A Pleasing Chime (IWSG)

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.

Lovely.

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.

6 thoughts on “A Pleasing Chime (IWSG)”

  1. I am so happy you do not feel the sense that you’re merely interpreting another writer’s words. I am the same way and, when I do find that I am inspired by another writer, it doesn’t make me feel ashamed or anxious. I provide proper credit and move on to create my own spin on things. Same with my crafts, like polymer clay, in which I, being still an absolute novice, still often use tutorials. I still feel happy about creating my own spin on things.

  2. I’m also in Central Illinois, and yes, we woke up to a blanket of snow, and it’s still snowing! But I love winter, especially since I can stay inside.

    I find it a bit ironic that Harold Bloom wrote a book exploring the theory that there is nothing “new” to write about. I think that idea was expressed in the Book of Ecclesiastes. 😆

  3. Thank you for sharing that lovely poem! I read tottering piles of romance fiction (my genre) as well as other stories and nonfiction, and I’ve never felt that made my writing regurgitative (what a marvelous work!). Rather, reading brings me delight, a deeper understanding of my genre, and an innate sense for good storytelling. I wish you happy writing in February.

  4. Mark Twain ( I think???) said something like: “There’s no such thing as a new story, only a new way of telling it. I may not have got that all the way right, but the gist is there. There are a million ways and a zillion details that make the same story different. All we can do is write our best selves and best detail. Wishing you luck.

  5. The same might be said for any creative field. We’re all influenced by those who came before, but I agree with you. That doesn’t mean our work is merely a regurgitation.

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