One of the speakers in Santa Barbara was Carolyn See, who was wonderfully wise and droll and witty and smart. I bought her book Making a Literary Life , a highly useful little book no matter where you are on the writing path. (I especially loved her "recipe" for writing articles–as she says herself, it’s worth the price of the book, and no, I will not tell you what it is.)
One exercise she offers is to make a list of the ten most influential people in your life. I took up a pen and started scribbling names. In the end, I was startled by my list. I won’t bore you with the whole thing, but I was intrigued to notice the people who inform my work. Some I expected. Some I did not.
I wonder if the list would be different if I’d been thinking less about writing.
The first one is my grandmother and my mother. In combination, the pair of them yin and yang. Their relationship, and my place in it, is as important to my work and my own, very complex relationships with each of them.
One I was surprised to realize was still on there is my ex-husband. Larger than life, with a laugh that fills a room and hands as big as platters, he’s complex, not easily known, and shaped much of my thinking about families, music, culture.
Who is someone highly influential in your life? If you are a writer, can you see that stamp in your work?
2 thoughts on “Most influential people”
I’ve been thinking about this question for several days now, and while there are people who influence me–my children, mother, husband–I think I am more influenced by theme than any one person. I gravitate toward certain issues and feel the great need to write about them: acceptance, justice, forgiveness, and of course love.
No people, Therese? My writer brain cocks an eyebrow and says, “hmmmm, how Interesting! A fiction writer who isn’t using the humans in her life.” 🙂
My times and politics have influenced my themes. And I would say neighborhoods and places are huge in my work. But as fiction writers, I think it’s probably impossible to escape the influence of actual human beings.
Over time, the list probably changes. For awhile, I was working with one group, now I’ve moved to another. I suspect there is a tangle of relationships I can’t avoid much longer (I used to kill off all mothers, not out of disrespect, but how can a girl with a good mother get in so much trouble?).
The writing teacher in me is intrigued. If something shows up, come back.