This week, we are discussing the concept of being different. Or, more accurately, we’re discussing the idea of not being different. We’re exploring how to ‘steal like an artist’. So far, we’ve examined why originality is a myth and why imitation is the best thing you can do as a writer. Today, we’re going to cap it off by discussing how you can evolve beyond imitation.
If originality is a myth and the best way to learn is through imitation, then eventually you’re going to reach a point where that just won’t suffice anymore. You’ll find that your soul yearns to break free. If you’ve been in this process for a while, honing your skills through imitation of the masters, then you’re going to find yourself in dire need of courage. Breaking free is intimidating.
In the apprenticeship systems of old, there was a period where a student, no longer an apprentice but not yet a master, would practice their craft relentlessly. This was known as the journeyman period. Often, they would travel the world, broadening their horizons, or set up their own shop in an attempt to make something of themselves. They would take their master’s teachings and push them one step further.
At the end of the day, we want to apprentice ourselves to the craft of writing. There will come a time when you transition from apprentice to journeyman, where you start exploring the world more, expanding beyond the strict confines of what you’ve been imitating. You’ll start experimenting with different combinations, attempting to assemble different component pieces that have, until this point, been separate. This is a daunting time. It’s a period of experimentation in your career, either as a writer or an author, where you’re trying new things. Not everything will work. In fact, most things probably won’t, which is a hard pill to swallow.
This year, I released a book that resonates well with certain audiences, but fails to captivate others. It doesn’t ignite their imagination in the same way. However, this period of experimentation is crucial. It provides fuel for the fire of your eventual mastery. This is why it requires courage. You need to be able to persevere, to endure the thorns and thistles, to push through the difficult terrain to reach mastery.
Becoming a master doesn’t mean all your problems will disappear, or that everything will run smoothly. You’ll likely continue to grapple with challenges, but you’ll have built an unshakeable foundation.
If you’re at a point where you feel like you’ve been doing well with your writing, and then you suddenly hit a stage where things get awkward, and you’re questioning your work, understand that you are now in the journeyman stage. You need to brace yourself and push through. Stick to the path, continue to build and refine what you’ve already learned.
If you follow this apprenticeship model, you’ll have all the tools you need. But now, you’re going to start mixing and matching all these separate pieces. You’ll start combining different components of a story, different genres will start blending in your mind. You’ll start thinking, “What if I did this? What if I took this in a different direction that I’ve never seen anyone else take?” This is where you’ll start reintroducing originality into your work, into your art.
In this period of mixing and matching, of courageously exploring uncharted territories, you’ll start discovering your voice. After you’ve been through the fire, only the valuable pieces remain. This is why it’s so important to have courage, to embrace what you have learned and carry it forward.
You have an original voice. We started this week discussing how originality is a myth, but that’s not entirely true. Your voice is unique because no one else has your experiences or your perspective. It’s through this path of first imitating others, and then mixing and matching the skills we’ve learned into something new, that your voice comes to life.
Thanks for reading and watching.
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