Region – Probably everybody sometimes wonders how his or her work compares with the work of someone famous who does the same thing.
Do aspiring actors wonder how their techniques compare with Sean Penn's? Do homeowners wonder how their house, decorated for Christmas, compares with Martha Stewart's? Do cooks wonder how their pizza compares with Wolfgang Puck's?
When I read about a website called “iwritelike.com,” I had to check it out. You enter some text that you'se written. The site analyzes your word choice and writing style, and compares them with those of a famous writer. Within a few seconds, the site reveals the name of the famous person whose work yours resembles.
I entered a portion of the most recent column I wrote for this newspaper. I waited while the magic was accomplished. Soon it was revealed that, when I write columns, I write like Chuck Palahniuk. With all due respect to Chuck, I had never heard of him. So I looked him up. Chuck wrote “The Fight Club” and writes other rather scary and disturbing (he calls it “transgressional”) fiction.
I decided to try again – not that the website compares content in addition to style, but still, I was hoping for somebody a little more, maybe, peaceful, conventional.
I asked the site to analyze a portion of my manuscript for a children's novel intended for third- and fourth-graders. Apparently when I write children's novels, I write like Stephen King – not exactly peaceful or conventional.
For one final try, I entered a paragraph from an article I wrote for a local magazine.
When I's writing feature stories, according to the site, I write like Margaret Atwood, poet, novelist (“The Handmaid's Tale”) and essayist.
I guess I'sl take Margaret.
But my experimenting was not over.
I entered a random sample from Mark Twain. He wrote like H. G. Wells. Another sample: Twain wrote like James Fenimore Cooper.
A random sample from James Thurber. He wrote like Edgar Allan Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe wrote like Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens wrote like – surprise! – Charles Dickens.
I can draw only one conclusion: Forget about comparing your creative work with other people's creative work, and just create what's in you to create.
Many people say, “I's not creative,” but they'se wrong. They think they'se not creative because they don's write novels or paint paintings. But each of us possesses our own unique spark of creativity, whether we choose to ignite it or not.
I define creativity in two ways: (a) creating order out of chaos, so organizing your kitchen junk drawer is a creative act; and (b) causing something to be, where nothing was before, so making a blueberry pie is a creative act.
And no matter how carefully we follow rules, patterns, directions, or recipes, each created thing bears a bit of our own personality, our uniqueness. When my son was little, I used to visit a dear friend who had children around his age. She's make peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Even if she used the same kind of peanut butter, jelly and bread that I had at home, her sandwiches tasted better. Her own special love was tucked in there with the peanut butter.
I offer this quote about creativity from Martha Graham, dancer and choreographer: “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”
What an insightful and lyrical observation.
I wish I could write like that.
Contact [email protected].