While reading excerpts from an interview with a contemporary author, I came across an interesting question – “Is your writing influenced in anyway by what you read”? Okay, those were not the exact words used, but then the context was the same – “Does reading other people’s work help your writing?” The answer given by the author was interesting and kind of resonates with my own thoughts – “Reading other people’s work gives us an insight into other minds, other ways of thinking.” This is bound to influence our own thoughts, which ultimately find their way into our own writing. Also, as the author has pointed out, this may not be instantaneous – rather it may be a slow process, which may even occur without the writer actually being conscious of it.
There are quite a few authors and books, which have inspired me, to improve my skills and keep trying different styles. Of the more famous ones, I particularly adore the work of authors like Agatha Christie, P.G. Wodehouse and even the likes of works such as The Luminaries – for the beautiful interplay of words and the wonderful usage of the English language in storytelling. In fact, while I’m reading such books, I am inspired to strive harder, to make my work better – using richer phrases and more apt adjectives, while still preserving the sanctity of the language.
And then, there are those authors, whose creative genius is beyond mere words – J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkein – to name just a few. The magic that is created and brought to life by these works is truly unparalleled. Needless to say, I’m pushed to explore my creativity, pushing myself to my very limits, while I’m reading such books.
Now, coming to one of my favorite genres – that of Indian writing in English. The nuances of everyday living, the exhausting mundaneness of almost everything we go through, as we struggle, under the onslaught of modernity, while relentlessly clinging onto our past, unable to fully give it up, has been so beautifully expressed by many gifted authors – Jumpa Lahiri, Chitra B. Divakaruni, again to name just a few.
Then there is what I like to call the “Neo Mythology” genre, which seems to be quite a rage these days. I confess that I’ve read very few books in this area – but I should like to point out a few things. There’s a notion that has been in circulation for a while now, among readers that the authors who choose this genre don’t really have to be creative – after all, they already have the key elements to get them started – the characters and the plot. I, however, beg to strongly disagree – most of the works I’ve read tend to re-tell the stories – combining factual history and the various events, characters and places as portrayed in the original mythological version. Also, many of the authors have attempted to bridge the gaps purported in the myths and have introduced their own version of certain “magical” phenomena for e.g., the author’s version of the miraculous re-clothing of Draupadi in Krishna Udayashankar’s The Aryavarta Chronicles or the explanation given for Ganesha’s half – human, half-animal form, in Amish Tripati’s The Immortal’s Of Meluha. This, in my book is no small feat – it demands vast amount of research, analyses and no less amount of creativity.
While still on the subject of Indian writing in English, there are those authors who depict normal, everyday life in our country in such a pleasurable, and often, witty way – R.K. Narayan’s The Malgudi Days, Swami and Friends, The Bachelor of Arts, Layanya Sankaran’s Red Carpet and The Hope Factory, Advaita Kala’s Almost Single.
From these works, I’m inspired, above all, to look around me and watch out for everyday occurrences/happenings, which I would’nt otherwise give a second thought to, and weave a story around them or simply write about them as a firsthand experience. Of course, the attention to detail, creativity and simple, and truly Indian style of narrative, has always inspired me to do better.
And then, there are the regular columnists – G. Sampath, Vamsee Jaluri, Shiv Vishwanathan, P. Sainath – whose thought processes, style of expression and analytical prowess has never ceased to amaze me – indeed, after reading a column by any one of them, I feel compelled to re-read, edit, and further substantiate on certain parts, in pieces attempted by me. There are a few wonderful bloggers I regularly follow as well, stirring similar emotions within me.
Of course, all this does not mean I try and imitate any of authors, stealing their phrases, or ideas. As I recently read in another blog, in order to write, one should above all, have a style of his\her own. All I’m saying is that, reading these authors pushes me to do better and better while, giving birth to certain ideas in my head, capitalizing on which, I weave my own stories\poems\pieces. Furthermore, it’s very important that I choose what kind of writer I want to be, so that I concentrate more on reading those pieces which would help me achieve this goal.