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“Observe, don’t Imitate!”

I came across this quote by John M. Ford yesterday. Something about the quote appealed to me, and the quote stayed stuck in my mind for the rest of the day. The only way, I thought, I could get it out of my mind was by writing a post about it. So, here goes.

I think most of us, when we read something good, imbibe some of the elements of the writer’s style. It is a natural process and, sometimes, we do it even without realising. We copy what we like, mainly because we want what we write to be liked too. This is why it is often said that if we want to write good stuff, we have to read great stuff.

However, blind imitation is for apes.

Instead of letting imitation be a sub-conscious process, we should consciously try to make this process work for us. When we read stuff we like, we must take a mental step backwards to understand what it is about the particular piece of writing that is appealing to us. It could be the style, the use of words, or even the use of punctuation marks.

Whatever it is, it would be easier for us to incorporate it in our own writing if we understand what it is before we begin to use it. If we have understood why we liked a piece of writing, we can incorporate those elements in our writing, add our own flavor to those elements and come up with something unique.

If you do it right, who knows, someone might just want to imitate even your style of writing.

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