[This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for The Creative Penn. Click that link to read all 12 steps!]
While you should be reading other peoples’ work all the time, it hardly does any good to bemoan the fact that you do not posses the same kind of talent that, say, Nabokov or Dickens wielded. Your talents are unique. And Jealousy is bad for the soul; it is energy poorly spent.
Plenty of authors have been lauded in their day, only to be forgotten years later. Plenty now-infamous writers were relatively unknown while still alive. Poet X might have you beat in terms of vocabulary, lyricism, rich imagery, and clever turns of logic, but your simple, conversational style may communicate with readers in a far more raw and visceral way. Know what I mean? You may have your heroes beat in some departments, but have room for growth in others.
Basically, there’s no way to assess how your audience (perceived or real) is going to react to your words in comparison to any other writer’s, living or dead. You just can’t know. So don’t even worry about other writers. Don’t worry about your perceived audience. Just write. Once you’ve written enough material, judge yourself (but not too harshly) and revise from there!