On Writers Influences

I was reading this in a book given to me by my writing professor years ago, and the quote reminded me of him:

“Writers have almost always witnessed about their reliance on models.  Writers read each other, and imitate, and blend, and react to traditions in literature.  Teachers — and the most imposing and successful of teachers — trace with their students the residues of earlier writers in the acheivements of later ones.  The subtlety and reach and eloquence in these weavings and recognitions must impress those of us who learn in the tradition.  We have all experienced the search and discovery, the classifying and evaluating in terms of influences.”

William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl

Many of my favorite writers have been introduced to me by my writing professor: Annie Dillard, Joan Didion, and Eudora Welty to name a few.  And the list of writers that we didn’t read in class is much longer.  I am still to this day reading through his list of recommendations (hence Writing the Australian Crawl).  I’m still surprised how many I find that I love, even though I shouldn’t be surprised anymore.  In so many ways these writers have influenced my own writing, but not without the initiation of my writing professor.  It is he who not only influenced my writing, but also my life as writing and life should go hand in hand.  For writers influence not only your craft, but in turn, your life.  It is words change lives; no matter if you read or write them.

Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

I read many books.  Too many to write reviews or snippets of what I’ve read on this blog, so I choose to highlight what I fall in love with.  One book I’ve recently read, devoured, and fell in love with was Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre.  Having read many books on art, language, and writing, I was skeptical of this book; however I read so many good things about it I couldn’t ignore it.  McEntyre’s approach to caring for words comes with 12 strategies:

Love Words

Tell the Truth

Don’t Tolerate Lies

Read Well

Stay in Conversation

Share Stories

Love the Long Sentence

Practice Poetry

Attend to Translation

Play

Pray

Cherish Silence

Through these 12 strategies, McEntyre catches her readers and makes them stop to contemplate words and how we use them today.  Stewardship of language is something that has been overlooked as we see the increase of the use of popular social networking sites and texting.  We need to pause in our busy hectic lives, and think about what we read and the conversations we have.  Are they meaningful? Or are they filled with cliches, empty words, and lies?

This book is fantastic, and while some of the observations and conclusions McEntyre comes to were not new to me, I found that they deepened my convictions.  As my writing teacher would always say when it comes to writing anything there are these three rules, “Absolute. Specific. Concrete.”  We need to become better stewards of our words.

“We say more and more about less and less to more and more people.  E-mail and Facebook multiplied this problem exponentially.  We have traded deep, sustained, intimate conversation for vast and sometimes overwhelming forms and means of ‘communication’.”  Marilyn McEntyre