misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind October 21, 2011 - 11:44am

Are there things you avoid while writing? Other writers who infect your voice with their own, television shows with their pacing or comedy, music that doesn't fit the mood of your writing?

While watching Youtube videos at work, (hey, I needed a break from the toils of animating) I found out Anne Rice would be releasing a novel that will somewhat return her to the gothic/horror scene. As a teen I was a big Anne Rice fan (you know, when vampires were seductive and frightening and didn't exactly glitter?) and, naturally, I find myself eager to read her new werewolf adventure. I thought about picking up Lestat again and giving it another read, when I suddenly realized...

I can't.

I can't read her work until I've finished my current WIP because Anne Rice infects my writing. She has this flowy style, this voice that goes on without punctuation, these words that shouldn't fit together yet somehow manage. I discovered this problem in my early 20s--if I read anything by Anne Rice, my writing style changed dramatically for at least a few weeks after. 

Sometimes music messes with the mood I'm trying to convey in a piece, too. If I'm writing something scary, for example, I can't listen to Metric, and if I'm writing something light, I can't listen to Stabbing Westward or NIN. But nothing muddies up my writing like reading a bit of Anne Rice while in the middle of  my own work. 

What about you guys? What sacrifices have you made for your writing? What pleasures and past times do you avoid?

 

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 21, 2011 - 12:07pm

i cant read while im really working, because it messes with my voice a little. im much more ornate after reading someone like Clevenger, or the book club selection for the month (Stay God by Nik Korpon) and more terse and minimal after someone like Willy Vlautin has been processed into my brain.

While i think the shifting of my voice is kind of neat, in the middle of a draft, such a shift can prove disasterous.

i also have to pretend i dont have an xbox360 when i want to get some work done.

simon morris's picture
simon morris from Originally, Philadelphia, PA; presently Miami Beach, FL is reading This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George October 21, 2011 - 12:29pm

The only thing I can't do is drink coffee while I write. Once I spilled a cupful into my keyboard and that was the end of that writing session...and the keyboard. I figured that I could dry it out with a hair dryer. It was probably the dried sugar substitute and powdered creamer that, restored to their original states, turned the keys into mute objects of ridicule.

I have my own distinct writing voices and admit that my experiences as an actor early in life influence the way I develop voice. I view narration as a performance a la the narrator in the play, "Our Town," by Thornton Wilder. I practice speaking in the voice I choose for a particular work. I also play act dialogue among characters. Again, acting experience has proven invaluable because I am able to distinguish between people speaking to each other and dialogue and avoid the pitfalls of trying to imitate real speech when I write.

I often pick an overriding mindset to center the narration. It can be authoritative, nostalgic, pensive, gentle, soothing, angry, ascerbic, humorous. ...

I have never been affected by the voices of others except to use suggestioons from anyone who knows anything that could help me. I see imitation as the sincerest form of pandering in all arenas, not just writing.

If Norman Mailer, Michael Crichton and I all saw the same event, we would write it differently. The major difference would be that their version would be much better written than mine! The minor difference would be that my version would not mirror the styles of either of those wonderful writers. The third difference would be that mine could be written today. Both of those esteemed writers are, unfortunately, dead.
 

Renfield's picture
Renfield from Hell is reading 20th Century Ghosts October 21, 2011 - 12:35pm

I'll usually try to use this to my advantage and remember something that gives me a certain flow when I have an idea that matches, though stories evolve over time and usually for the better when I come back to them later and I'm watching new shows and listenning to new records. I think generally sentence structure and length is the thing that's mostly effected subconciosuly.

In that regard, I think the Michael Chabon, succinct yet meandering sentences are still hiding in my fingers somewhere. That's the only one I can think of at the moment. I do avoid watching basketball and movies that came out this year during long writing binges, because I'll just end up doing that instead.

jyh's picture
jyh from VA is reading whatever he feels like October 21, 2011 - 2:55pm

With regards to minding the influence of other work on my own, I'm with Renfield. Utilize it. I just reread Heart of a Dog and it was validating and inspiring rather than intrusive. 

But sometimes music will be too good not to pause and listen. A boring Low song (aren't they all, nyuk) works well for writing but when one of the really good ones comes on, I stop typing for four or five minutes.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 21, 2011 - 5:17pm

I didn't read any adult fiction (besides the books that I was assigned for grad school classes) for nearly a year before I started writing a children's novel and while I was working on it. But that had less to do with them being a "dangerous influence" and more to do with reading so few children's books since I was a child with the exception of the Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events series. I read lots of children books because I wanted their writing style to sink into my consciousness so I would write a book that children would find easy to read.

