A couple of months ago while in Austin, Texas, for SXSW, I read a book called Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s a very quick, highly-illustrated read, and I can’t recommend it enough.
The gist of the book is this: artists take inspiration from other artists. People take inspiration from other people. It’s impossible to truly steal someone’s style because you cannot perfectly imitate anything – it will inherently take on your own characteristics.
It’s a liberating book; it basically grants permission to imitate the style and characteristics of people and their work if you like it.
Honestly, I’ve been stealing like an artist for years.
My sense of humor comes from my mother and sister. The format of this email is a hodge podge of formats that I’ve seen from the dozen mailing lists I subscribe to. The way I’ve set up my newsletter onboarding was by directly copying some of the work of Paul Jarvis. My writing style borrows a lot from Seth Godin.
I could go on and on, nearly to the point of attributing every characteristic of myself and my work to someone else. And that’s OK.
By accumulating pieces of others’ and their work, I’ve created a distinct style that is all my own. I’ve also successfully reverse-engineered processes and successful styles that may have taken me years to learn through trial and error (if at all).
If you know something you want to learn, improve, or develop, find someone who is doing it well. Find someone who does or represents that quality, and copy them. You’ll start to develop your own style around that, and maybe eventually you’ll change it completely.
But if you’re just starting out, why reinvent the wheel? (And imitation is the sincerest form of flattery).