You’ve got a style unique to you. A fashion style. A work style. A social style. So many types of styles!
My question for you is: do you know what your style is? And, if you do, have you learned to embrace it?
These are some questions I’ve been answering for myself over the past few weeks. With the answer to my writing style and the acceptance of it have come freedom and clarity I didn’t expect. Maybe you’ll discover the same!
How did I find my style?
Let me share what started all of this inner reflection. Last week I read a great book—Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash.
As I was saying, it really is a great book and one that falls in a similar genre with my upcoming novel, Any Good Thing. Southern fiction tends to have a certain cadence and specific character traits and themes. Ron Rash does an outstanding job with all of these. His prose is lyrical. His descriptions paint the setting around you as you read, and his dialogue speaks from the pages of his books. He is an outstanding storyteller.
On the heels of those thoughts came this inner turmoil: “I am nowhere near this caliber of writing. My prose isn’t this beautiful. Maybe my dialogue isn’t this good. What if my characters aren’t deep enough? He leaves so much open-ended with their pasts and futures, but does it well. I don’t know if I did it right. I may not be a good storyteller after all. What on earth am I doing thinking I can be an author?”
You see where I’m going with this thought process, right?
Fear. Self-doubt. Depths of despair.
But then my little brain did something it may not have done a few years ago. It started whispering other thoughts, barely audible at first. I finished the book and started another one. This one also southern fiction, but by a different author—Tim Gautreaux. He writes beautifully as well. His prose may not lilt quite as much as Ron Rash’s does, but the comparisons and the pictures he paints are so common, so every-day, that they are brilliant and beautiful in their own way. I’m currently reading his novel The Clearing. Last year, I read a collection of his short stories, Signals. I love his slice-of-life stories and his matter-of-fact narrative. He reminds me of Mark Twain in many ways.
These two authors couldn’t be more different in style, but I love them both equally because at the heart of their books are stories, worthy stories. They are stories of people and places—all commonplace and ordinary—told in extraordinary ways. Two very different ways, I might add.
So, as I broke through the first few chapters of this second of two similar novels, that quiet thought grew louder until I finally heard, understood and then embraced it.
My writing style is unique to me. That style does not make my book worthy or “good.” What makes it those things is the story itself. My style is what makes the story mine. My style is what I own and do not share with another soul. My style is what will turn some readers off. It’s also what others will love so much it will cause them to return for the next book and the next and all the ones tucked safely away in my writer heart, waiting patiently for their turns to beat out into the literary world.
When I pen my stories, I strive to write using all the senses. I love lyrical prose for descriptions and lovely words that don’t get as much use as they deserve, but I don’t use as many big words as many literary fiction writers do. My writing is somewhere between an old-school approach and contemporary. I don’t know that I fit in some of the boxes out there. I certainly couldn’t squeeze myself into one genre and would be miserable if I tried.
I may not be able to concisely or completely describe my writing style right now, but I now know I have one and I’m embracing it. Thinking about a future of polishing and developing that style excites me, and I’m no longer in the depths of despair!
Embracing a style is one of those little mountaintop experiences that creatives cling to when they appear because the valleys are deep and the climb is steep, but these peaks keep us moving forward.
What is your style, friend?
Maybe you’re not a writer. So, what is your reading style? Do you prefer drawn-out, poetic descriptions … what some call purple prose? Would you rather read straightforward, simply told stories? Do you want a story to come to you through the thoughts of one character? Would you rather multiple narrators or one master storyteller spinning the yarn for you?
What about in life? Here’s one every person needs to answer—what is your work style? Sure, some jobs are pretty static in what they require; however, the way you approach your work requires your own style. Maybe you’ve been discontent in your cubicle for so long, but you don’t know why. Perhaps you’re trying to copy everyone else’s style or the style your company has tucked you into. How about you give your own methods and approach a shot this week? See what happens. You might just be surprised!
Here are two more style revelations, just for fun!
I’ll give you two more personal style examples I’ve discovered recently. The first, I’m still trying to figure out—my fashion style. I’ve thought for a long time that I don’t have one, but as I was folding clothes the other day I pondered it. Sure, I’ve got a mixed wardrobe because I’ve been blessed with many hand-me-down gifts and rarely shop for myself. When I do shop, I hit the sale racks; so I limit my choices off the bat. As I really thought about it, though, I do have a style in there somewhere. If I had to name it at the moment, I’d say practical and comfortable; but I’m going to keep digging because I think I’ve got something hidden in a tucked away fashionable corner of my brain. I will give you one slightly better description through the name of one of my favorite shows—Grey’s Anatomy. Take that as you will. It makes sense to me!
On to the second style. This one ties back in to my writing. You know how, when you’re single, all your friends ask what your “type” is? I could never answer that. I dated blonds, brunettes; some tall, some short, mostly average height. They all had varying interests and profession choices. But, as I reflected the other day on the characters I tend to write, I realized I most certainly do have a “type.”
Bearded, scarred and a little rough around the edges.
It turns out I married my “type” and didn’t even realize it!
What’s your style? Do you have all the styles in your life figured out or are you still trying to find them? Have you embraced the ones you do know? What style are you struggling with today?
I’d love to hear all about your reading styles. Who are some of your favorite authors? What is it about their writing that really grabs you?
Writers, have you figured out your style yet? Did discovering that and embracing it teach you anything unexpected? How did you figure it out?