Ernest Hemingway said that perfection of style is a writer’s road to salvation. But how does a writer develop a style? Here’s an answer from Tomie dePaola, who has written and illustrated many children’s picture books, the best known of which is Strega Nona:
“When I was a student at Pratt in the 1950s, studying illustration, I remember a fellow student asking one of our instructors, ‘When do we learn about style?’ ‘We won’t learn about style,’ he replied. ‘Style happens naturally. If you keep on working, eventually the way you can and want to express yourself will surface. Meanwhile, do the assignments, listen to the critiques, don’t miss your drawing classes, painting classes, design classes and by all means look at everything. Go to the galleries and the museums. Your own style will surface.’”
Tomie dePaola in “Voices of the Creators” in The Essential Guide to Children’s Books and Their Creators (Houghton Mifflin, 2002), edited by Anita Silvey.
Comment by Janice Harayda:
Tomie dePaola may have been talking about illustration, but his advice applies equally to writing. Many writers try to “find” their style by imitating great writers. But you don’t find a style so much as release it, or allow it to emerge, in the way dePaola describes. If you keep writing long enough, you’ll see what your style is. Imitation may give you ideas about your style could be but won’t provide it for you.
(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.