Occasionally someone will ask me how I find something to say about writing five times a week. I ask myself this sometimes as well, but the truth is even in conversation I am prone to take any topic and begin my contribution, “You know, it’s a lot like writing . . .” To me, everything is. I’m a bit myopic that way, and I suppose my constant writing metaphors might sound like retold war stories to my friends and family, but writing is the leans through which I have chosen to view the world this go-around and so thank heavens for this space where I am required to do what I seem to want to do all the time anyway.
But imitation is always a close enemy of the writer. First, as young writers, we might find ourselves imitating the writers we admire, and then, once we become established and we have contracts and obligations, we might imitate ourselves. If it worked once, it will work again. If you imitate yourself, you know you have allowed the work to become a job. This is not a crime; a writer should be allowed to want a good job like so many others. But the writer who takes up the job of writing should understand what they have traded and decide for sure this is what they want.
Whether we are imitating someone else or ourselves, imitation hopes to gain security from the past, where everything is known and has happened already. It is perfectly legitimate to seek security, but true security is balance, not stasis. We are all propelled perpetually forward into the shadows on the conveyer belt of time, and perhaps our foremost task here on earth is to become accustomed to the endless movement.
As writers, as with everyone, this means making peace with the unknown. If you make peace with the unknown, you are making peace with the true source of the stories you tell. Each story begins unknown to us, but only in its form. A story’s essence, that shapeless trajectory of thought that attracted us, is known to us—if it weren’t, we wouldn’t be able to write it. Resist imitation, then, not so reviewers will praise your originality, not so you might sell more books, but for security. Your originality is your acceptance of the moment, which like it or not is where you are.