The past couple of days, I had this bit of AWOLNATION's "Kill Your Heroes" playing in my head,
"I say ya kill your heroes and fly, fly, baby don't cry."
This was sparked by an article talking about the prolific British automotive writer LJK Setright. The author reflected on the times he talked with Setright and about his traits such as the Pioneer cassette player taking the place of a CD player. But towards the end of this piece, a line made me stop dead in my place. The line was,
"In a way I wish I hadn't met LJK Setright – or even ever read him – because he exposed so many of today's car journalists for the one-dimensional pretenders that they are."
Many of us in the automotive writing field have vast dreams of being something to the level of LJK Setright, David E. Davis, Jeremy Clarkson…I could go on. These are people who have a way with words to draw vast landscapes and stories to make the reader feel like they are a part of this story. But with this comes the problem of trying to copy/emulate a writer.
Now I'm not saying copying/emulating a writer that you admire is a bad thing at all. For many of us, its how we begin our writing career. We take someone who we think is an amazing writer and try to deconstruct and put into our own words. But there comes a point of when we have to figure out which is our own voice and the one we're using to impersonate.
Take for instance Jeremy Clarkson. Whether you think he is the second coming of the automotive writer Christ or a complete idiot, he has moved the automotive writing world a lot. On the plus side, Clarkson has shown the proper use of wordplay and metaphors can make anyone pay attention to a car review. The negative is when everybody thinks Clarkson whenever you say your an automotive writer; making seemingly rash generalizations about everything. It also means that many of us in the automotive writing realm seem to put in horrible metaphors, terrible puns, and number of other no-nos that make many cringe. I'll fully admit that I'm guilty of many of these.
But why do we take on the voice of another writer? Because trying to figure out our own voice is very difficult task, one that can take some many years for it to be found. But there's also the presence of where do not like the voice we have. We might be very good at talking how 'x' car is really good at being a smooth cruiser, but that isn't interesting. We rather talk about how 'x' car handles the corner amazingly. But we are only living in this false reality, pretending to be something we're not.
Trying to become one of these giants of the automotive writing world is one of those dreams many of us have, but few actually reach. Maybe if automotive writers as a whole look into our souls and try to figure out our voice, maybe then we can realize that we all have something to bring to the table and not be an impersonator.
William Maley also writes for Cheers & Gears and Autobytel.com, as well as on V&R on occasion.