January is (blessedly) in the rearview mirror, though February is charging in with baggage: we are expecting one to two feet of snow in Central Illinois over the next 48 hours. There hasn’t been that much snow around here for many years. I’m equal parts appalled and delighted.
The beginning of a new month also means it’s time for another round of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group‘s monthly blog hop. This month’s question is: Is there someone who supported or influenced you that perhaps isn’t around anymore? Anyone you miss?
This question got me thinking along two lines. The obvious answer is about the people in my life who are gone now (particularly the grandparents I’ve lost), but I also started thinking about the writers who influenced my formation as a writer myself.
In his book The Anxiety of Influence, Harold Bloom argues that the impact of the writers we read is not entirely beneficial to aspiring writers. He suggests that there is no truly new writing anymore, that all our writing is a regurgitation or interpretation of the writing we’ve consumed. This rather grim theory then leads, Bloom believes, to the self-aware writer’s anxiety about their writing, as the only way to creativity is a sort of “distortion” of previous work.
I much prefer John Keats’ attitude toward the influence of other writers as he describes it in his sonnet “How many bards gild the lapses of time!”
How many bards gild the lapses of time!
A few of them have ever been the food
Of my delighted fancy,—I could brood
Over their beauties, earthly, or sublime:
And often, when I sit me down to rhyme,
These will in throngs before my mind intrude:
But no confusion, no disturbance rude
Do they occasion; ’tis a pleasing chime.
So the unnumbered sounds that evening store;
The songs of birds—the whispering of the leaves—
The voice of waters—the great bell that heaves
With solemn sound,—and thousand others more,
That distance of recognizance bereaves,
Makes pleasing music, and not wild uproar.
There are many writers who I return to again and again, who “have ever been the food / Of my delighted fancy.” And, like Keats, I find that they do not create a sense of doomed creativity (“no confusion, no disturbance rude”), but “pleasing music” showing me the way, guiding me gently “when I sit me down to rhyme.”
No anxiety here. At least, not about influence.
This post is part of the monthly blog-hop hosted by the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. On the first Wednesday of every month, members are encouraged to write a post about their writing life and struggles, and visit other blogs in the hop to network and encourage one other. If you are interested in visiting the other blogs or joining yourself, visit the website here.