Who has influenced you?

Vintage typewriter 2

In the English major, we talk about literature in theory: stories are specimens to be examined rather than the result of a creative process. At the university, we are critics and consumers of stories, not producers. I rarely have the opportunity to talk about literature as a writer in the classroom, and, as a result, I often disconnect the stories that I read from the stories that I write.

That is, until now.

This quarter, I am taking a seminar in preparation for my creative thesis. The main goal of the class is to learn how to talk about our craft and to identify who our influences are. To be honest, when my professor presented that question (“Who has influenced you?”) on the first day of class, I drew a blank. Typically, when I think of my inspirations, I think of the people in my life or places or experiences. In other words, I thought of my influences in terms of the content of my work, but not really my style—what I write instead of how I write.

This got me thinking: which writers taught me how to write?

I admire Hemingway’s elegantly simple prose. I gravitate towards Anton Chekhov’s realism. I marvel at Alice Munro’s ability to find the emotional and psychological complexity in ordinary experiences.

I think that I am drawn to writers who trust their characters to be enough, if that makes sense. That is, writers who don’t feel the need to drown their stories in spectacle and flowery prose; writers who recognize the difference between extraordinary stories and extraordinary plots. I love stories that explore the human experience in a raw and intimate way.

Before, I always thought about these writers as a reader. I recognized that I enjoyed their work. However, I didn’t realize that they may have had an impact on the way that I write. Thinking about these writers as influences makes me feel more connected to them, in a way. My writing exists in the context of something greater, as part of a history of literature. Who knows? Perhaps my work will influence someone, someday.

Post submitted by JoAnna

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