first romance novel because I read a positively awful formula romance novel by a famous author, and said to myself, "I can write at least as well as that!" Just to make sure, I sat down and did it. I haven't been translated into a dozen languages or earned a jillion dollars in royalties, but a few people who read Marianne's Vacation wrote to say they enjoyed it. That means a lot to me.
Recently I read a couple of books back-to-back that had almost the opposite effect. Each in its own way, was so exquisite I found myself tempted to give up writing because I could never approach that level of excellence. Having reflected on it, I've decided not to quit writing. I may not be a great literary writer, but some people who read my books like them and I enjoy the process of writing. That more than suffices to make it worth persevering.
What is more – and somewhat surprising to me –, I have discovered that I appreciate reading other authors' work more for having struggled with my own. I love to savor how writers get through the tricky parts of their novels. I like to pay attention to the things that other writers do well in order to learn from them. It makes me hopeful that the next time I am faced with a writing hurdle, I may feel more equipped to deal with it. I appreciate reading more because I've been there and done that, and I know how hard it is. Perhaps that is why truly great writing knocks me out.
In any case, I am resolved not to allow myself to be intimidated by great writing. I will, instead, be inspired by it, learn from it, and continue to muddle along spinning my own stories in my own way – and having a great time.