Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Here’s an old family story: Once my cousin and her family visited us. I was 7 to her more worldly 9. She wore her long blond hair pulled off to the side in a ponytail and a navy blue beret tilted near one eye. She hadn't been at our house for more than an hour when I pulled my long blond hair into a side ponytail too and dug through the box of dress-ups in my closet until I found a brown velvet beret, which I wore at an angle on my head. I confess my imitation didn't stop there. To complete my ensemble, I donned a sleeveless mock turtleneck t-shirt that looked a lot like the one my cousin was wearing.
Despite my young age at the time, I think I sensed even then that my older cousin might have felt a little smothered by my onslaught of adoration throughout her visit.
Not only did she have to sleep in my room, with its pink walls and rows of dolls with painted-on smiles, but she also had to endure my following her, happy-puppy style, throughout the small one-level house. Alas, there was no stopping me. In my cousin's presence, I was like a small white flower leaning toward the radiant light of her style and verve.
While I'm no longer such a sad imitator, I still enjoy being inspired by someone else's spark - especially when it comes to my work. Some of my writing influences include the ironic parentheticals of Kate Atkinson, the musical wit of Jane Austen's long winding sentences, and the colloquial poetry of Billy Collins. For writers - or anyone - the trick is to relish all the different voices we hear and then try to create a new one that is ours alone, to find a new path. After all, no one wants to spend their whole life following someone else around the house.