Monday, May 30, 2011

Who Do You Write Like?

I I the only one who shudders slightly when someone begins to rave about a new author, only to almost instantly begin comparing this author to other established writers?

Never will I forget an early experience on the internet, as I was chatting with a science fiction writer who, upon hearing that I too was a budding wordsmith, instantly asked me "well who do you write like?".  The question confused me at first.  I told him that I write like me, at least I try to.  He was adamant though.  "Well yeah, but what writers sort of write the same way you do?  Who do you look up to?  Who do you try to write like?"

I was dumbfounded.  This invisible person then began to list his literary idols, those who's styles he was attempting to emulate.  Is this normal, I wondered, is it normal for a writer to consciously look to the writing of other successful authors and attempt to copy their form?  Of course, its impossible to write without having the influences of those you admire rub off on your prose.  But is it really common to forcefully fashion one's self-expression out of used bits and pieces?

Nearly every creative writing class I've attended has included some exercise in which the students are given or must find a piece of writing and then attempt to write a new story in the way of that chosen author.  Yes, I understand that it's good practice for a young or new writer who otherwise has problems finding a way to format their thoughts and ideas, but doesn't this type of exercise set a bad precedent? 

Yes, of course we should be admiring the work of great and accomplished writers.  There are many that I adore and I hope to fill my life with many more.  But to admire to the point of idolization, to the point of wanting to become like another writer rather than finding who you are as a writer is, frankly, quite sickening to me.

It may just be impossible to be a truly unique voice in an endless sea of new and old literature, but that is no excuse to completely forgo the attempt to add something unseen to the pantheon of the recorded English language.  Creating an involving, intriguing story is of the utmost importance, but I strongly believe that the way in which you tell that story is what will ultimately define you as a writer.


I'd also like to point out that this post (formerly) marks the 50th post of this here blog.  Quite exciting.  I've been blogging on and off for about the last seven or eight years, starting off in Xanga before moving to LiveJournal and at last to Blogger (this isn't my first Blogger blog either, the previous one was a spectacularly mixed-up failure).

In honor of this momentous milestone, I have constructed a word cloud with the help of an awesome site by the name of Wordle!

Wordle: Demolishing the Block
Click to enlarge!
It is composed of words from some of my posts on writing, including the very first post of this blog and the post you are reading.  Just glancing at it, you can plainly see some of this blog's more repetitive themes.

To all my readers, followers and especially those who care enough to comment, thank you for your continued support!  It is you who have pushed me to continue this blog and who have helped me overcome the crippling writer's block that brought this blog into existence in the first place.  With your help and some luck, I'll be here for 50 more posts and beyond!