A Bringer of New Things

Musings on personal growth, books, motherhood, writing, and more.

Learning to Live and Write by Imitation

When I was about thirteen, I kept a list I called “P.I.L.U.T.” for “People I Look Up To.” I wrote down the names of older teenagers, teachers, and other adults I knew who impressed me in some way. It didn’t take much to awe me back then, of course; several of the names on the long list had only “friendly” or something similarly basic written beside them—any character quality I observed and admired.

(Yes, I’m rather odd, as we’ve established. I can’t help it; it’s just my nature to take everything I do, including living, very seriously. And in the interest of full disclosure, I didn’t actually write people’s names on the P.I.L.U.T. list; I wrote their initials reversed, in case someone accidentally found the list. Plus I just loved codes.)

Today, if I made such a list, it would probably be shorter and the reasons for admiring people would be much more specific. But I do still look up to others as role models in specific areas of life. For example, I admire Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, for her dignity, grace, ladylike attire, and insistence on privacy for her family when she can have it. And someone I truly consider a hero is the philosopher A.C. Grayling, who has not been content to limit his philosophizing to academia, but has also written many popular books and articles that apply philosophy to everyday life.

I think–for me, at least–the ability to learn vicariously from others is a gift of life. Since we only get one life, we need all the help we can get to learn how to make it as good as we can.

Since I aspire not only to have a good life but also to be a writer, I’m going about learning to write the same way—observing others, reading their advice, and trying to imitate their successful actions. One thing I’d love to do is systematically imitate several great fiction writers. I’m starting this pursuit with writing a novel styled after Jane Austen’s techniques. I need a lot of practice with fiction, though, so I’m also relying on several how-to-write-fiction books; and once I’ve got something to show, I’ll submit it to my writing critique group and others for feedback. With poetry, I’ve stopped the learning-by-imitation process for now, partly because my poetry ambitions aren’t high, and partly because I have become content with a particular style that suits me. With nonfiction, blogging, freelance writing, and planning a writing career in general, I’m reading all the advice I can from other writers, past and present.

Any advice you wonderful readers have for me (about anything!) is always very welcome, too!


Jane Austen (photo from Wikimedia Commons)



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