When I was a college student studying the violin I fell in love with Bach. To this day his set of Unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas is my favorite music ever written for the instrument. My one regret – he only wrote six of them.
Back in the days I was learning these pieces I so wished there were more of them, I even tried composing some myself. What would Bach sound like if he were writing today, I asked myself and proceeded to have a go. With limited success I might add.
Fast forward thirty-odd years and here I am doing the same thing with novel writing. Only this time it’s Alfred Hitchcock I’m emulating.
I have every movie Hitch ever made and have lost count of the number of times I’ve watched his classics: Psycho, The Birds, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Vertigo, etc.
I so wish Hitch was alive today creating more masterpieces I realize I’ve been unconsciously attempting to satisfy my longing for his work by writing those stories myself.
Whether I succeed by others’ standards I can’t say. But imagining my latest work-in-progress as a Hitchcock movie has become the standard by which I judge its potential, its artistic litmus test.
I try to visualize how Hitch would present my story on screen, right down to the lighting and quirky camera angles. If I get to a scene I think Hitch would have cut, I know I need to change or delete it. But if I know I’d be happy watching the movie, I’m confident people will enjoy reading the story. (Hopefully I have more success at this than I did with Bach.)
Is it wrong to emulate the artists we love? I don’t believe so. Copy, yes; emulate, no. In fact I don’t believe any artist can help but be influenced by those they admire. Everything we take in all becomes part of the unconscious ‘compost heap’ from which our own work grows and flowers.
And for emerging artists testing their creative wings, the shoulders of former masters is a great place to leap from.