As far as a dangerous influence, Tao Lin's writing is like a virus and I found myself writing like him without trying to after I first started reading his books. But that stopped eventually. A new novel of his was published while a was working on my children's novel and that's one specific book that I made sure to not read until after I finished my book.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind October 21, 2011 - 3:40pm

I have this one story I never finished editing because I could see where in the story I was reading an Anne Rice novel and where I wasn't. It was such a mess!

When it comes to influences, I do like to use it to my advantage. Like Bradley, I surrounded myself with YA and middle-grade literature so I can absorb... well, whatever it is we absorb from reading. And always in the POV I'm using. I actually have a difficult time reading first person POV when I'm writing in third person, now that I think about it. I find myself reading books that fit the style of my works in progress and avoiding anything else.

I suppose when I want to write something pretty, I'll include works like Lestat and The Vampire Armand in my reading diet. For now though, I think I'll focus on getting this draft done before I enjoy Anne's new novel!

 

lynx_child's picture
lynx_child from Seattle is reading The Dresden Files series October 21, 2011 - 4:03pm

Whenever I read H.P. Lovecraft my own writing becomes dry and archaic.  

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 21, 2011 - 4:06pm

Whenever I read H.P. Lovecraft my own writing becomes dry and archaic.

 

see also: why i dont read the "classics"

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch October 21, 2011 - 4:19pm

Sometimes I feel being influenced is a bad thing but if I'm reading something I really have no affinity with (stylistically), then I don't think it has any effect on my writing. On the other hand, if I feel that my writing is becoming too dry and literal, I go read something like Heart of Darkness and it unlocks something in the flow of my sentences. I don't think you'd be imitating if you felt that reading certain authors helped you be more polished in some way.

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. October 22, 2011 - 9:19am

I also embrace the changing voice of reading other authors.  I have a Hempel story, a Carver story, a Chuck story, a Gaiman story, etc.  

None of them actually sound like copies of those writers, but my voice changed a while after reading them.  I explored it.  Now, when necessary, I channel those voices to use for characters instead of for the whole story.

In theory, of course.  It doesn't always work, and when it does work, it doesn't always work well.  

 

More dangerous to me is just not writing.  Those times when I think, "Fuck it, I'll write later."  To break these, I usually just start writing e-mails that ramble for a long time until I accidently start telling a story.  Or I do drugs. Lots and lots of drugs*.

 

*don't do drugs*.

 

*I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.

-Hunter S. Thompson

 

lynx_child's picture
lynx_child from Seattle is reading The Dresden Files series October 22, 2011 - 11:09am

see also: why i dont read the "classics"

Usually they don't affect me too much, but Lovecraft gets me every time.

Also recently I watched every episode of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett and for weeks after whenever I wrote I sounded a lot more British and pretentious.

.'s picture
. October 22, 2011 - 11:36am

The internet distracts me. Mostly this site. But it has a workshop so I guess I'm not distracted. Fail.

Mike Mckay's picture
Mike Mckay is reading God's Ashtray October 22, 2011 - 12:39pm

@Charles I feel for you friend, having an Xbox controller sit next to you when you wake up in the morning really kills my drive to write entirely. Damn you Batman.

The Internet and school always carry me away from my writing if only I could be isolated for 4 weeks I might finally have finished that collection of short stories I'm always trying to work on.

Charles's picture
Charles from Portland is reading Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones October 22, 2011 - 12:41pm

man, arkham city is like crack. played it yesterday for like nine hours.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 22, 2011 - 3:09pm

I can't have my toddler watching kiddie TV while I write, which is unfortunate, because how the hell else am I supposed to write unless I stay up all night? I do best when I can put some mood music on and zone in completely, but I can write with almost anything going on otherwise. Just not kiddie shows.

Bradley Sands's picture
Bradley Sands from Boston is reading Greil Marcus's The History of Rock 'N' Roll in Ten Songs October 22, 2011 - 5:31pm

My dad falls to sleep with the TV on while wearing a pair of cordless headphones to so my mother doesn't hear the TV. Perhaps you can buy your toddler a pair of them for when he/she watches TV and you want to write? I have no idea as far as the brand of the headphones since cordless headphones that people can use to watch TV so the other person in the room doesn't hear it aren't exactly typical, but I can ask my dad about the kind of headphones that he uses if you want.

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books October 22, 2011 - 9:57pm

I'll have to keep that in mind when she is a bit older, right now she won't keep anything on her head longer than a fee minutes, even if she LOVES whatever it is. Learned about headphones on a trans-Atlantic flight. I'm resigning myself to chronic insomnia, it's worked out okay so far ;)