Happy New Year Futurists! I hope your 2015 kicks ass and you achieve your dreams—all of them! Even those pesky writing ones!
In order to kick start (or kickass—might be my new phrase for 2015) your upcoming journey towards those dreams I’m opening 2015 with a post on reading, genre and influence on your writing style and voice. I was very active in 2014 on LinkedIn.com where there are some great writing groups and even greater writing discussions. I’m also pretty sure I pissed off someone somewhere with my at times snarky—well, downright pissy—comments. But be assured little Futurists, I snark with the best of intentions. I WANT you to be good—no, great writers—even if I have to beat you into it.
Since the first book I ever finished and got published way back in 2009, I’ve said that I do not read when I am writing and have received the cold shoulder from people more than once over that statement. Why? Simply because I have my own voice and style and people seem to like it and I don’t want to be influenced in any way, especially subconsciously.
Finally, people are starting to agree with me.
But I’m not going to bang on my chest over that. I’m not concerned with people agreeing with me. I’m concerned with you and how to expand on your writing experience. I mean the whole experience this time, not just the mechanism of getting the right words in the right order.
Most, if not all, writers begin by reading words written by other writers in various genres and varying styles, voices, techniques. Writers generally start early in life, in those most receptive developmental years, being influenced by what they read. Those words, translated into images in our new, tiny, absorbing minds, give us infinite pleasure and intellectual expansion simultaneously and we yearn for more and more and more of them as we grow.
Think back to some of the first books you ever read; are the memories happy and pleasurable? Or, like me reading Shakespeare’s MacBeth, intensely psychological and emotional? I’ve read both bright and dark books from childhood and every single one of them influenced my writing in one way or another. And I feel pretty confident in presuming the same has happened to you too. As we age, we expand our reading (and writing) experience to higher and higher levels of sophistication in more and more genres and eventually we learn to write almost by a subconscious osmosis. We learn how to phrase dialogue, sentences, descriptions, settings in school but also we learn in a more subtle way via our reading. I like to think of it as the ability to fine-tune our writing voice and style and technique like a high performance car engine that we maneuver along the highways of our stories. At the end of our journey is The Writing Zone: the last place a writer stops and plants the seeds of authorship. (And perhaps a new blog title for me if it’s not already taken.)
By the time we reach that final destination, we’ve learned even more things along the way and we’ve learned more about ourselves specifically as writers. Because we love words and because we love absorbing them and re-issuing them, we have or develop innate abilities to switch between POV (Points of View for neophytes), timelines, settings, etc. and therein lies the danger of being influenced. We move so deftly and quickly through the worlds we create it’s easy to absorb something from someone else without conscious thought—we’ve been doing it since we could read remember. And while that is a good thing when learning, it may not be as good a thing when we’re writing. Certain phrases, lines, quotes stick with us over the years and we keep them tucked inside our heads and performance engines to inspire, assist, and express our own work. But we don’t use them without crediting the author almost always. That’s what’s dangerous. When we quote, we’re quite aware of what we’re doing. When we’re writing our original work while reading something simultaneously we may not be aware of absorbing and re-issuing another author’s style, phrasing, voice, technique unintentionally.
Call me simpleminded (yeah, it’s happened before) but I don’t trust myself not to suck up some other great author’s line or style without realizing it or realizing it too late. I think our creative brains are locked into absorbing gear especially pleasurable information such as a great new book from an author.
But that’s another post for another day. Today, however, that’s it for Part I of this New Year’s Day post to rev up your writing. I wish you all, every single one of you, a happy and most prosperous New Year. Welcome 2015!
Finely tuned engine