I personally believe it’s important to recognise (and thank) those who have inspired you.
Without these pioneering authors that went before, we wouldn’t find it nearly so straightforward to let our own voices be heard. They trod the road less followed, so we could walk it more easily in their footsteps. The writers that inspire us are often those who dare to do something different, who sometimes get criticised for their alternative approaches – but who usually change the face of literature for the better.
A nod to those who inspired me
If you get a moment, I recommend creating a list of the writers who inspired you, and why. At the very least, it’s provides interesting insight into what you love writing, and what message you want to convey. At best, it helps you to focus on the sort of writer you want to be in the future.
Here are my top inspirations (or at least, a selection taken from a seriously large list).
- Stephen King. Stephen King’s books terrified me as a child. Don’t even get me started on IT (for your information, no I haven’t dared to watch the remade film yet, the one with Tim Curry was quite enough for me). But, although I respected the ‘master of horror’s’ ability to scare, that wasn’t what I was inspired by. Rather, it was his remarkable ability to get inside his characters’ heads – to convincingly depict how average people behave in extraordinary situations. Few writers understand authentic human reaction as well as Stephen King does.
- Margaret Atwood. It’s fair to say that Oryx and Crake completely changed how I viewed literature. The impact of that book on me, not to mention the power of its central message, was overwhelming. Margaret Atwood explores difficult themes and meets them unflinchingly, calmly… often beautifully too. If I could write even half as wonderfully as she does, I’d be a happy lady indeed.
- Neil Gaiman. I love writers that push ideas to their very limits – that let their imaginations run riot, and produce gorgeously rich, exciting new worlds as a result. Neil Gaiman is pretty much at the top of his game in this respect. I remember reading The Graveyard Book and wondering how it was possible to take a troop of ghosts in a cemetery and make them loveable. That, in my opinion, takes real talent.
- David Mitchell and Haruki Murakami. I’ve put these two writers together, not because they’ve ever collaborated (though Mitchell owes much to Murakami), but because they both represent the same thing – the tendency to ignore the rules and create mind-bending, challenging books. Both authors blast through convention, resulting in novels that are slippery, fascinating and wonderfully enigmatic.
The lessons learned?
Every time I think about the authors I love, I muse on what I can learn from them. Through Stephen King, I realised that authenticity is important, regardless of how crazy the situation in question is. Margaret Atwood taught me that if you have a message, you should get it out there – challenge the reader and don’t shy away from controversy. Gaiman’s lesson to all aspiring authors is to never let yourself be restricted – let your imagination run free; and Murakami and Mitchell prove that great books don’t need to follow the rules.
I’m aware that this particular blog post sounds like a real case of fan-girl worship – but I think it does all writers good to remember those that came before, and just how much we can learn from them.
Who are your main inspirations, and what have they taught you?