Where were you in the writing process when it happened?
For me, it was David Foster Wallace's The Broom of the System.
I have a few who inspired my writing vision, starting with the rock critics of the '70s in rock mags like Hit Parader, Creem, PRM, Crawdaddy, Circus, Stereo Review, et al. The rock literati included, then, current Substackers, Wayne Robins https://waynerobins49.substack.com/ and Robert Christgau https://robertchristgau.substack.com/.
Patti Smith (a current 'Stacker) was also influential, as she was a rock scribe and poet before she signed with Arista in '75 as a recording artist. I was also influenced by the writing of Barry Hansen aka Dr. Demento. Barry was employed by Warner Bros. Records in the early '70s as a PR scribe, writing liner notes for the label's "two-fer" loss leader 2-LP, $2 sampler albums one could get thru the mail.
He also wrote copy (hilariously and irreverently, at times....my 2 favorite writing traits!) for the label's weekly, in-house, promo-only, 8-page promo piece, "Circular," available only to radio personnel and record industry types.
Another funny, irreverent, and sometimes caustic writer of influence was the great Fran Lebowitz, whose books (instead of the high school "necessary" assigned books), I'd read voraciously! Her wit and observational humor can be summarized in her, "Your right to wear a lime green leisure suit ends where it meets my eye." Maybe not now with that line, but, she was relevant back in that day!😎😁
I was most inspired by Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne Of Green Gables. Yes, I’m Canadian 😄. She highlighted the importance of writing about what you know.
My writing inspirations are Dorothy Dunnett for breathless brilliance, Bernard Cornwall for a similar breadth, Rosamunde Pilcher for warming of the soul and being a master of 'setting', LM Montgomery for shimmering scene setting and 'real' characterisation. Matthew Harffy for showing protagonists can be brutal but also possess soul and intellect.
There are so many who inspire as I write. But none that give me a message for life. I don't read for that, I read to be carried away on the wings of a good fictional story. I write for the same reason.
So happy to see this topic, Ramona and thanks for the shoutout! I’ve been thinking about this since our exchange.
I always wanted to be a writer but the first book to inspire me was reading Catch-22 when I was 15. I didn’t know writing could be so bonkers and hilarious and serious all at the same time. It felt more like real life than anything I’d ever read.
The second was in college, reading a writer another person mentioned in these comments--David Foster Wallace. Not his novels but his essays for Harpers Magazine. He was clearly just reporting exactly what he saw, but it was all at the same time poignant and funny and absurd. He seemed to be getting at the truth somehow, and I wanted to do the same.
so many writers have inspired me in different ways, but the one writer who's book actually left me wanting to tell my own stories (half as well, if i'm lucky) was beryl markham's west with the night. it also inspired me to take flying lessons and see the world...
I was absolutely enthralled as a little girl ( mid years: around 11-12) with CharlesDickens. His strange, eccentric, colorful characters were completely absorbing to a kid with way too much imagination. My favorite was Oliver Twist_now those were characters, who can resist them! But I read every Charles Dickens boom I could get my hands pn: Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, David Copperfield etc. loved every one and they inspired me to write!
I'm nowhere near as well-read as I'd like to be, but the author who inspired me to start writing my own fiction was Carl Hiassen. I read a number of his classics (e.g., Skin Tight, Stormy Weather) in my twenties and learned that there are no constraints when it comes to plot, humor, character, etc. That's the Florida influence - anything is possible. As an adult I've read almost the entire John le Carre catalogue. I quickly disabused myself of "writing like him," but I love his plot construction and how he leaves little breadcrumbs along the way to an always explosive finale.
My reading and writing journey is so much different and possibly strange(?) compared to everyone else here, haha.
I gobbled down books like an unsupervised kid eating Halloween candy... as a kid. I remember being about 6 to 11-ish and truly attempting to read 3 books at once on top of any reading we had to do for class.
Everything was fiction, some based off happenings like the Holocaust (Behind the Bedroom Wall and Number the Stars were favorites) but most were slice-of-life books I loved reading.
The most outlandish I’d read and loved were Goosebumps and pretty much anything with anthropomorphic animals.
I REALLY had a thing for anthropomorphic animals, I realized, when I thought back to what I was reading when it wasn’t slice-of-life, finding lots of old stories and (sometimes accompanying) art of anthropomorphic animals, aaaaand seeing myself now as someone who still reads and watched anthropomorphic animals (there’s a manga called BEASTARS that I looove!)! Haha
Anyway, I also just remember having an aversion to any book that had a male narrator growing up. I guess I instantly became disinterested cause I felt I couldn’t vicariously live or engulf myself in a man’s POV or story period? Not sure.
I don’t think being any of it ever really connected for me (a writer inspiring me to write). The older I got, the less I had time for leisure reading, ironically because I was in honors English classes most of my school career and we’d read 3+ mandatory books during the summer as well and had to annotate them and write essays for them.
There was this one time (and I’m getting a tattoo of this) in honors English where we were reading The Awakening by Kate Chopin, and there was a line that hit me SO hard and I never ever forgot it:
“The bird that would soar above the level plain of tradition and prejudice must have strong wings. It is a sad spectacle to see the weaklings bruised, exhausted, fluttering back to earth.”
Around that mid to late high school time, I knew I was “rebellious.” I wanted a lot in life that family didn’t agree with or support and I related so so much with Edna.
Separately, entirely, I’d write poetry, my own personal anecdotes and motivational words in Facebook statuses, angsty diary entries and poems on Tumblr back when it was popular, and haikus on Instagram.
And SO many personal blogs over the years!
I had teachers, professors, friends, family, and sometimes strangers praise my writing and my voice and style.
It always came through like a downloaded channel for me and would just spill out of my fingers. I even got a poem that came to me in the shower (of course) published in our little high school publication.
But... I never believed I could make anything of it. Or truly BE a writer that got paid to write about my life or whatnot.
Even after seeing and reading memoirs and personal essays. I felt a LITTLE more like it was possible, but I ultimately fell into a trap where I believed my writing didn’t have enough value to become anything that could ever sustain me.
I slipped into trying to create an online business and ended up regurgitating marketing and business stuff so much that I lost my writing voice and it SCARED me.
Got it back with a Writing the Layers workshop. Literally brought me back to life I was so so sad I felt clogged as a writer or like Ariel did when she lost her voice in Little Mermaid.
And since college, I’ve been caregiving for my mom and trying to make online business work AND, I’ve been hired to write articles as a freelancer before, I’ve been hired on as a writer and associate editor in the past... writing articles I was praised for by the EIC and were the site’s most popular... but I still struggled to believe in myself to write what I really really enjoyed (personal essays and writings).
Super recently though I just got tired of trying to force myself to fit in molds I didn’t belong in, even if I don’t have support from family.
So I made my substack newsletter and am off writing exactly how I wanna write and want to continue to improve and hone my craft as a writer!
I was an avid reader as a child, and I loved to write, but I didn't feel inspired as an actual writer until I was an adult. First, while I am not a horror fan or avid Stephen King fan, I loved his book On Writing (I should probably read it again). Second, I fell in love with Jon Krakauer's research driven writing style. Third, Rachel Held Evans was a beautiful writer who showed me now to honestly write about my faith.
None, I don't read! My writing is inspired by my own personal experiences in life! One of the reasons I do not read is because I don't want my writing to be influenced by others.