Writing And The Sphere Of Influence

4665530859 d3c201ce75 m Writing And The Sphere Of Influence

Photo courtesy of Mushon Zer-Aviv

As a book blogger, I am in the privileged position of someone, who can freely talk with a variety of authors and who gets to read some of the best fiction available for the YA market. I find myself openly mulling over and sharing ideas with like-minded individuals on a daily basis, which is an experience that I love. In one such conversation, Mary Osborne, the author of Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries, and I were discussing the possibility that a person or character, who is talented and successful, but whose work fades with the passing of years, may very well influence someone else who becomes known for his or her masterful execution of their work.

To put it succinctly, we were discussing the idea that those who contribute knowledge to our society are merely standing on the shoulders of the giants that came before them. Whether you’ve heard of this concept before or not, its nothing new. It was first conceived in the 12th Century, but the 19th Century lover in me has a preference for the way in which Samuel Taylor Coleridge phrased it in The Friend: “The dwarf sees farther than the giant when he has the giant’s shoulder to mount on.” This idea has me believing that, perhaps, the sphere of one’s influence may be far larger than one might immediately assume, which is, I’d think something really hopeful for aspiring or published writers. One might never know with certainty, but perhaps what you produce over the course of your lifetime could be the stepping stone on which the next Jane Austen or J.K. Rowling is formed.

On another note, this concept suggests that not only does our work have the potential to spark innovation in those who come after us, but also the experiences that we have and the bits of knowledge that we collect over the course of our lives, all help influence the person that we’ll become in adulthood. Although nothing is set in stone, I find this concept a very empowering one because it throws aside other explanations and excuses and at the same time, prohibits regret for the small or large ordeals that we experience in life. Why should we regret anything when we know that the person we become is only possible with all of these obstacles? Take them away, and we may never be able to recognize the person, who we are: s/he would only exist in some alternate universe.

All of these thoughts about influence have got me thinking about what other YA writers think about it. I’d love to know who you consider to be your biggest influences, whether in your personal or professional life. How do you grapple with those who influence you and still be creative and original in your own right? Then my question to anyone who reads this blog, do you believe that the moments you’ve experienced in your life so far – no matter how hard – are worth it because they brought you to where you are now?

On another note, more of these ideas may very well come up on Saturday, June 5th when I post my interview with Mary Osborne. She’ll be around periodically throughout the day to answer your questions AND I’ll be announcing some exciting news as well. If you haven’t yet, please take the time to enter for a chance to win your own copy of Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries, or Book 1 of the Alchemy series.

  • http://www.thefamiliars.com thefamiliars

    Great post. I’m always interested in who influences (professionally) my creative idols. I find myself constantly trying to emulate my childhood titans, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (not authors, but amazing storytellers). And now during the writing of my first novel, Tolkien and Rowling. As to your latter question — how do you grapple with those who influence you and still be creative and original in your own right? — that is a constant battle. I like to call it homage. But in the end, you find your own voice and only wish you could succeed a tenth as much as these masters who have come before you.

  • Shauna

    That is an incredible thought – it had never really occurred to me before. I am such an optimist, though, I have to love it ;)

    I grew up with a fairly easy life but since I left high school I’ve gone through a lot of things that I could easily consider “regrets.” It’s easy to find myself thinking about the past a lot – and I’m constantly reminding myself that I love who I am today, and I would not be that person without all the crap that has gone down in the past. As soon as I am ever unhappy with who I am, I feel like I’ll be able to step back and reevaluate things and think productively to move back towards being a person that I want to be.

  • http://www.yabookshelf.com Melissa

    Thanks very much for your comment! I like your point about trying to emulate your creative idols, whether they’re writers or storytellers of a different breed. In fact, I’d suggest that depending on the type of novel one is working on, there may very well be other types of idols that come into play. In the case of Mary Osborne’s novel Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries, for example, has artists both real and imaginary, but the historical figures could easily have been artists that influenced her. I think writers can search far and wide for what influences them.

    I like what you say about finding your own voice and hoping that it reaches even a small part of the masters you admire and that there is a balance between trying to do what they’ve done and make it your own. The humility that you express is refreshing, but more than that, even reaching the tenth of a master is a worthy goal. One, I think, that writers should always be striving toward.

  • http://www.yabookshelf.com Melissa

    Thanks very much for your comment Shauna – I’m glad that you liked the thought I proposed. I agree that there is always the possibility of making your own choices and evaluating them later with the end of deciding to make changes as required to be who you want to be, but I think it’s important to realize that the things we can’t change help to form us throughout life.

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