According to The Art of War for Writers, “The idea is not to try to become an exact copy of the writer you admire. Rather, you are incorporating rhythms and possibilities into your own inner writing.” The book recommends copying down memorable passages and reading them aloud to feel the cadence of the words as part of your personal writing improvement program. I love this idea.
As my dream writing self, I would borrow the soulful honesty of Cheryl Strayed and combine it with the expert narrative weaving of Audrey Niffenegger and Jeffrey Eugenides, who both bring their stories to life through the eyes of unusual, but still relatable characters. Below you’ll find some quotes from their works that capture the gifts I would most like to cultivate in my own writing. Maybe there are better examples, but I always lend out my most beloved books, so I had to rely on Goodreads.
Which authors best embody your ideal writing self? I know the goal is to be unique, but there is something to be said for slowing down to examine what it is you most enjoy about your favorite writers. I’d love to hear who you admire. And, who knows, maybe you’ll inspire me to add a few more books to that growing pile on my dresser.
Cheryl Strayed: Words that pierce your being.
“It is not so incomprehensible as you pretend, sweet pea. Love is the feeling we have for those we care deeply about and hold in high regard. It can be light as the hug we give a friend or heavy as the sacrifices we make for our children. It can be romantic, platonic, familial, fleeting, everlasting, conditional, unconditional, imbued with sorrow, stoked by sex, sullied by abuse, amplified by kindness, twisted by betrayal, deepened by time, darkened by difficulty, leavened by generosity, nourished by humor and “loaded with promises and commitments” that we may or may not want or keep.” – Dear Sugar
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.” – Dear Sugar
“Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write. Keep writing and quit your bitching. Your book has a birthday. You don’t know what it is yet.” – Dear Sugar
Audrey Niffenegger: Intricately woven narrative with love at its core.
“We are walking down the street holding hands. There is a playground at the end of the block, and I run to the swings and I climb on and Henry takes the one next to me facing the opposite direction. And we swing higher and higher passing each other, sometimes in synch and sometimes streaming past each other so fast that it seems we are going to collide. And we laugh and laugh, and nothing can ever be sad, no one can be lost or dead or far away. Right now we are here and nothing can mar our perfection or steal the joy of this perfect moment.” – Time Traveler’s Wife
“The hardest lesson is Clare’s solitude. Sometimes I come home and Clare seems kind of irritated; I’ve interrupted some train of thought, broken into the dreary silence of her day. Sometimes I see an expression on Clare’s face that is like a closed door. She has gone inside the room of her mind and is sitting there knitting or something. I’ve discovered that Clare likes to be alone.” – Time Traveler’s Wife
Jeffrey Eugenides: The world seen through distinct but somehow familiar eyes.
“We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them.” – Virgin Suicides
“I was thinking how amazing it was that the world contained so many lives. Out in these streets people were embroiled in a thousand different matters, money problems, love problems, school problems. People were falling in love, getting married, going to drug rehab, learning how to ice-skate, getting bifocals, studying for exams, trying on clothes, getting their hair-cut and getting born. And in some houses people were getting old and sick and were dying, leaving others to grieve. It was happening all the time, unnoticed, and it was the thing that really mattered.” – Middlesex