Sunday, December 11, 2011

How William Zinsser Found His Voice

In his weekly column (November 2), wordsmith William Zinsser offers a fascinating autobiographical tour of his life as a writer. In his youth, his models were the sportswriters of the New York newspapers. Later, E.B. White (Strunk & White) served as his model. But it was not until the 1970s when he was teaching at Yale that he found insight in Alec Wilder’s “American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900-1950.” That book and his teaching experience freed him to find his own authentic voice, which we see in his well regarded book, “On Writing Well.” He writes:

So it came about that I found my true style when I was in my mid-50s. Until then it more probably reflected the person I wanted to be perceived as—the youthful and witty columnist and critic. But that person was never really me. Not until I became a teacher and had no agenda except to be helpful did my style become integrated with my personality and my character.

So there’s hope for us all.


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