Why am I imitating authors I admire?

Perhaps because I haven’t learned to trust my own voice, I sometimes find after I’ve written something, that it’s almost an homage to a writer I admire, and not very well done at that. Judging from my writers’ group, I know I’m not alone in this unconscious copying, but will I ever stop?

When you begin to write, you are usually in the throes of admiration for some writer, and whether you will or no, you cannot help copying their style. Often it is not a style that suits you, and so you write badly. But as time goes on you are less influenced by admiration. You still admire certain writers, you may even wish you could write like them, but you know quite well that you can’t. Presumably you have learned literary humility. If I could write like Elizabeth Bowen, Muriel Spark or Graham Green, I should jump to high heaven with delight, but I know that I can’t and it would never occur to me to attempt to copy them.

—Agatha Christie, An Autobiography, 1977


Eileen Williams June 20, 2009 at 10:29 AM  


I'm thrilled to find your new site!! I've reviewed the posts that you've written so far; your thoughts and the author quotes you've compiled. Although I blog and have written a book (unpublished to date), I still don't consider myself a "real writer." I related to each and every insecurity your posts addressed and found it comforting that authors I've long admired held feelings much like my own.

Thank you for researching and bringing these sentiments out in the open through your new blog. I'm certain you will make many writers and writer wannabes (like me) feel much, much better. You've certainly done that for me!

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Wouldn't you love to get advice from  classic women authors on writing and the writer's life? Here I fancifully pose the questions, and the Literary Ladies answer in their own words.

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