Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Does What You Read Influence Your Writing?

Stephanie

September 15th, 2005 marked a significant turning point in my life, for that was the exact day I bought my first journal and decided to start writing for me. Up until that point, I had pooh-pooh’d the self-indulgent notion of writing down the personal details of my life and didn’t understand how significant and healing the simple act of putting words to paper could become.

A few years prior to my buying that first journal, I had read a book called “Running with Scissors” by a man named Augusten Burroughs. (Pictured above.) Though I had read plenty of biographies over the years, this had been my first real “memoir” and once in, I devoured it as quickly as I could turn the pages. To say that Augusten’s childhood was dysfunctional would be a gross understatement. What drew me in was the way in which he told the story. Laced with laugh-out-loud humor, honesty, and great humility, it wasn’t until I had been writing for several years that I realized how much of a mentor Augusten had been for me with my own writing.

Image by Dennis Pilsits from Augusten.com

10 thoughts on “Does What You Read Influence Your Writing?

  1. Yes, definitely. I began keeping a daily journal after reading the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. This was my first exposure to the journals of another person and I liked her simple journal entries, which were simple listings (in her spare, poetic prose) of the day’s events and her observations of nature. Reading her journals helped me to realize that keeping a journal doesn’t have to require writing pages every day and that you don’t have to lead a particularly exciting life to write about it.

    In other forms of writing, the books I read, both fiction and non-fiction, are constant sources of inspiration, mainly in the form of sparking questions and ideas in my mind. Reading blogs also gives me ideas of things to write about in my own blogs.

  2. Yes, definitely. I began keeping a daily journal after reading the journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. This was my first exposure to the journals of another person and I liked her simple journal entries, which were simple listings (in her spare, poetic prose) of the day’s events and her observations of nature. Reading her journals helped me to realize that keeping a journal doesn’t have to require writing pages every day and that you don’t have to lead a particularly exciting life to write about it.

    In other forms of writing, the books I read, both fiction and non-fiction, are constant sources of inspiration, mainly in the form of sparking questions and ideas in my mind. Reading blogs also gives me ideas of things to write about in my own blogs.

  3. On a related note–as a pastor, I do a lot of preaching/teaching that involves putting together ideas from several different things I read. I’ve started using side-stapled Rhodia notebooks as “project books” for making notes and composing teaching outlines–i.e., a bible study notebook, a sermon notebook, an adult class notebook, etc. In this way, my reading *does* affect my writing–it takes center stage!

  4. On a related note–as a pastor, I do a lot of preaching/teaching that involves putting together ideas from several different things I read. I’ve started using side-stapled Rhodia notebooks as “project books” for making notes and composing teaching outlines–i.e., a bible study notebook, a sermon notebook, an adult class notebook, etc. In this way, my reading *does* affect my writing–it takes center stage!

  5. Stylistically, no so much these days. I started journaling in high school (over 25 years ago!) and how I wrote blatantly mimicked what I was reading at the time. One example that comes to mind is Anthony Burgess’ book “A Clockwork Orange,” which was written in the first person using an invented slang.

    In terms of content, my current journaling touches on what I’m reading at the moment, but this is more reflection/commentary than attempts at copying a particular style. A big difference is that I don’t read much fiction these days. What I’m writing about is more “professional” or “non-fiction” in nature.

  6. Stylistically, no so much these days. I started journaling in high school (over 25 years ago!) and how I wrote blatantly mimicked what I was reading at the time. One example that comes to mind is Anthony Burgess’ book “A Clockwork Orange,” which was written in the first person using an invented slang.

    In terms of content, my current journaling touches on what I’m reading at the moment, but this is more reflection/commentary than attempts at copying a particular style. A big difference is that I don’t read much fiction these days. What I’m writing about is more “professional” or “non-fiction” in nature.

  7. Well, yes what I read does influence my writing, stylistically only a little, but in terms of content and context, by all means.

    My handwritten journals are totally different than my blog postings. My journals are mundane and quotidian and I am content with this style because of how I use and work with my journals.

    My blog, despite my mistaken initial thoughts about blogging, does not really overlap my journaling. There is mention of one in the other, and some of the comments in one may be found in the other, but they are two different things.

    In the case of the blog, what I read has a more pronounced effect. I have a category just for books and reading lists and I carry on lively, edifying discussions about books and writers. My other blog postings, however, are often heavily influenced by what I’ve read or I am currently reading.

  8. Well, yes what I read does influence my writing, stylistically only a little, but in terms of content and context, by all means.

    My handwritten journals are totally different than my blog postings. My journals are mundane and quotidian and I am content with this style because of how I use and work with my journals.

    My blog, despite my mistaken initial thoughts about blogging, does not really overlap my journaling. There is mention of one in the other, and some of the comments in one may be found in the other, but they are two different things.

    In the case of the blog, what I read has a more pronounced effect. I have a category just for books and reading lists and I carry on lively, edifying discussions about books and writers. My other blog postings, however, are often heavily influenced by what I’ve read or I am currently reading.

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