Until we figure out who we are, we are always going to be an imitation of those whom we admire. While emulating our heroes and mentors is not necessarily a bad thing, it always falls short of the original. We must first find our voice in order for us to break away from merely being good at something to being great.
I remember finding my voice as a writer. It was my second semester of graduate school and the long paper I turned in to my adviser was not the strung-together researched quotes with personal commentary woven in. For the first time in my English-writing career I had something to say in my own voice and the research quotes became a distance secondary focus. I noticed a difference in my writing and so did my teacher who wrote, “congratulations you’ve found your voice!” in bold red ink on the cover of the report.
The same process is true for singers, painters, doctors, designers, architects, managers, programmers and most professions. Greatness happens when you stop imitating your inspiration du jour and allow all your professional influences, life experiences, and individual talents to come together in your craft. When that happens, you’re no longer a copy, but an original.
Some discover their voices early in life, while others spend a lifetime imitating. Don’t get me wrong, a good imitation is not a bad thing, but it will never be a masterpiece.
Where are you in your journey in discovering your own voice?