If you're looking to find a style, drive Maine's portion of Route 1 until you're somewhere between Machias and Ellsworth. That's where you'll find the style store. You can buy Vonnegut or Austen, McCarthy or Beckett. If you've got the cash and the free time, you can buy Proust. If you're a snappy talker and snazzier dresser, you might be able to persuade the shopkeeper to take you to the back of the store where he keeps Pynchon and Nabokov locked in a safe so they don't run amuck through the shelves, tearing down posters, flinging pages.
Go there. Buy any style that strikes your fancy. By that afternoon, you'll be writing exactly the way you want.
Sometimes writers talk about style as something you can pick up when you buy groceries, something you might stumble upon in the dollar-or-less bin at the thrift store. But style isn't an outfit we don and toss in the laundry at night's end. Style is a body roadmapped with scars and tattoos, the sediment of time spent struggling, failing, and starting over. Style is the house you accidentally build while you're tearing walls down and throwing them in the burn pile. But most important, style is the thing writers struggle against, not toward.
I say writers struggle against style, not because they always do, but because I believe they should. For me, the greatest appeal of both reading and writing is in discovering new ways of seeing the world. But as soon as we lock ourselves into a single style, we pigeonhole ourselves into a single perspective. This leads to the most boring kind of writing, writing that's uninterested in discovering, in learning, in appraising and reappraising the perspective brought to the start. If you end up writing exactly what you set out to write, if you didn't learn anything, what's the point of writing at all?
Creating a style is a matter of revising your perspective over and over again. Style cannot be a fixed approach, a mold we continuously mash things into, whether they fit or not.
Still, we talk about style as if writers achieve, through whatever secret passageway, a style they can use forever, but one of the worst mistakes writers make is refusing to write in new ways. Sure, the old way, the familiar approach is comfortable, easy. But over time, the colors wash out, the edges crinkle, the corners fray. Soon you'll be telling stories on mute, their faces dimmed, their actions hollowed. Soon you'll be a woodcutter who uses a baseball bat to chop down a tree. The thud you hear when bat hits tree is the sound of a style dying.
So sharpen the axe. Buy a chainsaw. Spill a dab of magenta onto the black and white photograph. The point isn't to experiment with style for the sake of it, but to always try to work beyond the horizon you last set, to constantly seek new ways of writing, to test out new approaches, throw away what you don't need, keep what you do, and once you've done that, do it again every time you write.
Bruce Lee urged martial artists to "be like water." He thought practitioners needed to adapt to any situation, rather than using a fixed approach as if all situations were identical. Writers can learn a lot from this approach, I think. Maybe there's a story you want to tell, but each time you begin, you hit a stopping point you can't explain. Maybe you're trying to force an idea into a mold that can never hold it. Maybe you've outgrown your style, but still choose to wear it around, even though the seams are bursting, even though the sleeves don't reach past your elbows.
If you're looking to find a style, maybe the best thing to do is rally against the style you've resigned yourself to. What we call style is the result of a thousand adaptations, and the road to style requires you to constantly and unapologetically seek new boundaries. Style is work. The work never ends.