Wednesday Writing Tip #2: Create, Don’t Imitate!
One of my favorite hiking trails in Singapore has signposts along the way to educate hikers about the trees and wildlife in the jungle. I came across one that listed common bird calls that belong to various birds native to this particular jungle, such as the Banded Woodpecker, Greater Rocket-tailed Drongo, Hill Myna and the Striped Tit-babbler. I had no clue how to identify any of these bird calls but what grabbed my attention was the last line written on the signpost. It read: “The drongo and the myna are great mimics, and can imitate the calls of other birds.”
This reminded me of how tempting it is to try to imitate the styles of other writers–especially when we are just starting out. It’s not that we want to copy others, it’s just that we aren’t yet sure of our own ability so we look to others who have succeeded and think they must know the way. It happens across all genres when learning something new, whether sports, or music, or cooking.
We can and should seek to learn from the best, but at some point we have to establish our own unique creative identity in whatever we are doing. When I was just starting out as a writer, I remember reading other books and trying to sound like them. It’s on the best seller list, I thought, it must qualify as good writing right? Perhaps. But I am convinced that books that sell and do well are not those from authors who imitated other writing styles. They are the ones who stay true to their own style and unique way of expressing themselves as a writer. There really is no formula. I repeat: There is no formula.
It may take a while before you find your own writing style, or “voice.” But be patient. It’s part of the growing process and it will come. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles and forms of writing. Usually what comes out the most naturally is going to be your most authentic voice. No one else in the market has it. It’s yours. Uniquely, beautifully and undeniably yours. So own it!
Try This: In your journal or on your computer, write out a memory from your childhood. Don’t think about how your writing it, just write it down however it comes out. Then, take that same story and try changing the style a bit. Write the story a few different ways and then read each version out loud or to a friend. Note the differences in tone and writing style and see if one tells the story in a more compelling way. Remember, you’re going for authenticity, not necessarily what’s “popular” or deemed “good writing.”
Happy writing my friend!