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Saturday, March 19, 2011

 

Remaining Truly You (A Casual and Unofficial Poll)

The instructor for the writing workshop I will be attending later this month suggested that students refrain from writing or reading during the three weeks prior to the retreat to allow time to relax the writing muscle we have been using and to insulate us from absorbing other writer’s voices. This made me wonder if artists of other mediums have similar issues regarding the honing of their own their own unique expression. Do their instructors suggest they stay away from galleries or art-walks while they focus on finding their own vision? Probably not. I suppose the issue with writing is that losing oneself in a novel is a complete saturation in one voice whereas a trip to a gallery is a relatively short exposure—usually to several expressions.

I'm curious though, so here is my little survey:

When you are writing your novel (or creating your painting, sculpture, etc…) do you refrain from exposing yourself to other similar works? Do you find that exposure to another writer’s voice hinders or obstructs your own true expression or does it inspire?
Share your thoughts...
Robyn Chausse

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19 Comments:

Blogger Linda said...

Great question, Robyn!

I actually get a great deal of inspiration from the work of other artists (of all types). In my writing, images from paintings, like Hooper or Van Gogh have inspired scenes, as well as characters.

I have read and heard "famous" writers all say the same thing...you have to read in order to write. In reading, we absorb the thoughts and ideas of others. I don't think we can create without being somewhat inspired by what we have read (or seen/heard).

That said, I don't think my true expression has ever been compromised or obstructed. I am who I am thanks to all that has touched my life, good and bad. If ever there was anything that caused me a problem, it was me, myself, getting in the way by being afraid to say what I meant.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Actually, I read poetry similar to the particular genre I am writing in at the moment. When I am stuck or constructing an idea I have, I find it helps me to tighten my writing.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Linda,
Love your last line!
(Who are all those adorable children? Are those all your grandbabies?)

9:30 AM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Robin,
I never thought of using poetry that way. Great idea!

9:40 AM  
Blogger Melissa Campbell said...

Hi Robyn,

I am definitely inspired by other writers, music, art, nature, etc. We all carry a unique piece of God in us that lives to create. When we rub against each other, we become catalysts of inspiration and creation. In my opinion (and God's, I think) cross-pollination is a good thing!

However, I do see the benefit in coming away for a season. I guess you could liken it to fasting, or cleansing the palette.

Blessings always!

10:11 AM  
Blogger Angela said...

Hi Robyn,

I agree with your instructor. When I'm seriously writing fiction for a long stretch I try not to read any novels because I don't want to imitate another author's voice unintentionally. Same thing with painting. If I'm just formulating an idea for a solo gallery show I try not to look at any art because I have a photographic memory. I don't intentionally mean to copy anything but it somehow filters into my work. I have to cleanse my "palette," so to speak. ;)

But for nonfiction I find it helps to read others work in a similar topic. And with graphic art I find it helps to look at what others have done for similar projects.

I wonder if it's an issue of right-brain/left-brain, for me, anyway. It's interesting to see that I'm alone on this one.

Great post!
Ang

10:53 AM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Melissa,
I agree completely that more beauty is created through diversity...and then a time of self-reflection so we can focus on our own heart.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Angela,
I was thinking of you when writing this (since you have feet in both worlds so-to-speak)!
I find the distinction between creative art and graphic or commercial art very interesting--that makes sense now that I think about it.
For myself, although I find inspiration in too many areas to list, when writing fiction I stay away from novels. Fiction is not yet my strong point; it requires a concentrated effort on my part.

Good discussion going on!

1:40 PM  
Blogger Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

Hi Robyn,
Whether reading other people's work interferes or inspires depends on where I am in my process. When I am really working hard on my book, really into it and trying to make progress, I do not read other fiction, because I do want to keep my voice pure. And because, if I am reading, I am not writing.
However! When I am in a lull, reading always re-inspires me. And, every time I read poetry, I am inspired to write a poem!
Melissa

5:41 PM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Melissa,
I like that approach. I imagine that once the story is pretty much fully formed a bit of reading would be fine.
You mentioned that poetry inspires you to write poetry, do you also feel that poetry re-inspires you to get back to your fiction?
In an earlier comment Robin mentioned that she reads poetry to inspire fiction. I have not used it that way although some of my poems have transformed themselves into story.
-thanks for sharing!

