Though I love fashion and photography, my first love is writing. From when I was very little I was writing imaginative stories and I haven’t stopped. I loved it so much I earned my bachelor’s of art in creative writing just so I could learn to write better.
While school immensely improved my writing, some of my greatest influences have been books I have read. Today I thought I’d share six books that impacted my writing.
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Besides fairytales, The Chronicles of Narnia were some of the first fantasy books I read as a child. Though I read primarily literary classics growing up (I ate up the Anne of Green Gables series) I was forever bent on writing fantasy. Something about Lewis’ metaphors set my imagination aglow, and I still narrate favorite sections while listening to the audiobooks.
Besides impacting me in my beliefs, the Bible is so incredibly rich in language. It has shaped the English language incredibly and is brimming with some of the best metaphors I have read. More recently I’ve used my writing to explore some of the more elemental metaphors for God found in the Psalms, which I read through at least once a year. (I’m a sucker for good poetry.)
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
This book is the reason I created picture stories. A very simple book of fourteen illustrations with a title and a caption, each representative of a larger story. The history of how the book came about is fascinating in itself, but the idea of it is to give you the start of a story that you could finish. My imagination ate up those pictures, and while I never wrote a story to go with the illustrations they expanded my mind to consider what I could have
On Becoming a Novelist by John Gardener
I am sure that some people can do everything, but I’ve observed that writers typically excel (or at least enjoy) writing in one or two different genres. My favorites to write (and my greatest skillset) come in writing plays and novels. Gardner’s book helped me to look at my writing in a new way. Perhaps more than anything, his words about what it was like to be a novelist made me realize that I wasn’t the only person to look at the world in the way I did. I found fantastic advice and camaraderie in Gardner’s thoughts of his 20 years as a fiction writer and creative writing teacher.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
Hugo was another book that propelled me to look at forms in a new way. Part novel, part graphic novel, and part illustrated cinematography it tells the story of an orphaned boy in France who tends the clocks in Paris’ train station. Rather than simply illustrating the text Selznick’s illustrations supplement and sometimes even replace words and silently tell the story. The images also take on cinematic traits and angles, which I had never seen done in a book before. I am interested in narrative forms and how things communicate, and this book opened my mind to the idea that several forms of creative art can be combined in a single work and make a story better than if had only kept to one medium.
Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre
Have you ever read a book once and understood it, and then read it again later and really understood it? I read Caring for Words in college, and I thought it was very good. A couple of years after graduating I picked it up again. That time, I really understood McEntyre’s point. The book is all about learning to love and care for words. She discusses how we treat words, how we choose them, and how we use them. While she is a Christian and is speaking to writers of faith, I think that the book is still very powerful for anyone, especially in an era where the words I read are increasingly manipulating and misused.
Several books have touched my writing, but none had the creative and philosophical impact as these six books (all of which I highly recommend). For the aspiring writer, Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies is great for those interested in a thoughtful read, and On Becoming a Novelist is a fantastic place to start, even those who aren’t interested in writing novels.
Do you have any books that influenced your creativity? Share them in the comments!
Thank you for reading,