No matter how wildly creative your imagination is, you probably draw ideas from something in your life. Whether it’s another writer, an illustrator, or music, someone else’s art creeps into your work. In fact, someone else’s art is probably the reason you first decided you wanted to create your own.
Then of course, there are the influences that come through experience and the people we know. As much as I hate the phrase “write what you know”, I think we all do to some degree. You cannot escape yourself.
So my question to you today is: what influences your writing? I would love to hear about it, whether you write a whole blog post or just drop me a comment here or on Facebook. It’s a wonderful question to reflect on as a writer, and I hope you enjoy doing so.
Here is my own reflection.
My earliest memories include books and art. I used to carry around a small book of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe. Though I could not tell you the first time I thought I wanted to be an artist, I know O’Keeffe has been with me since my earliest days. Her color palettes spoke to me (and still do).
I picked up a biography on O’Keeffe once and got a good laugh. She was quite the woman. Somebody came to her door once, wanting to see her. She turned full circle and said something like, “Now you’ve seen me.” And shut the door in that poor soul’s face. Our heroes are not always what we expect–sometimes they are better.
I always liked trickster tales. Coyote, raven, rabbit. Wily characters. You have to have at least one causing trouble in your story. What I love about them is that they aren’t really evil antagonists. You can still fall in love with them. I started reading trickster tales because of my grandfather.
My Grandad is Choctaw. I don’t say that lightly. I believe he is the last true Choctaw in my family. That part of our heritage will live on through stories about Grandad. When I chat with him, he talks about Choctaws, Kiowas, Cherokees, Lakota, Comanche. He talks about their history, stories, art, chiefs.
I will always, always remember him saying this: If you want to understand a people, look to the land. Then, he talks about the many road trips he took with my grandmother. He talks about how moved he was to be in those places and finally understand why–why the Lakota rode horses. Why the Comanche were so fierce.
My love for stories probably came from Grandad. He is the master storyteller of our family. But my love for books probably came from my grandmother and my mother, their daughter.
When I turned one, my grandmother gave me a book called The Child From the Sea. It is nearly 600 pages in length. In the front cover, she wrote: This is a “someday” book for your first birthday. They wasted no time in introducing me to the wonders of ink and paper.
My reading life has certainly changed over the years, and the list of authors and poets who influence me is long. Jorge Luis Borges, Arto Paasilinna, Louise Erdrich, Michael Golding, Keri Hulme, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Donald Justice, William Wordsworth, Jane Austen, and countless others.
They all have their own magic.
When I finish up my novel, I have a world of experience and books to thank. I didn’t become who I am all by myself, after all.
Super short announcement: I just released the Magical 10 Minute Guide to Improving Your Writing Style. There is a catch. You have to sign up for my email list, which means you’ll hear from me pretty much daily. You see… I’m a writing coach and editor, and I want to share my writing magic with you!