Emulation

Years ago I read an interview with Dan Wieden. He said for years he’d been trying to write like Whitman (or was it Faulkner?) and hadn’t got it right. Maybe Wieden’s new Levi’s campaign fulfills that desire in some small way.

Today, I came across the I Write Like site which purportedly analyzes writing and compares it to other literary greats. A few paragraphs from one of our AE’s documents came up with Arthur C. Clarke. Repbulicans and Tea Partiers might be thrilled to know Obama’s Inauguration Speech came up as being George Orwellian. Text from a Sarah Palin speech I found online might have been penned by Dan Brown (minus the cliffhangers). Here’s what I received after plugging in a block of text from my journal:

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I’ve never read any of his work. I’ll have to swing by Barnes & Noble tonight. Any recommendations?

My point in bringing this up is that it’s good to emulate. It’s good to have heroes. It’s good to try to write or art direct or crack jokes or present to clients or play bass or start companies in the same way that some other great person is able to. Not forever. Just until you’re able to find your own voice. (And we’ve got plenty of time to practice finding our own voices. I just read this morning that Carl Sandburg didn’t become famous until he published “Chicago” at age 36.)

Who do you write like?

7 thoughts on “Emulation

  1. One of the assignments I give for my long copy class (and my fiction-writing class, when I get to teach that one) is to hand out a long-copy ad. I then have everyone pick three different writers and rewrite the ad in the style of those writers. You get some interesting results, and it forces you to focus on what gives a writer his/her voice–word choice, rhythm, sentence structure, etc. It's always a good exercise to try to write like somebody else.

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  2. I was also going to recommend A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, but people got there already. Much of DFW's work is hard to get into, but that one is pretty accessible.

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