When George Saunders had a book signing for Tenth of December he had some choice advice for those who have tried to emulate their idols and failed (much as he found himself with Ernest Hemingway).
“You go up the mountain of your idol,” he explained, “but when you get to the top, you realize they’re already there, and that mountain is never going to belong to you. So, you go do your own thing and it’s more of a shit-pile than a mountain at first, but it’s yours. It’s your shit pile. And that’s not nothing.”
Saunders followed this up by encouraging us to think about our “natural modes” in order to infuse our writing with our own unique energy. For example, think about how you are when you’re hanging out drinking in a bar with your friends. Are you a naturally funny person? Then maybe it would be easier for you to write something humorous rather than trying to force yourself to pen some verbose, elitist, nihilistic manifesto because you think that’s more ‘legitimate’ for some reason. “You can’t run from who you are,” Saunders said. “Not your brain, not your inclinations, or your experience. So accept your shit – run toward it, use it.”