April 19, 2012

The Impersonation v. The Influence

Some artists resist the influence of other artists.
Some actors deny opportunities to study other actors playing the same role.
Some vocalists choose not to listen to other performers who share their genre.
We artists fear we will lose our own voice among the chorus of voices in our heads.

But I propose an alternative. What about choosing to study others in our field, that we may identify the very best of what they do and allow this to influence our own creation?

I read lots of people's stuff. Because lots of people have written great stuff, and my immersion into their thinking, their skills, their tendencies, can only improve my own craft.

(Unless I read bad writing. At which point I can still learn quite a bit.)

My brother recently told me about an audition he observed. The vocalist brought a strong impersonation of Ethel Merman to her performance.

The director said to her, "I hear that Ethel in there, and she has a great sound. But what I really want is a first rate you, not a second rate Ethel Merman."

If I read the words of my favorites and try to impersonate their voice on my page, then I am sure to lose myself. But if I invite them to influence my voice, my writing, my ideas, then perhaps I can fine tune the recipe for the first rate Tricia.

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