And other one-sentence platitudes straight from the School of Shallow-Thinking Drivel-Poop.
A very big influence in my writing, which is the same very big thing that can be applied to most any artist and their works, is the works of authors I hold in very high regard. Pratchett, Gaiman, Moore, and so on. People who have written works (books, short stories, and anything else) that have left me wanting to create something just as amazing as what I’d just read. Writing with words blended in such a masterful way that I just had to sit down and get to my own creative processes. This is both a wonderful and treacherous thing as it makes creating a balancing act.
On one hand it would be very easy to follow in the footsteps of one or more of the previously mentioned writers, borrowing bits and pieces of their styles and voices as it suited me. I imagine, with the right level of effort and patience, such writing could yield a very strong end result that would read almost entirely (but not quite) like a work of my own hard labors.
And it would be terribly boring.
Hear me out before you follow the instinct to scoff at that statement and click to another page. It’s very easy to imitate your heroes. Not only that, but it’s a natural beginning to pretty much any artistic endeavor. Some of my very first short stories were quite bad knock-offs of what I thought could sound like the razor-sharp wit of Terry Pratchett. It’s actually quite embarrassing to even think about this, much less type about it. However, I wanted to be able to blend humor and fantasy so badly, perhaps in a way that could recreate the lightning-in-a-bottle rarity that Pratchett’s writing produces in ways that seem effortless though they clearly aren’t, and so I tried very hard to be Terry Pratchett in a sense. Again, I can’t stress enough how absolutely horrible the end results were. I’m fairly certain that the terrible quality of my writing rippled across time and space, and it somehow became responsible for Atlantis sinking into the ocean. Probably.
Over time, and with a great deal of writing, I’ve developed my own narrative voice. I say developed, but really I think I’m still developing it. It’s one of those “it’s there but it’s also still not there” things where I’m fairly certain the only point at which my writing style will be one hundred percent done changing is when I’m no longer able to write. It’s with this personal growth that I was able to create my first published works and find ways to become a better writer, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of creating for me (I mean, getting published was certainly a bonus in there as well). Constant growth and working to become your own writer (or painter or animator or whatever) makes for challenges which will make for a better learning experience and help prevent stagnation. I feel like the only thing that last sentence needs is a few buzzwords like synergy to make it get a bit corporate-speaky, so I’m going to move on.
Trying to be your heroes instead of becoming your own hero presents the problem of trying to be a person who already exists and thrives in their art. Sure, you could eventually become a close copy (a sad facsimile at best, unfortunately). Would it be rewarding? Maybe. That would really vary on a personal basis, though I would dare argue that there would be no real lasting satisfaction in being an eternal imitator. Would it provide challenges and allow for personal growth and greater achievements? Not likely. If anything, the act of continuing along with trying to be an artist you most certainly are not almost feels like a very Buffalo Bill approach to creativity (and I do mean that in the “I want to be like this person so badly I will actually make a suit out of their skin”, and I am 100% not sorry for going there with this joke).
By becoming your own hero, you become your own motivation. I have learned to feed off of the energy produced by my victories and to redirect frustrations from defeat so they may eventually contribute to one such previously-mentioned victory. The moment I stopped writing in an effort to be the next Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman/Christopher Moore/Douglas Adams/horrific-amalgamation-of-writers-I-love and started writing for myself was the moment I became able to actually write without worrying so damn much. Please keep in mind, as there are at least two people who will swoop down on that last statement, that I do have other writing-related anxieties. We will not be going anywhere near those in this post as it would become a novel.
Create. Practice. Fail a dozen or so times. Fail some more. Follow none or some or maybe all of this advice, but find your own ways as a creator. There’s no easy, one-size-fits-all set of prescriptive advice bits to help any one person get to where they need to be as a creative, artsy-type (nor is there a way to say exactly what one person needs).
Just don’t be a Buffalo Bill. I imagine, for instance, Amanda Palmer would take some issue if someone decided to take the Buffalo Bill approach with Neil Gaiman.