Imitation & Ingenuity


Emulating and mirroring other authors’ techniques
will build your creative muscle and illuminate your writing process.


In recent weeks, we have encouraged you to create silence and listen to your inner voice. Perhaps, this quiet introspection has led you outside your comfort zone on an unexpected path of self-discovery. Maybe you are challenging your own assumptions about your creative life or exploring new horizons for your writing. You could also, quite possibly, be stuck in a quagmire of self-conscious anxiety, not sure what direction to go.

Now what?

Say yes to your creative work! Now is the time to start writing and—most importantly—enjoying the process. Being an author is not linear work. . . writing will be messy, frustrating, and surprising. Regardless of your experience as an author, your authentic voice is likely to feel wobbly and uncertain with each new project. Like any of life’s meaningful challenges, you will find yourself stuck inside rabbit holes, taking startling detours, and facing seemingly insurmountable hurdles (both self-imposed and otherwise). But you will never know where the joy of writing will take you if you don’t start.

We Don’t Live on Islands.

Several years ago, my child finally realized that he could use his emerging vocabulary to more clearly articulate his annoyance with me. To do so, he would adopt a very solemn look and a very resolute tone, point his tiny index finger at me, and say, “No, Mama.” For better or for worse, I instantly recognized that look and that tone and—most undeniably—that finger. They were mine! As he was learning to find own his voice, he started by emulating me.

Similarly, during the early stages of your creative process, you will inevitably find yourself emulating other authors. Despite our best efforts to turn inwardly to foster our own authenticity, we don’t live on isolated islands or as hermits without external influences. Your experiences as a reader are part and parcel of your extraordinary personal tapestry. As such, they will naturally find their way into your writing.

Enjoy the Authors’ Dressing Room.

Experimenting with others’ techniques in your own writing can be spontaneous and unintentional; it can also be done purposefully. It is a fundamental component of the creative process, so embrace it. Explore different authors’ points of view, modes of character development, or patterns of narrative tension—all while adhering to ethical standards and copyright laws. Only by going through this process will you start to understand, appreciate, and foster the channels, language, and other tools that are most effective for expressing your authentic voice. Simply put, trying on different styles is the only way to find your perfect fit.

Get Ready to Fly.

While experimenting can be fun, you will, after a while, become bored and unsatisfied by emulating and mirroring other authors’ styles. A lack of ingenuity and feelings of inauthenticity will start to infiltrate your creative process. This, in turn, is likely to cause your inner disquiet to return. Rest assured that all of this is a normal part of the creative cycle. In fact, when other authors’ methods start to bore you, this is when you will know that your authentic voice is beginning to emerge and ready to soar.


CHANTA G. COMBS
Chanta is the newest member of the AROUND THE WRITER’S TABLE team and is a regular contributor to our blog. Chanta’s professional experience has been in law, policy, politics and corporate America. However, she finally surrendered to her lifelong passions of reading, writing, and researching, and is following them to new frontiers in her life. As part of that journey, Chanta is currently enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Editing & Publishing Program at Florida State University. Her goal is to absorb all she can about the editing and publishing industries while also finding new dimensions to her authentic voice. Chanta is a mom in love with her eight-year-old son, two dogs, and two cats and she calls Tallahassee, Florida home.

This creativity tip is inspired by The 97 Best Creativity Tips Ever! by Dr. Eric Maisel (2011), and is used with his permission.

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