One Idea, 30 Imitations in Voice

Dissecting the voice of famous writers
January 10, 2022

Screw finding 30 ideas, I'll write ONE idea in 30 different ways. Sounds whacky... but there's a reason. Ideas & voice are separate writing skills. If you stop wrestling original ideas, you can learn to write better, faster... Blasphemy! Isn't "originality" the point? Isn't a cover band a pale imitation? No. For God's sake, the Beatles started out as a cover band playing strip clubs in Germany.

There is value in imitation. A little known paradox on creativity is that "covers" are the best way to discover your inner voice.

How can writers "practice" outside of essays?

"Practice"... it's a foreign word for writers, but athletes have binders full of drills. Think of how soccer players isolate one thing at a time. Dribbling. Passing. Shooting. Defense. Cardio. Sprinting. Corner kicks. But writers? Get on the field, you'll figure it out! Essays are like "scrimmages." Full-on simulations. Is this how we get better? Is this how we undo bad habits?

For the next 30 days, I'll be doing impressions of writers to practice voice.

Deconstructing voice

Think of voice as the fingerprint of a writer. It's singular. It's identity. It's personality on the page. You can read a 50-word passage and instantly know, "Hunter S. Thompson was here," regardless of the subject. But where does voice come from? Our soul? Our belly button? The genie?

  • What if there was a science to voice?
  • What if there were observable patterns in word choice, rhythm, and tone?
  • What if you had to sing from 1,000 voices to discover your own?

Here’s a running list of my imitations: