As a writer, I often have the feeling that many non-writers fantasize about being inspired to write a book one day, and often romanticize both the work and process of writing (or really, editing, as some would put it). This includes the romantic notion of having a well-appointed “writing space.” This may be true of writers who were wealthy before writing, or who could later afford that dream space for their writing. This story makes a good illustration.
Most of us, though, carve out mental space instead. According to this Reader’s Digest list, many famous authors have written in places far from a cozy cottage writing desk or a well-appointed room tucked away in the east wing of the family’s mansion. Both are places I often think of when imagining the ideal writing space. What we do, instead, is adapt the places we already have, the time that is already there, and learn to develop the focus needed to suit our environment.
Like some of the writers listed in the earlier link, I write during my commute on the train, and in bed. The train requires intense focus from distraction; the bed requires intense focus from the wondering mind. Of course, I can write elsewhere, but those are the places I’ve carved out of my life for it.
There is no magic place that can make someone a great writer. What there are is times and places already in life that we can harness for writing. It is time, practice, and development that do the “magic” that many uninitiated people are looking for in their romantic notions of someday writing that book. And those things are a space that must be cultivated in the self.
Being from a reading family, and the daughter of a librarian, book have always been a part of my life. They’ve greatly influenced who I am today. Growing up with books trains the mind to build deep thought processes, be exposed to experiences it normally wouldn’t, and build imagination and creativity. Like Harry Potter has affected entire generations (yes, it will be on this list!), I know that I have been heavily influenced by certain books and series in my reading background.
It was hard to narrow it down to the list below. There are many wonderful books I haven’t included because they haven’t had effects in my life, which is really the required thing here. In alphabetical order.
- Amy Tan
- I no longer remember when I first read a book of hers, but it was probably The Joy Luck Club. Her work is deep and intense, and I ready many of them during a time when I was expanding my world view.
- Anne McCaffrey
- Of everything on this list, she is probably the most influential writer. I cannot say enough about how much I was obsessed with the Dragonrider series. My mom first got me Dragonsong on tape as a young teenager, and when I finally listened to it I went on to read all of the Dragonrider books I could get. My first serious attempts at writing were Pern fanfics, and that in turn has led to so many other things.
- Anne Rice
- Your view of vampires won’t be the same after reading these. It’s been very difficult finding anything as good. Nothing else I’ve read stands up to the level of character, plot, and clearly thought out vision of her vampire stories.
- Beatrix Potter
- I don’t think I’ve ever not known tales like Peter Rabbit or Two Bad Mice. Peter Rabbit came out in 1902, and people still read these to their kids. I don’t know any other picture books still in use after such a long time. My mom has been to her home on her tours of the UK, and I’m lucky enough to have some first edition “reprints” from their store.
- Beverly Cleary
- Another childhood staple. The tales of Ramona Quimby, beef tongue, and yogurt chicken were prevalent in our household. DH had never heard of her and that made me sad.
- Bishoujou Senshi Sailor Moon
- A gateway anime for lots of people in my generation. But the original manga is a lovely story, with lovely art. I have met so many awesome people and that has shaped my life tremendously since 2004. I’m also into the musicals.
- Black Beauty
- I read this as a kid, and still read it once in a while. Being a horse girl, I read tons of horse stories, but this one is pretty universal and still read by children today. Also a great story for animal rights.
- Blood and Chocolate/The Silver Kiss
- These are okay YA supernatural stories, but it was shortly after reading these that I was inspired to write a story. That became the origin of Zaira’s story. After 20 years with her, and now a writer, I just can’t leave these off the list.
- The Color Purple
- Despite the fact that this is a great story that sheds light on important issues (both historical and current), I discovered how the author, Alice Walker, talking about her characters–as if they are real people. It’s very similar to my own inclination when speaking of them and how my relationship with them is.
- Dawn of Desire
- I have no memory of where I found this used book, but it is one of the only romance novels I’ve read–really, it’s an adventure/ancient Egypt story and does not include many of the details found in modern romance books. It did, however, get me even more interested in ancient Egypt with a story of intrigue, magic, and adventure.
- The Deer Dancers
- I discovered these books in a large book shop when our parents took us to Toronto as teenagers. It’s a great series about Native Americans and were some of my first books in that genre and greatly improved my understanding of Native cultures.
- Gail Carson Levine
- This author does both re-written fairy tales and original YA fantasy works. If you’re a fantasy reader who also enjoys fairy and fold tales, then her books are for you.
- The Golden Filly Series
- More horse stories! This is one of those rare good Christian fiction series, featuring a young female jockey. There are 10, and I enjoyed them all. It greatly expanded my knowledge of the racing world, and I really did love them.
- Harry Potter
- I’m really not sure that this needs any explanation. Although I’m a bit older than the Potter generation, this series has affected my life and I enjoy many of it’s fandom qualities, including fanfiction.
- Louisa May Alcott
- I’ve always loved Little Women, and have read various works of hers. I can say that her ethics and morality are high, and seeing how she stood up for these things being a social reformer is quite inspiring.
- Marguerite Henry
- I was totally into horses growing up, and read TONS of horse-related fiction and non-fiction. Marguerite Henry was a children’s book author to specifically wrote about horses, and I read so many of them. You’d most likely know her as the author of Misty of Chincoteague.
- The Mandie Series
- This is a historical fiction mystery series aimed at young teens, the title character being a young female “detective”. These were influential on me late elementary and early middle school, and I also had the cookbook. I read over half of them, and many were published after I was in their age range.
- Although Mom read these to us growing up, it wasn’t until the movies came out that I developed a deeper interest, and re-read them. I find them more meaning full now that I have a better understanding of the concepts and design of the stories.
- The Ordinary Princess
- This is another book which I don’t remember picking up, but ever since the first read, this has been one of my favorite fairy-tale like stories. It’s definitely a children’s book, but is charming and a quick, lovely read. I read it a few times a year, and was delighted when the recurring Lavender’s Blue song was used in Disney’s live action Cinderella.
- I discovered this series as a teenager, and couldn’t put them down. While most of the stories revolve around good, freedom-loving animals fighting a tryant who wants to take over, the plots are varied, the world well-built, and the feasts epic. They will make you hungry. So, so hungry. I myself now enjoy getting into food and descriptions in some of my stories.
- The Sano Ichiro Series
- These are detailed, in-depth novels set in Shogunate Japan. They are good and well-researched. However, the main reason they’re on this list is that I read them with a friend and we enjoyed discussing them together. Also a great way to learn old Japanese culture, which I already had an interest in.
- The Shannara Books
- I read the original two sets of books in middle school, and I remember being quite engrossed in them. The show now on Netflix is…not at all what I remember, and we’ll leave it at that.
- Tamora Pierce
- While I didn’t discover this awesome writer until I was an adult, she writes some of the best medieval-type fantasy for girls and young women you’ll find anywhere. My favorite so far has been the Protector of the Small series. If you are into YA or fantasy at all, these are must-reads.
- I’m very glad I didn’t read these as a teenager, I wouldn’t have finished them. While the books are good, the movies have changed the entire way that movies can be made, and also brought in things from the appendices and histories (which I haven’t read). Nevertheless, both mediums speak to the genius, complexity, and ideas encapsulated in these master works. It has also affected me greatly that this and works like Harry Potter bring fans together, whether it’s the fandom or teams making movies. It is part of what changed fandom from geeky to cool.
- Wicked Lovely
- While this is the first of a series, I haven’t had a chance to read more of them yet. However, it was shortly after reading this and seeing what the author did with the various groups of Fairies that I seriously considered starting a fairy story. I’ve always had an interest, so this was encouraging, and I’m now working on a story with with its own versions of the varied lore.
I’d love to hear some of the books, authors, or series have greatly influenced your life, and if you have any questions or opinions on what’s shaped mine.
The approach of NaNoWriMo was an event I noted back in August, with the thought that I would probably make a decision on a story by the time it came about. While I am still committed to finding a story based primarily around people of color, I have not found it yet. So the mental search for that will continue.
On October 31, I pondered simply continuing with the Mally & Les story, but even then, the mad rush of words is not something I’m interested in this year. Therefore, I have decided to carry on as usual, and write as I usually do, at the usual pace.
Other things are happening in life, and at present I don’t feel a great deal of energy to do all the things. So for now, I’m trying to take things a little slower, and not do so much. To care about less off the stuff going on, and more about taking things a little easier. That’s where life is right now, really.
I had been working quite a bit on Cora’s wedding, which was in October, and while I’m still thinking about it, in the last week I’ve only worked on Mally & Les, which is a nice change. But now I have to go back to refresh on what was written before. It seems to be a story of spurts of writing here and there, and probably won’t be finished for quite a long time. I know the beginning and the end, but most of the things in between will likely be exploratory writing when we get there.
So that’s what I’m working on right now.
I haven’t put much on here lately; pictures are mostly what I’ve done and Facebook seems easier for that. And there’s a separate website for my writing stuff (xcheamo.com). I’m not sure, at the moment, what’s going to appear here now, for the most part. Journaling and writing about my life aren’t very interesting to me; that’s what I write for.
For now, let’s talk about fennel. Mom recently introduced this root vegetable to me, and it’s delicious. The bulb and young, tender stalks are edible, which older stalks grow hard and aren’t good for eating. Raw, it has a strong anise scent and flavor; this mellows a lot when cooked, and it’s great with onions, simple seasoning, butter, and a little white wine. I’ve got a few other recipes to try it with, so we’ll see how that goes.
Otherwise, life seems to be pretty simple right now. Finances are tight, so there’s not much to go out and do or spend money on. DH has tons of seminary homework, and I try to keep up with cooking and the dishes. So we’ll see what happens the next couple months as we try to stay motivated.
One thing that’s helped me lately is just making plans without DH. He’s only in his second semester, so we’re still figuring things out. But I get out of the house and get to do things with friends, and he has uninterrupted study time. This past Sunday, I got to see My Fair Lady in the theater with a friend, and it was great getting to see all the big numbers and costumes on the big screen. All the closeup shots of flowers–especially peonies–during the overture and intermission I’ve always found quite lovely.
So, I haven’t posted any new blogs in a while. Life got busy, and I’ve just not been writing so much right now. Not that I don’t have topics to do mini blogs on–the best mashed potatoes, the last floral arrangements, and base recipes. My Mom and I have spoken about doing a family cookbook, and there’s some cool stuff God has been doing in my life. In my online community, my character Eiry is about to have her baby, so I’ve also been making plans for that, as well.
I’m not sure what I want to write right now. I started a rather long blog on werewolves and monsters/transformations after the last full moon writing challenge, but haven’t looked at it since then and now I don’t know what to do with it. Inspiration, suggestions, thoughts to respond to? All are welcome.