Trying on someone else’s writing

I’ve just learned a fascinating fact about Hunter S. Thompson while doing some research for my own book: according to his obituary in the New York Times (following his suicide in 2005), in his early journalistic days:

‘He used to type out pages from “The Great Gatsby,” just to get the feeling, he said, of what it was like to write that way.’

I think that’s fascinating: in the course of developing his own inimitable style, he literally typed out verbatim someone else’s work, just to get the feeling of having those words flow through his fingers. It’s a great reminder that if you want to write well, you need to read well. And reassuring too that if you feel in thrall to the style of your current hero, it may be just what you need to help you reach the style that’s all your own in time. 

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