Thursday, June 24, 2010
Influence? Quelle influence?
A personal problem…?
OK, so here I am, trying to conceptualise my approach for this article on how my various hobbies and pastimes might influence my writing and… well, not for the first time on this Blog, I am struggling!
I do things. I don’t have hobbies and pastimes and work. I just DO stuff. Some stuff I get paid for, most I don’t, but all I generally enjoy doing!
[caption id="attachment_2773" align="alignright" width="150" caption="A Volvo? A Hobby?"][/caption]
Do I collect stuff? Am I creative: do I paint? Draw pictures? Write poetry? Play a musical instrument? Do I make stuff? Or do I merely enjoy tinkering with the engine of my car? (Car? …oops, Volvo …does that count? I mean... a Volvo, right? Still…)
OMG! I have a problem – it’s my problem, mind you; a personal problem! I do all of these things.
[caption id="attachment_2774" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Stading Ovation?"][/caption]
How can I possibly have hobbies? Surely a hobby implies some level of commitment to a particular pastime. But, me? Well, I do so much stuff I cannot possibly have an intimate knowledge of so many things (just listen – if you dare – to my guitar playing.)
So, that might well be considered a problem to some. But, surely, if I don’t have an intimate knowledge of certain activities that might qualify as hobbies, can there ever be a sense in which such activities can be said to “influence” anything else, such as my writing?
Not a problem… an opportunity!
So, I thought, what does influence my writing? In general?
And can I then sort out hobby from work, from life experience, from fictional idea? (There may be a few who would like to know the answer to that one! What, for example, are the real influences in my novel River of Judgement?)
I have this theory: that everything (at least all knowledge) starts out as a fictional idea! Now where does such a theory take me?
Well, as an individual, everything I do is potentially a new idea for something else.
When I do something today at work, it will give me an idea about what I might need to do tomorrow.
When I read a book (if I ever get to the end of it), it is not the book, the writer, or the genre that influences me. It is that some sentence, some phrase, some aspect of the story has become the seed of an idea. I stop reading, I develop the idea. I have started SO many books!!!
When I try to play piece of music on the guitar, I don’t tend to learn a piece by someone else. I do try… honest! But, before long, some phrase in the music has caught me and I go off on a tangent and try and develop something else out of it.
[caption id="attachment_2776" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Questions, questions..."][/caption]
When I am writing, I start with an idea and think around that idea. Before long, fiction and reality blend into a new potential reality that raises questions. Who is this? Where is this? Can this be like this? These questions require answers. So I research. And research mixes with experiences or creates new ideas and new questions and before long there is a new potential reality that bears no resemblance to anything current.
It only takes one idea to start with… but because of a rich and varied life and an eclectic and fertile imagination… I cannot stop that idea from mutating. A magazine article here, a news flash on radio there; the conclusions in a report on the future of British Policing mix with a discussion about the life and times of a great person and a chance encounter with the Prime Minister of a West African state. All of these things “influence”.
One thing I think is a surety in writing. A rich and fertile imagination, coupled with a diverse range of life experiences and a carefully honed ability to research, can only lead to a rich and fertile ground for the development of fiction. And, in that development, the seeds of new realities are created.
What, in the final analysis, influences my writing, are ideas. And ideas come from just doing stuff. The more stuff I do, the more ideas I can get… and ideas favour neither gainful employment nor passionate, unstinting devotion to hobbies and craft. What will toll the bell on ideas, however, is inactivity, apathy and indifference.
The trick, I suppose, is in coming to know when to stop filling-in the ideas; incoming to know when to stop answering questions. As my post on The Interconnectedness of Nothing suggests, the critical skill is to make my own writing act as trigger for ideas in the mind of the reader. Although I would hope my readers reach the end of the story first!!!
Happy reading and writing :)