Billy Collins (poet) believes we must read to be influenced, and suggests young people mimic their favorite writers in order to develop their skills and to develop their own voice.
I think many young writers do this. It’s a natural form of development.
Other writers are afraid to read when they’re writing; they don’t want to be influenced. I think by the point you develop your own voice, you won’t so easily be influenced.
I think reading Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion was imperative for me to stumble across. I’d never attempted to intimate him – but he took my understanding of writing and voice to a whole new level. The storyline, the use of language, and the originality of his voice was unlike anything I’ve ever read and it blew my mind.
What reading Ondaatje did for me was to help launch my voice and style. I say this because at the time, I was mired in instructors and writers telling me no, no, no. They so strongly believed in their own way of doing things, they didn’t allow other writers to develop in other ways. It was limiting.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – read far and wide! Do not be afraid of being influenced – open yourself to learning something new!
Creative blocks are brought on by various reasons.
Writers, poets, artists, musicians need to express themselves. Sometimes, something plugs our flow of creativity.
My friend and I have found release in other creative outlets. She took a watercolor painting class. She feared, at first, that she was taking away from her writing; however, what she found is that it opened her flow and she felt even more creative and was able to add even more to her usual creativity.
I take art and other classes on a regular basis. Most of the time their directly related to writing, but sometimes they are not – but they still feed my imagination and add depth to my writing.
The Healer’s Daughter will be released on May 15th in The Ear. This story came pouring out after a six week drawing class I took at a local museum/gallery. And… I feel like it’s one of my best, filled with color and meaning.
Shake something loose by trying another outlet. You may come back stronger and more creative than before.
A writing exercise to get your rusty writing pipes lubricated.
Write the same scene from three different points of view. I know this doesn’t sound new and groundbreaking, but when is the last time you did it? And what types of characters did you choose?
Let’s lighten it up for you – stretch your skills. If you’ve never written from the opposite gender point of view – try it. This is an exercise I did with Dad Shining. This story could not have been narrated by a woman, it had to be chronicled by a man. And that man, it turns out, had to be the son. Dad Shining was published by Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Journal – so I must have done something right.
But don’t stop there – go further. Write it from a pet’s point of view. The Art of Racing in the Rain is an adult novel narrated in total by the dog. And it is a GREAT novel! Imagine a story from outside of the human point of view.
Or write it from a child’s point of view. Because my children are older, and I’m presently writing a story which involves a nine year old girl, I’ve had to call my friends. I was fortunate enough to spend time with a delightful little girl and found the time and the young woman inspiring. I have even more ideas than I can handle.
Let me know how it goes – share in our Writing 365 Group.