In a recent e-mail exchange, Brian Clark from Copyblogger said my writing style was similar to his. And in a variety of comments, readers of this blog also have mentioned my style.
Years ago, I thought a lot about writing style, probably because I didn’t have one. These days, I don’t think about my style at all, though apparently it has evolved into something unique.
When did that happen? And how did I do it?
Here’s what I think: You can’t develop a writing style on purpose. You can mimic someone else’s style. But you can’t put on a style like you put on a hat.
Developing your style comes naturally from developing your writing skill. When you’re a novice, you bask in your own words. Your writing is affected, verbose, and shallow. You have little to say, but like a cat walking on piano keys, you love the random noise.
As you mature (if you mature), you become smarter and wiser. You have more to say and a greater desire to communicate something important to others. You think more about what you’re saying and less about how you’re saying it. If you develop into a good writer, you become obsessed with clarity. You edit ruthlessly. Over time, your writing becomes natural, crisp, and deeper in meaning.
In other words, as you stop trying to create a style, you create one. It just happens.
When I look back at things I wrote years ago, I’m shocked at how different it sounds. My writing today is leaner and more clear. How about you? How has your style evolved? Do you think about style as you write, or do you think about what you’re trying to say? Have you reached the point where you can appreciate what Strunk and White were trying to tell writers in The Elements of Style?