How quickly can an author’s style influence, shift, or otherwise change yours?
I have a couple of book reviews in the pipeline, including one for Neil Postman’s Technopoly. Since I am tracking my 2015 reading with GoodReads, I gave it a quick rating there, which exposed me to everyone else’s thoughts on it.
Intriguingly, even the people who hated or disagreed with its premise and/or arguments noted that they were impressed with the writing itself. Some declared that the reason for their 2-star (rather than 1-star) rating; others were disgusted that his prose style was so compelling, as they believed that obscured the weakness of his arguments.
All of which is to say, Neil Postman’s got style. And I wonder how to get it.
Or, well, that’s not quite it. I’ve heard and read enough to know that style is an elusive sort of beast, slippery like a ferret. And despite concerted effort, changing or shifting one’s writing style can be like moving a glacier: undeniable, inexorable, powerful…but slow.
So I wonder: how slow? The other day, I came across this post about copying out the work of excellent writers in order to sharpen one’s skills. It’s a method that promises improvement, but most certainly requires an investment of effort, a healthy measure of intention and attention, a careful ear and eye, and above all, time.
I’m not hoping for an overnight change to my own writing, but I want to put myself in mind of the fact that I am – and my writing is – what I read. What I set before my eyes determines what issues from my mind and out through my mouth or keyboard or pen.
Perhaps I will start with Elements of Eloquence, or with a reread of Strunk and White.
No matter what, it is time to begin.