I love this photo. That's me (on the left) trying to be just like my Auntie Shirley while on a family vacation in California.
When we start learning something new don't we all start this way at least for a little while--testing the waters of who we are and who we wish we could be through imitation? There's even a saying for it, "Fake it until you make it."
Maybe it isn't such bad advice, but I've spent years trying to fake my way into being a writer by going through the motions and not really getting anywhere. When it was time for the rubber to meet the road, I must have been off on the shoulder looking at pretty rocks.
But it's never too late. Never.
Consider this quote from author Richard Russo, spoken during his appearance on the 10-Minute Writer's Workshop Podcast:
"Sooner or later, every writer had to ask himself/herself who and what do you love? And, until you answer this question no amount of knowledge is going to get you where you want to be as a writer. It's only when you know who and what you love when your vision really takes shape and your voice becomes generally your own and not just an imitation of somebody else's."
We start out imitating because we aren't sure who we really are yet, but eventually all of these facades fall away--or they should--in favor of something real. Based on the books of Austin Kleon, the process of developing authenticity (and originality) in your work is born out of taking that which resonates with us -- that which we love -- and combining it with other things we love to make something new.
Ask why you love that novel or painting or performance, or more importantly, ask why you didn't. That's how you become MORE THAN. You can take a class to study other people's voices, but no one can give you a shortcut to finding yours.
I love...love. And writing about teens. And kissing. And for a long time I resisted this because I wanted to write deep important things that mattered. But life is short and I'm tired of picking rocks by the side of the road and pretending to be a different kind of writer.
Writers write. Artists make art. Performers perform. Live. Practice. Repeat.
Edited: July 31, 2016