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The Mastery Path for Writers: a new way to learn the skills you need

Lesson 20. Train Your Imagination through Imitation

One of the main ways that humans learn is through imitation. Young children imitate the behavior and speech of their parents and older children. In the past, apprentices in various fields imitated the masters. In the present, aspiring athletes and musicians find models to imitate. Writers, too, can use this exceptionally valuable learning tool. Here’s one way:

First, choose a piece of writing that is, for you, a model of excellence, a piece that makes you say, “I’d like to write like that!” This must be your own choice, and not something you think you “should” like. If the romance novel is your chosen genre, then pick a writer in that genre whose work you love. If you want to write free verse, then pick a writer whose poems seem good to you. If the work you’ve chosen is long, select some part of it to work with.

Now, read through the selection, using your imagination. Write down the pictures that are made in your imagination, in order. Next, go through this list of images and note which sense or senses each one uses. Now write an imitation of your model by writing something that presents a series of images in which each image imitates, in order, the kind of image your chosen writer used. So, for example, if your model starts out with a three visual images, then a line of dialogue (auditory image), your imitation will do the same thing.

What happened when you imitated your model of excellence? What did you notice? What will help you do this practice again?

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