The same is true in my writing life. In grammar school, high school, and college, I learned that writing had a lot of rules, and a little bit about how to follow them. However, I didn’t really learn to write until I started imitating the writers I admire: the sentences of James Galvin, the paragraphs of Brian Doyle, the organization of Lawrence Weschler.
These, and so many more – Didion, Lee, Sanders, Bishop – have been my unwitting, ever generous teachers. Slowing down to study their choices, to copy whole passages, to adopt their voices and write around in them for a while . . . this is how I developed whatever craftsmanship I can claim.
This tutorial never finishes. When a sentence catches my breath, or an article’s structure pulls me deeper and deeper into the author’s thinking, I work to uncover how the effect was achieved, then find myself days and weeks later echoing the technique in my own writing. In this way, through the appreciative mimicry of others, I keep learning what the rules make possible, and how to wield them in ways that clarify my thinking and – hopefully – engage my reader.
Virtual Writing Center