With One set for release very shortly, I’ve been working on my third novel, ‘Control’, and it’s reminded me of the input/output of the creative process – i.e. what you create is a result of the content you consume, and will be influenced by what you read, hear and see.
This is why most writers will say you should read as much as you can if you want to write, because it informs your stylistic choices – the more you learn about the flow of words and different ways in which you can communicate through prose, the better off you’ll be.
But that’s not all you need to know. In my experience, it’s not so much that you need to read everything, but it’s important to fill yourself with the inspirations and styles that you want to re-create, or are within the themes of the story you’re trying to tell.
For me, I can remember specific writers – prose and poetry – songs, films, even images that have inspired each scene in my stories. When I’m writing, I have them up around me – I have photos and printed out pages of text from certain novels and quotes all around my desk and computer screen to help keep me focused. I’ll watch the same things over and over, listen to the same music – in this sense, it’s not so much that I’ve read everything, but I’ve latched onto the themes and ideas that have resonated with me, and having them present keeps the story fresh and active in my head.
Of course, in order to do this, you have to have read enough in the first place to find the right inspirations, so in that sense, you do need to read as much as you can. But I do think it’s worth clarifying that while reading a lot is important, holding your inspirations closer, the things that speak to you on a deeper level, is what helps me better explore the ideas and elements I want in my work.
Everyone’s different, there’s no prescriptive formula for writing. But I find that staying on theme greatly helps provide more consistent inspiration and drive.
(FYI the top image is from the film clip for Massive Attack’s ‘Come Near Me’, which serves as an inspiration point, of sorts, for elements of ‘Control’).