10:24 PM  
Blogger Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

I actually find that poetry only inspires me to write poetry! Any time I read David Whyte or Mary Oliver, I want to write poems. But they don't make me want to write stories. But that's just me, and I guess everyone is inspired differently so we just have to figure out what works for us indiviually. I think it's like anything, we try different approaches, but ultimately we have to have the confidence to say, "You know what? that didn't work for me!" and to let that be okay. Like with art, we learn the "rules" and then we learn that sometimes the overall result is better when we break them.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Melissa,
Great last line..and what is the saying, as in art so in life? ☺

2:40 PM  
Blogger Constance Gilbert said...

I am a non-fiction writer, who always has music playing in the background as I write. And I surround myself with quotes & photos that encourage me. I read novels and other people's work on my topic. I need to know what's been said & how in order to assure that my take is unique- either in thought or how it's expressed.

The novels use a different part of my brain. I need the breaks to refresh my spirit & I find a thought that has been struggling to surface often comes out while I'm reading, playing Solitaire or Mahjongg, or doing needlework.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Lora Mitchell said...

I do think it is necessary to stop at times to do other things to refresh and refuel the body and mind. Like Constance above, I am also a non-fiction writer and depending on what I am writing, I play music from that era. During a writing project, I take breaks to read, play the piano,relax in bubble baths, bike riding, short walks, etc., but always with a handy notebook. I can get a sudden thought/idea while doing the dishes or the perfect word or idea will surface while reading fiction, non-fiction, a poster, a magazine or poetry. It's exciting and thrilling when the creative spark appears from out-of-nowhere and I can't wait to get back to my writing.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Lora Mitchell said...

I do think it is necessary to stop at times to do other things to refresh and refuel the body and mind. Like Constance above, I am also a non-fiction writer and depending on what I am writing, I play music from that era. During a writing project, I take breaks to read, play the piano,relax in bubble baths, bike riding, short walks, etc., but always with a handy notebook. I can get a sudden thought/idea while doing the dishes or the perfect word or idea will surface while reading fiction, non-fiction, a poster, a magazine or poetry. It's exciting and thrilling when the creative spark appears from out-of-nowhere and I can't wait to get back to my writing.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Cayla Kluver said...

I used to worry about this issue constantly, so when I was writing I wouldn't read anything at all. But with my latest project, I decided to challenge myself and always be reading a book simultaneous with the writing of my own. It's been a much deeper, more intricate experience, and I don't feel mentally stunted for a change. Staying exposed to the greats and to my contemporaries has helped me foster my individuality, rather than having a negative effect on it.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Constance,
When I am heavily into a non-fiction piece I find I sometimes need to get off-topic for a while too, it does help to relax that part of the mind for awhile to allow new insights to come to the surface. Good point!
I tend to turn to pastels, jewelry making or some other craft (depending on whose birthday is coming up).
Do you print out your inspirational quotes or handwrite them? I have a file of quotes in my computer but what I really love is to collect greeting cards with inspirational pics and quotes and tack them above my desk. One of my favorites is a black and white picture of someone in a homemade, wooden airplane (like a boxcar) that has just flown off a ramp and is airborne...for at least a few minutes:) The quote is by Helen Keller, "Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." I might be the only person I know who buys greeting cards for herself—lol.
Thanks for sharing!

5:22 PM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Hi Lora,
You're smart to keep a notebook handy--I'm the queen of post-it notes, I'm also the queen of losing them!
Curiosity...do you ever find yourself composing a melody for your writing project?

5:27 PM  
Blogger Robyn Chausse said...

Cayla,
Interesting experiment, the reading actually helped you go deeper...
Maybe it all depends on how comfortable and familiar a writer is with her own voice. If that relationship is strong enough, it is probably easier to rest back into it without static from other voices.
Great input, thanks!

5:35 PM  

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