Most days I completely ignore the safety net below me, or rather I take for granted that it exists. I know it offers a rebounding resurgence if I require it. It may appear like a memory foam mattress reassuring my wavering courage. I acknowledge its presence as it offers me a place to tumble into where I will recall the authors and stories that have surrounded me and modified my thinking.
Regardless of where we grow up or how we receive our education, we have built-in repertoires of narratives or pieces of writing that have influenced us. How we open ourselves to those resources varies based on the particular writing genre we happen to approach.
For my first writing job I wrote a column about my hometown in the local Emmaus Free Press. Each Friday I submitted several paragraphs noting the events and activities happening in our small community. At the time the writings of Samuel Clemens, alias Mark Twain, influenced the way I approached these assignments.
I wrote in a friendly conversational style, choosing to entertain as I informed my fellow townsfolk. Often, I chose a tidbit of history or folklore from our local environs. Fortunately, much like Mark Twain, I had real life individuals surrounding me from which I could base my character sketches. I learned to incorporate my anecdotes with homespun wisdom served up as slightly blurred mirrors that might reflect cultural missteps to my small-town populace.
Not that I strove to preach or judge. Not that anyone perceived my column in that regard. It truly seemed as if each week I wrote a letter to my friends, and in turn they would call me with a newsy item or idea they thought I should consider for a future column. I found I wove words according to the colloquialism of the people I knew. Of course, because my readers could “hear me” through my sentences, they accepted this way of receiving weekly news.
It wouldn’t be the last time that I allowed a writer’s style to provide an undercurrent for how I shaped my approach to a written task. During my years spent pursuing interviews and promoting companies I leaned on the foundation of realism. Get the facts, make observations, reveal the truth, answer the questions. Then as demonstrated by Sinclair Lewis and Charles Dickens, I didn’t flinch when painting the picture of as many details as I could to help draw my reader into the vivid imagery.
Surprisingly I have found myself swept up into the cadence and symbolism of poetry as a way to soothe myself when stressful deadlines and family mayhem become more prevalent in my life. I alternate between Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost to entice me into short reveries of verse that nudge my soul into the space it requires to stretch out and relax. In fact, I often reread the books sitting on my poets’ corner of my bookshelves. I marvel at meanings that eluded me in prior poetry perusals.
These past few months I reopened the complete works of Jane Austen and delighted in comparing the journals of Louisa May Alcott to her own published novels. I sought to understand the way both of these authors observed human relationships and how they strove to compose scenes into tales. They invited readers to walk amongst the characters and become imbued with their distinct culture and time period.
I truly marvel how any particular story I may have read has settled within my consciousness. I picture a master shuffler as my brain files a specific writing style so that I may choose to let it affect my future creative flare in a written piece of art.
I welcome the classic shadow mentors of the past and the innovative daring guides of the present. These reside within me and about me. I trust they will provide ways to influence me as I reach out to fearlessly perform, tossing my words forward, spinning them into a unique style so they may be caught in the minds of a reader.