I came across an interesting quote on the topic. Austrian filmmaker Götz Spielmann was quoting Jean Cocteau (I read an English translation of a German translation of the original French):
"One must absolutely strive not to have a personal style. One must not, however, succeed."
So, what does that quote mean?
According to him, it is critical to develop a personal style, but it is equally critical that it isn't forced. Experimentation and exploration of a variety of styles, media, motifs, etc. are important. In the process, a personal style will eventually emerge. Let it emerge, don't resist it.
I'd like to list a few things to consider regarding this idea:
- If you always do the same thing the same way, your work will become predictable and boring - you will lose interest and so will your audience
- If you limit your options by choosing not to try new things, you may never discover the very medium or style that you love the most or is most suited to your inner voice
- As you expand your possibilities through exploration, you should keep what works for you and abandon what doesn't
- Keeping what does work for you is extremely important - don't abandon what works in your determination to avoid a style
- Don't force what isn't working for you - this applies to both finding a style and avoiding a style
- Don't exhibit everything you do - consider it research and development - consider it continuing education
- Exhibit only the best work - period
- Look for the common threads in your work - your voice and style will emerge with time
- Market the common threads - this is the message you should communicate
- Once you find your voice - your style - cling to it
- Even still, continue to push yourself, experiment and grow - your work will continue to be fresh if you do