“A man may write at any time, if he will set himself doggedly to it.”—Samuel Johnson
Writing Au Naturel
Discovering your unique writing voice does not mean never imitating other writers. Imitation is a crucial part of learning any new skill, whether artistic, athletic, technical, or mechanical. You cannot innovate or improvise without a thorough understanding of the basics. Before you can establish a confident and distinctive writing voice of your own you must build on a solid foundation of fundamentals. It is important to discover the ways in which great writers have expressed themselves. Reading these writers (especially aloud) and then imitating them is a great way to do this. So don't be afraid of imitation; it is one phase on your journey to an original voice and writing style. Just don't get stuck there. Learn everything you can from other writers’ styles and then move on to fashion your own.
On the other hand, developing your distinctive writer’s voice also does not mean that anything goes when it comes to style. If your goal is to write to be read, you must give due attention to accepted norms and expectations regarding such things as language, vocabulary, grammar, tone, and moral sensibilities. These norms will vary somewhat depending on the audience you are writing for. If you are writing for children, for example, you will express yourself differently than if you are writing for adults, especially in such areas as vocabulary choice and length and complexity of sentences.
Your chief goal as a writer is clarity; what good does it do to write if no one can understand you? What you want is to communicate with your readers, not simply impress them with your ability to turn a phrase. Learn to write au naturel—in a style that is natural to who you are as a person and true to your beliefs and values.
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