Impressionable Words

Writers have their sources of inspiration, their muses. They have their baggage, too – who are we kidding?

Let’s face it, most of us creative types are about three steps away from rubber walls, and if we’re being honest with ourselves, we know this… (Imagine what it’s like for the people who have to live with us.)

We’re also the product of the many influences that built our early reading experiences and eventually, writing experiences. The authors, playwrights, poets and screenwriters who helped us sculpt our own voice.

I thought about this the other day while having a conversation with a friend…what leads us to where we are. I’m sure an athlete can look back to their first team sports experiences or winning a big game in high school, a performer can reflect on past plays or concerts and remember the first time they read Death of a Salesman or picked up  a musical instrument.

I can pinpoint little things that felt big at the time – essay contests, working for the school newspaper, the first time a paper I wrote was hung on the door of the classroom by the teacher for all to see. The very first time a teacher took the time to tell me that something I had written was well-crafted. Damn. Nothing surpasses that feeling. You’re certain you could soar to the moon. Those are fun moments, proud moments, and they were delicious days that only made me fall in love with words even more than I already did.

But where I truly fell in love with words was not behind the pen but with my head flopped over a set of pages – someone else’s words.

I remember uncovering a true passion for dialogue and falling in love with Tennessee Williams’ fiery characters and heat-drenched words at the age of 13. Letting myself get luxuriously lost amid the perplexing yet intriguing conversations of Edward Albee and Eugene Ionesco. Feeling the emotions well up inside and personalizing the character’s storylines in S.E. Hinton and Judy Blume.

TheStranger

In time, the likes of Harper Lee, J.D. Salinger and John Steinbeck left their mark on my heart. When my mind ached to think outside the box, Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoyevsky allowed me to stretch my brain to new contemplations and more closely examine the drive and intentions behind my thoughts and actions. As I became more adventurous and seeking new sights, sounds and textures, I uncovered the strange worlds envisioned by Aldous Huxley, George Orwell and Anthony Burgess, and yes, most affectionately, Douglas Adams.

I was hooked.

And it didn’t take long.

I wasn’t moved by Ernest Hemingway like the critics. Charles Dickens simply bored me. And you could keep your Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness. Not my cup of tea. I’d much prefer to stay locked inside the pages with Joseph Heller’s Yossarian or Vladamir Nabakov’s Humbert. Well, maybe not Humbert. He can be a little creepy. Of course, at the time I read it, I was much older than what he went for — had to be at least 17 or 18 — so I suppose I would have been safe.

As I grew older, I moved into more non-fiction fodder – the satire and observations of George Carlin, Bill Maher and Al Franken – film biographies and music, TV and cinematic almanacs. Then somewhere around the age of 35 or 36, I started to want to feel again when I read. Not sure what happened exactly. Perhaps it was my own mortality reminding me to tap into those experiences that once touched me profoundly and I returned to reading fiction. Out of nowhere. I gravitated toward the moody and emotionally-driven, that brought me back to my tearful laments over Ponyboy, Sodapop and the gang.

Like much of the world, I discovered the Twilight series (haters, stand back – don’t start with me). It helped tap into something again, and to Stephenie Meyer I’ll be forever grateful. I kept on reading… the Hunger Games series, The Time Traveler’s Wife and within a matter of several years, a little series came out – Fifty something or another – and that not only brought me back to a consistent reading habit again, it led me to go forth and explore other writers. (Again, E.L. James haters, stand back — I don’t want to hear your lashing, either.) I owe her a lot, too, because it introduced me to the likes of the work of Sylvain Reynard, Colleen Hoover, Rebecca Donovan, M. Leighton, Tammara Webber, Tiffany Reisz, and so many more terrific writers.

I was again…hooked. But now, as an…ahem…slightly older me, I found myself more drawn to matters of the heart. Perhaps years of happiness and love after some serious heart ache led me to appreciate that side of me more. For years, I think I tried to hide that. Call it self-preservation. It was hard to let others in. Now, I try to stay open to beautiful things that come along. Life’s too short. Don’t want to miss anything. Aah, the wisdom of Ferris Bueller, I suppose, having its lasting effects.

Books are a beautiful place to get lost. They are also a bountiful garden that any aspiring writer tiptoes through carefully and handpicks those elements she appreciates most, that fill her heart or stir her mind. And she then plants her own little garden and hopes something magical or special might sprout.

I have a book coming out in a little over a month. It’s called The Muse Unlocked. I’m fairly certain it won’t be studied in English honors classes for years to come, and I’m fine with that. I’m just trying to tell a simple, little love story for those willing to listen. And hopefully, there will be some ribcages rattled by a series of chuckles, a mind or two stimulated and maybe a few hearts touched.

One can hope.

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1 Comment

  1. You gave Judy a shout out! Yay! And don’t get me started on Heart of Darkness…between college and grad school, I had to read that sucker SIX times. I wanted to kill myself.


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