Here’s a subject that should grab your attention and leave you wondering. Great writers have great style. There’s no denying the impact of style. Still, it’s something that just can’t be defined very well. Style is something that speaks to your heart, not your mind. It’s there. It’s real, and you know it when you read it. But, can you really define it? Can you capture it and make it your own?
I don’t believe that style can be created or re-invented. That’s too obvious to any reader. It lacks truth, subtly and consistency. It’s a hack and it’s out there for the world to experience. You simply cannot work on “style” and have it work well. So, how does this mystical goddess of “style” come about? What gives it birth and life?
It evolves. It doesn’t fall full-form from the Writing Gods, except for those rare, true genius-writers. For the rest of us mortals, style evolves. It takes time to become real and tangible. The good news is that it eventually comes to all of us who cannot help but write.
We all start out with a love of style in the words and works of another. There is something in the construction, in the way of weaving the story line, that just grabs us as readers. Once we’re hooked, we cannot turn away from style. That’s why good writers have fans and a strong following. It’s the magical glue that binds us to our readers.
When we first become aware of a style, the natural tendency is to emulate it. Now, lots of writer-advise-givers will tell you that emulating another writer’s style is heresy. It’s nearly a criminal offense, they cry. I don’t agree. I’m not talking about plagiarism here. If you plagiarize, you are not a writer, you’re a thief. However, if you come across a style that captivates you, and you’re tempted to write in a similar way, go ahead and do it. Your love of that style is speaking to your inner writer, to that part of your writing-soul that needs to create. For now, it’s OK to learn from another, to walk in the footsteps of someone whose work you admire. It’s a way of learning your craft and honing your skills.
If you emulate the style of another writer, several things will happen. First, you will be drawn to other writers whose style you also like. Soon, there may be a few different styles that attract you. Now you begin to switch and mix styles, to create new palettes with your words by combining the colors and landscapes that others have laid out for you to enjoy.
After a time, after a lot of writing, you will find your voice and your style. You may begin by emulating the style of others but you will evolve. All writers evolve. As you grow and become better at your work, your style will begin to arise naturally and make itself known to you and your readers. At this point, you will never again think about style. It will just happen.
And that’s the trick – there is no trick. Just be patient, keep reading, keep writing. You’re style will grow quietly, silently. One day, you’ll read something you’ve just finished writing and staring you back in the face will your own style.
What a happy day!