Stepping Out in Your Own (Writing) Style
You see, I have a sister-in-law who looks like she just stepped out of a magazine spread on gracious Southern living. I don’t care if she’s just come from a yoga class or the car wash, she’s always stylishly stunning. While I…well, I like to say I’m the “classic” type, but if I’m honest, I’m just lazy. I wear the same basic color scheme, the same jeans, the same boots for just about everything. And so next to my glamorous sis-in-law, I look, what my mother would call, as “plain as dirt.”
It used to bother me. I used to try to really kick up my style a notch (or seven) if I knew I was going to be around her. Until I finally realized that, to paraphrase Popeye, “I am what I am.” So the frumpy moment passes, and I’m fine. I’m comfortable in my own skin (and boots).
It was an important lesson to learn because as a writer, I did the same darn thing.
In the early days of writing fiction, I tried to write like a handful of amazing writers I admired, like Harper Lee or Flannery O’Connor. (I know, right? I’m blushing just writing that last sentence.)
Of course, editors didn’t buy my copycat stories. The prose was plodding; the voice was false and strained. But fortunately, after a (long) while of writing, and sharing my work, I found my own voice, my own style. (That, and my mother told me to quit trying to be someone I wasn’t.)
Now, we can’t always count on a mother being around to set us straight. That’s why it’s so important to have a trusted critique group, a few people who meet faithfully, particularly in early writing days. These are the people who will come to know your strengths (and weaknesses); they will recognize your authenticity and call you out when you get pretentious. They will encourage you along the path where your true voice shines and politely steer you away from the missteps. In short, a great critique group can make all the difference in the world in your writing journey.
January is just about to end, and many of your good intentions will end along with it. But it’s not too late to join a critique group (or whip your present group into shape). So seize the moment! Find your voice! Embrace your style! Maybe even pull on your favorite boots. You’ll be ever so much happier, stepping out and writing in your own comfort zone.
~Cathy C. Hall