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!

 

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One Comment on “Wednesday Writing Tip #2: Create, Don’t Imitate!

  1. Hi Ali! I found your blog through She Seeks and I was so excited to see this series for aspiring writers. Thank you for this! I’ve been in a place of exploration for awhile of what God is calling me to do and I keep coming back to writing; It’s one of the few things I just genuinely love and feel naturally good at. I have definitely struggled with the imitation thing though. I have a blog about food and fitness and I tend to read other blogs and think “well, they’re doing it this way and look at all the followers they have… I should do it that way too.” I know I’m not alone, because when you look at the healthy living blog community, 99% are the same formula. I feel like God has been challenging me recently to think outside the box. I even had to stop reading other blogs as much so I wouldn’t compare myself or feel the need to imitate. One thing I had to reexamine is who my audience is. While many healthy living bloggers write for other healthy living bloggers and that is who their following is, but I want my blog to help those who are beginners at healthy living and want to know where to start. I used to find myself hesitant to put up certain posts because I would think the information seemed too elementary, but I had to again remember my audience. There was a time when I didn’t know the information, so surely there are other people out there who don’t know the information either and could benefit from my “elementary post.” Anyway, sorry for the long speil. 😉 I say all this to say, you are absolutely right, it takes time, but find your own voice. If people wanted an imitation of someone else, they would read that persons work; give them a reason to read yours!

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