A blogging friend had an interesting post on her Facebook timeline yesterday. You type in several paragraphs of something you’ve written. It can be a blog, a letter, a book, it doesn’t matter. An “analyzer” then compares your word choices and writing style to those of famous writers. Then it tells you who you most write like. In fact, that’s what it’s called: “I Write Like“.
Rather than going through tons of documents, I used the first few paragraphs of my blog post from yesterday. Lo and behold, who did it tell me I write like? Whose style is similar to mine? Let me rephrase that. I doubt she’d like to know she writes like me.
Whose style does my style most resemble? At least as far as “I Write Like” is concerned.
None other than one of the most-honoured authors of fiction in recent history. Margaret Atwood. A Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist and environmental activist. Drawing a blank? “The Handmaid’s Tale”. “Cat’s Eye”. “The Blind Assassin”, to name a few of her books.
If it’s not enough that she’s won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Prince of Asturias award for Literature, has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize five times (won once) and has been a finalist for the Governor General’s Award several times, The Economist called her a “scintillating wordsmith” and an “expert literary critic”.
So I should be thrilled right down to my socks, right? Could I be paid a bigger or better compliment then to be told my writing style is like hers? Could I be in better company?
Why am I not jumping up and down? Why am I not calling her publisher as we speak (metaphorically), introducing myself as the next Atwood?
Well … you see … I’m really afraid to say this out loud. I could get stoned to death for saying such a thing. Or at least blacklisted as a writer, forever. I’m taking a real chance here, you know. Okay, okay, now I’ve gone this far. I know, I can’t just leave you hanging. Come on, lean in. Come closer. You don’t think I’m going to shout this from the rafters, do you?
Listen carefully, because I’m only going to say it once. Quietly.
Hard as I’ve tried, and believe me, I have tried, for the life of me I cannot get into her books. They are a very difficult read for me. And I’ve haven’t been able to finish one yet.
There, I’ve said it.
God help me.
Which begs the question. How can I write like an author whose work I can’t read? I ask you. How???
Please tell me. How???
Makes absolutely no sense.
Unless you’re a sadist. Or a cruel prankster.
Now I’m going to have to try to read her books again. How can I not???
You must admit, it’s the kind of twist most writers would kill for. The ultimate example of irony. Out of all the writers in the world, who am I most like? The one whose work I don’t like. Can’t relate to. Can’t follow. Cannot read.
God help me. I’ve said it again.
The joke is, most definitely, on me.
Unbelievable, isn’t it?
Who would I love to be compared to? Maya Angelou, for one. I have read everything she has ever written at least six times, I think. She is not only a mega talented, prolific and powerful poet, playwright and author, she is a magnificent human being as well. To be considered half as good as she is would be a great achievement.
Hold on, hold on, don’t go rushing off, spreading rumours. This does not mean to say I don’t think Margaret Atwood is talented. On the contrary. She is. She’s just not my cup of tea.
My question is, when I finally finish and publish my book, “What if I’m not anyone’s cup of tea, either?”
Then again, maybe I have nothing to worry about. I just tried it again. Used different paragraphs from yesterday’s blog post. This time I was told I write like Gertrude Stein. A friend of mine also tried it a couple of times. She took a few paragraphs from my blog post yesterday. Yes, the very same story I used. I’m not sure which paragraphs she used, but it was the same story. The analyzer told her she writes like Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club). When she tried it the first time, it told her she writes like William Shakespeare.
Perhaps I’m making “much ado about nothing”.