…flows out! A crucial step in becoming a good writer is, I think, to be well-influenced. Unless the writing of others, the teaching of others, has influenced you, you won’t have done the necessary work of finding your own voice. That may seem contradictory, but it is in conversation with others that you find your voice. The better those others are at challenging you to think more clearly, the more capable you become of articulating your own thoughts. Get over being ‘original’! You owe so many people already, just by virtue of being a Catholic depending on (literally: hanging from) over two-thousand years of thinking, that nothing you’ll come up with is probably very new!
What you do bring to your writing is your own, unique, unrepeatable personhood. What will be said through you is said in your own way. Many writers hesitate to do much reading, thinking it might lead to ‘copying’ (that greatest of all kindergarten infractions!) or might muddy their own clarity. But you will write better if you’ve placed yourself in the great stream of thought, even if some of what you pass on is clearly derivative. I think writers should be the most avid readers. Here are a few of my ‘upstream’ teachers (my hope is that I’ll make them proud, even though most of them have not known me as their student in a personal, teacher-is-still-alive sort of way!):
G.K. Chesterton; Flannery O’Connor; Dorothy Sayers; Fr. James Schall; Fr. Luigi Giussani; C.S. Lewis; Josef Pieper
Who has influenced your writing, your thinking, your being???