I Write Like Whom…?

Has it ever happened that you’ve been reading a book—a lot of it in a relatively short period of time—and you find yourself adopting, whether consciously or unconsciously, the author’s writing style in some of your thoughts?

I’ve found that a couple of times. Last summer when I raced my way through Death By Living, my internal monologue started sounding, sometimes, like N. D. Wilson. While spending this week gulping down Persuasion as part of an English course, I’ve noticed the occasional Austenesque fragment in my brain.

It makes sense really. It’s like visiting friends in another country and coming home with a tinge of their accent, or starting to use a word that a friend or family member often uses.

So since I have had Austen on the brain, I thought I’d try my hand at a little bit of imitation….

It was some moments before Mary had gathered her thoughts sufficiently to leave the house, but when she had, she wasted no time in beginning the short walk to call on Mrs R–, an elegant and sensible young woman with whom she was acquainted.

Her eyes scanned the surrounding fields as she walked, but her thoughts, it must be confessed, were elsewhere, and of a nature to absorb her attention so fully that it was a wonder she kept on the right course.

She was thinking of the hat that she had seen in the shop window, but which she had reluctantly refrained from purchasing. Now, however, she began to regret having submitted to her better judgment, for what, she asked herself, is money for, if not to be spent?—A question which has no doubt often arisen in the minds of those whose sense is even less plentiful than their money.  

After writing this, I had the brainwave of copying the above text into I Write Like for some computer somewhere to analyse it and I had the satisfaction of being told that I write like Jane Austen.

Which, by the by, isn’t what it tells me when I insert a paragraph of my more normal writing! After trying out my Austen paragraphs, I copied a section of what I would consider to be good writing from a previous blog post of mine and was told that I write like Cory Doctorow. That doesn’t mean anything to me.

Then I tried a paragraph I liked from another post and was told I write like Leo Tolstoy.

At least I know who he is.

I take both of the above with a large pinch of salt, as this website and its method of analysis certainly has limitations! But I am pleased to have got its stamp of approval on my Austen imitation.

Writing style is quite a fascinating thing…. An author’s own particular flavour. Bite, and it tastes like Lewis. Or Dickens. Or Austen. I’ve thought more than once about blogging about different writing styles and trying to figure out how various authors do what they do–what it is that makes Austen, for example, sound like Austen–but it would definitely take time and effort, so I’m loathe to make a commitment about doing so! We’ll see.

In the meantime, perhaps I should try to hone my write-like-Austen skills. Should all other sources of income fail, who knows what millions may await me in churning out all the novels Jane Austen would doubtless have written had she lived longer.

But perhaps I’m getting carried away….



Last month I followed a link from Tim Challies to an article in which the author described how he will choose a book of the Bible and read it and read it and read it again over the course of a couple months. He was saying it is a wonderful way to really understand and be changed by the Bible.

That made particular sense to me, because at that time I was studying half a dozen of Shakespeare’s sonnets. I read them and read them and read them again over the course of a week and I could see that repeated readings could bring new insights.

And of course I wasn’t just skimming my eyes over the sonnets while my mind was relaxing on a comfy sofa somewhere. I was actively looking for rhyme and rhythm and other literary techniques. I was studying. So it makes sense that it would be the same when following this idea of immersing oneself in a book of the Bible. It would take an engaged brain to notice themes and keywords and gain a better understanding of the book.

It’s a case of paying attention. Of noticing the details. Of digging deeper.

I know it works with Shakespeare. I’m willing to believe it works with the Bible too!

And then there’s something else….

In Crazy Busy, Kevin DeYoung asks (and I’m quoting from memory here, but I think I’ve got it right), “How many moments of pain are wasted because we never sat still enough to learn from them?”

And Caroline Weber, in the context of writing a spiritual memoir, has this to say:

1.  Pay attention to your life

 You just can’t make this stuff up! As Frederick Buechner proclaims, “Pay attention. As a summation of all that I have had to say as a writer, I would settle for that.” I think this is particularly true for a memoirist. journal like crazy, record details, look for the story. We often only recognize the importance of details, as C. S. Lewis once said, in retrospect. Paying attention to God’s handiwork in our lives allows for the details to unfold in wonder and significance as you notice them, meditate upon them, or begin to string them together.

I’ve jumped topics here, I know. But there is a connection!

Life goes by so quickly. So many words have passed my eyes this week alone, whether on the page or on the internet, whether skimmed or read with care. So many interactions with other people, so many conversations of varying degrees of importance. How many thoughts have journeyed through my mind this week? I really don’t know, but I’ll hazard a guess there were a lot.

I won’t remember a lot of what I’ve thought about this week. I’ll forget a lot of what I heard and a lot of what I saw.

That’s inevitable.

But some of it should be remembered. Some things deserve a little more attention.  Some events should be reflected on, remembered, learned from, treasured. So should some words, whether spoken or written.

I read someone say somewhere (case in point of too much information!) that attention is the most valuable commodity in this day and age. I think that was in reference to our interactions with other people, and that’s certainly true. But it’s also true that we should pay attention to the Word. That we should, as DeYoung and Weber highlight, pay attention to what’s going on in our lives.

I’m an expert at skimming the surface, whether it’s a book or the Bible or the events of my life. And sometimes skimming the surface is all that is necessary or all that is possible. But I’d like to have more of an eye for detail, I’d like mental muscles that can dig deeper, and I’d like more of a habit of reflection.

And I think that this habit of reflection and attention and an eye for detail, whether it’s studying a sonnet or reading the Bible or paying attention to one’s life, yields riches that would otherwise be passed by.

New Year, Same God

From Sara Teasdale’s Winter Stars:

Years go, dreams go, and youth goes too,

The world’s heart breaks beneath its wars,

All things are changed, save in the east

 The faithful beauty of the stars.

Isn’t that beautiful? Sad, but beautiful.

But “the faithful beauty of the stars” doesn’t give really comfort me at the start of a new year. (Are you with me on that one?)

This is more hopeful:

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world,

even from everlasting to everlasting,

thou art God….

It is the unchanging, “faithful beauty” of God that brings security. (Or at least it should….)

And we can pray:

So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom…. 


Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us:

and establish thou the work of our hands upon us;

yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

I thought 2013 was going to be a quiet, uneventful year.

I was wrong.

There have been some hard times indeed, but there has been rich blessing even in the troubles.

Undaunted by my previous inaccuracies, like any good weather forecaster I have predictions for this year too. But I certainly don’t have the script for “Sarah’s life in 2014”.  God is the only One who knows all that 2014 will hold, and He’s the only One who needs to know.

Me? I guess I better just take a deep breath, try not to scream too loudly when the rollercoaster plunges, and laugh when I get off at the other end.

Happy new year!