Ray Bradbury as a Mentor
Before recently, I had only read Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. And I was forced to. In high school. In 8th Grade I was forced to read bits of his Dandelion Wine. I thought it was dumb. Incidentally, in the past few months I have chosen to read Bradbury's Martian Chronicles and his essays on creativity as well as the works I have read in years past. Themes and mannerisms have bubbled to the surface that can serve me (or any writer) as inspiration or guidance.
Imitation: It is ok. In this sense, I differentiate imitation from copycat. One story in Martian Chronicles comes to mind is titled Usher Two. Bradbury takes plot elements and themes from Edgar Allen Poe's tales of horror (whom Bradbury will admit he tried to imitate early in his own career) and weaves them into a new story.
Exploration: Try new things. Get creative. Bradbury did two things here that set him apart from others. He had a word association journal. He sat down and wrote down one word, one after another. He would pull from this list several times over his career for inspiration for his works. Secondly, Bradbury did a great job conveying the perfect imagery. He did this by being oddly real, be it mentioning the blue marbled sky or a man storking his legs.
Honesty: Write from the heart. You can't please everyone through your writing. Also, you will make some people angry. However, with over 6 billion people on this Earth, someone will end up relating to your writing. Writing what you know and what you feel will make your craft feel authentic and gain you credibility.