When we first start our creative journey, we are impressed by what other masters living or dead are doing. Not only impressed but inspired. Not only inspired but actually we want to become somewhat similar to them.
When I started to improvise, I wanted to do it like the great Bach. I even memorized a few of my pieces to the degree that they really sounded in that style. What came out was not really like Bach, more like his student, Krebs.
When I became fascinated with Seth Godin for his blogging ideas, I tried to write in the style of those vague philosophical posts for a while. I even marveled how he manages to write 3 posts a day, publishes only one and discards the other two (or so he said in one of the podcast interviews).
When I read a book “Choose Yourself” by James Altucher, I tried to write 2000+ word posts every morning. I only lasted a week or less.
When cartoonist Hugh Macleod came into my radar, I tried to draw some wiggly-looking shapes, like he does in his cartoons on the back of the business cards.
When I was introduced to the works of cartoonist Lynda Barry, I tried to draw some square four-panel comic strips like she did with her Marlys comics.
When I saw and listened to Gary Vaynerchuk videos and podcasts, I tried to create multiple videos documenting my day. It was exhausting.
Here’s the thing. None of the above masters live in my shoes. I can’t be one of them because there is already one Seth Godin and he’s still busy writing his blog posts every day. I can’t be James Altucher, Hugh Macleod, Lynda Barry or Gary Vaynerchuk either because they are still creating their art.
And we only see the results of their art online, we don’t know what goes into making it. We don’t know how many people or systems are working for these big gurus.
The same goes for improvisations in the Bach style. It didn’t feel like it was my voice, something that is true. It felt forced.
Then I relaxed. I wanted to use my own voice and started improvising something which came naturally to me. Sure, it might remind of some French modal music of 20th century masters but in general, I don’t copy anyone with my music. I just use the musical materials in the way I know best.
With blog posts I try to share things that I notice, things that I do, things that bother me. One thing that Gary Vaynerchuk teaches still resonates with me - document, not create. But I don’t have to do it the way he does, I can find my own style that feels comfortable to me.
Do I regard my previous creative experiences as a mistake? No, not at all. They are part of the creative process too. We are all inspired and influenced by some creators.
To be inspired is good. But to be envious of their achievements or disappointed in our efforts is counterproductive.
We have to find our own path. I know, it’s scary. I know, it feels like we don’t know what we’re doing.
But it’s the only way. To combine many people’s ideas and produce something that is yours and yours alone. Yes, your style will change because your experiences and influences will change. This is OK.
Don’t even worry about the style. When you draw, nobody can create a line like you can. This is your voice, right?
When you write, write what you know.
Like the great Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”