In college, I took an introductory creative-writing course one semester (from the professor who gave me the quote in the post title). One of our first assignments was to take a short piece of writing that we admired, such as a scene from a movie, and write a similar piece in the same style.
For my model, I chose a scene from a movie that involved an intense, emotional argument between two brothers. In my imitation, it became a scene in which a store owner was watching his uninsured building burn down while stubbornly rebuffing all the efforts of a friend who desperately wanted to help him.
Even though I'd started my writing career by imitating stories I'd liked as a kid, I hadn't done it for a while. I was surprised at how much this exercise intrigued me. If I do say so myself, I thought I did fairly well at capturing similar emotions between my characters.
During the Renaissance, apprentice artists would learn important painting techniques by copying the works of masters. It's funny how today we get all bent out of shape over one writer copying another. Of course, we don't want to plagiarize or break copyright laws—that would be bad! But if you think about it, when a person learns a new skill, the process almost always involves mimicking someone who already knows how to do that thing:
Babies learn to talk by replicating (more or less 😄) the sounds they hear older children and adults make.
When teaching children to read and write, a teacher usually first writes a letter on the board and tells the children what sound it makes, then has them repeat the sound. Then the teacher might have the children trace dotted outlines to practice writing that letter.
In a how-to video, we watch what the presenter does and listen to their explanations, and then we copy their actions.
So the next time you're feeling stuck, try mimicking some writing you admire. It can help you learn some new techniques to incorporate into your own work.
P.S. Have you checked out my book yet? It'd make a great Christmas-in-July gift for your favorite yarnaholic. 😁
(Thanks to Ugur Akdemir for sharing their work on Unsplash.)