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On Writing Like Other People

Here’s why you’re writing like other people:

It’s inevitable.

Being a voracious reader, you’re subconsciously working in rhythms and styles in your writing that resemble all that damn content you’re consuming. As I’m binge-reading my favorite authors, I notice my writing tuning in and out of voices as if they were radio stations.

For example, I recently read some Hemingway and, aside from being able to pretentiously tell people that I read Hemingway, I’ve noticed a huge beneficial, lets say willingness, to use zippy little narratives in my writing.

Noticeably, he breaks a lot of “rules” but it all just somehow works… and I get what he’s going for.

Well, at least, most of the time. People just talked differently back then, didn’t they?

In learning to write a narrative, perhaps it’s more important to understand why an author chooses to describe what he does, than it is to understand how he does it. Grammar serves the writer’s voice, not the other way around.

Anyway, It’s good shit – everyone should read Hemingway.

Also, I’ve been reading a lot of Robert Greene, and maybe that peaks-through in my writing.

He’s a voice that is far more contemporary than Hemingway, and in the personal-growth space. His material is made up beautiful narratives around amazing people – followed by a “call-to-action” from the lessons so carefully extracted from them.

In that call-to-action, as if to summon the reader to higher mode of living, he captivates his audience.

In the call-to-action, the content becomes relevant to the reader, showing him how he can, right away, positively change his life.

As a reader, we enjoy this summons to a “higher calling”. We enjoy the thrill of discovering improvements we can directly apply to our lives.

Alone – facts, proof, rationality are meaningless.

Unless the content directly applies to improving our life, whether that is in immediate entertainment or applicable education, we won’t read it. Only when we are shown that “hence forth is the way”, to what is visceral and relevant, we take action.

I digress. If you like self-help stuff, go give Robert Green a read. You might end up wanting to imitate him.

Imitation

Imitation is how we can learn everything from talking to doing astrophysics. You should be writing a bit like other people.

As a beginner, it’s as if the puny brain is too overwhelmed with the complexities… and all it can muster is to try to look like something else.

It’s adorable when kids do it – but embarrassing for most adults. Perhaps lost to their childhood was the abrasiveness to imitate to the point of mocking, and the fearlessness of judgment.

The cliche you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is real shit. Older people simply don’t like looking stupid or feeling like they should do things differently.

But stupid looking we are all when we begin on a journey to be competent. We’ve looked stupid before and we will again.

When we reach for greatness, we will, inevitably, fail at first.

We will be overwhelmed with feelings of vulnerability or embarrassment. Nervousness and doubt cloud our movements, making them painful. I guess that’s just too much for most people.

I digress.

In the beginning of learning any skill, writing included, we will end up trying to look like other people for a while before we become a recognized original voice.

Until then. It’s a little silly, and it’s cringe…. like someone not quite understanding a movement but putting his body parts in the right place. But it’s all part of the process of learning called imitation.

Do enough of it and you can become what Steven Pressfield describes: someone going pro.

A pro is on the other side now, people are consuming his content, copying his voice. Oblivious to this, he is just writing every day, sounding like someone else or not.

Competency is achieved by constantly practicing what we’ve seen as effective. No matter how silly we might feel in the beginning.

Breaking The Barrier

At the top of the game are the one’s who determine the standard. That standard. Are you good enough? Will people like your shit? Are you effective?

This is the barrier which holds you back from taking a large slice of the market in your prospective industry.

Indeed, if you’re good enough, they won’t be able to ignore you. At least not for long. When you’re good enough, your peers will respect you. They will need your help, even.

But before then, before we have a unique and interesting voice, we can still live up to our, not-yet, peers by just writing a whole hell of a lot.

Most certainly, it’s the first step towards the path of identifying yourself as a pro writer. Will-it into existence – assume the position. Be fanatical.

Not only should we write like our favorite authors, we should be writing as much as them (of course, it’s impossible to know these things, but you can just imagine that it was a whole fucking bunch).

More than recognition and status, to be pro status, you read and you write and you do it a lot and you see what happens. It’s the most immediate access to the existence of being a writer.

Final Thoughts

Your early work will always lack identity and grace – even originality – but it important that it is produced and “gotten out of thee way”, so to speak. Like cannon fodder in the war of art.

As a consequence of this learning curve, you’re likely writing like someone you admire and that’s okay. It means you’re consuming good content, and practicing a lot. Imitation should be embraced, and made conscious!

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